"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".
- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles
Thursday, 8 May 2014
by Jemima Garrett Updated Thu 8 May 2014, 10:12am AEST Photo: ExxonMobil's LNG plant in PNG's Southern Highlands is expected to begin its first delivery of gas in June 2014. (ExxonMobil PNG) Audio: PNG gas landowners won't be identified before first cargo says Minister (ABC News) Map: Papua New Guinea The PNG Government says it's confident its method of identifying landowners who will benefit from the nation's billion-dollar liquid natural gas project is fair and valid. The government has been criticised for using a process called 'clan-vetting' to decide who can claim royalties from the $19 billion project. It has acknowledged that the landowner identification process won't be finished before ExxonMobil makes its first shipment of gas to Asia in the middle of the year. PNG's Petroleum and Energy Minister, Nixon Duban, says clan-vetting is thorough and almost complete in nine of the 16 major areas. "While many people may raise the level of criticism against the government's effort I want to assure all our public and general listeners (about) this system of social mapping and clan-vetting," he said. "I think we are a capable government and we will have it completed without any bias to our current delays in terms of release of funding and the commitment by our officers, are minor obstacles in my view and it will be done." The ExxonMobil PNG LNG project - which stretches from the PNG highlands, along a 600-kilometre pipeline to the plant site near Port Moresby - is ahead of schedule. Tens of thousands of people who live within the project area are waiting for the money to flow but that can't happen until all landowners are identified. Traditional owners in all those areas are expecting to receive financial benefits, but the task of identifying who is or isn't a real landowner is fraught with difficulty. More than five years' work has gone into the process, but it is still contested. Stanley Mamu, administrator of the NGO, PNG LNG Watch, says there are problems with clan-vetting. "Anybody from Papua New Guinea can claim their clan as part of project areas, (that) they come from the project areas," he said. "The problem that will cause for the future is that is not a proper identifying of that clan so anybody working with the Department of Petroleum and Energy can put his clan into that clan-vetting and claim that he is the landowner and he will get benefits from that project." Lawyer Alfred Kaiabe, an oil and gas expert from Hela province, in the PNG highlands, says the clan-vetting system has no legal basis. "There are a lot of problems associated with it," he said. "During the last two weeks there have been commotion down at the Petroleum and Energy Department because some of the landowners want to know the outcome of the clan-vetting the government has been conducting." Royalty money held in trust The final, official list landowners who will benefit from the project will be contained in a ministerial determination. Mr Duban says it is important the information that goes into the ministerial determination is correct. "We must ensure and there must be internal reviews from time to time to ensure that this clan-vetting is true and true and correct in all forms," he said. Mr Duban said he expected the clan-vetting to be 90 per cent finished before the end of the year. Until then, the PNG Government will hold the money in trust. Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is expected to reveal details of how that process will work when he tours project sites in the coming weeks.