Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 20 February 2017
Villagers in Papua New Guinea are blockading the country’s biggest resources project because the government has not paid them long overdue royalties.
Hundreds of people who live near the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant outside Port Moresby have gathered around the main gate in an attempt to block access.
The PNG Government is yet to pay royalties from the $25 billion project, because of disputes about the identification of landowners from the gas fields and pipeline in the country’s highlands.
An attempt at alternative dispute resolution has stalled and the matter remains in court.
But a spokesman for the Port Moresby landowners, Chief Nao Nao, said that should not stop the government paying people from other areas.
“The people are very frustrated today,” he said.
“They are unhappy with when they haven’t been receiving this royalty until today. So they are all here to show their pleas to the government: can you make an effort to pay us?”
Another spokesman for the protesters, Solo Damena, said the Port Moresby group believed they were being taken for granted because they had not threatened violence, unlike other aggrieved landowners.
The fact is, they’re really, really upset,” he said.
“We’re not going to move until we get paid.”
This is the second major protest affecting the LNG project.
Landowners from the gas fields in Hela Province blockaded the entrance to the conditioning plant at Hides in August 2016 over the non-payment of royalties and fears they would miss out on promised equity in the project.
Papua New Guinea’s LNG’s operator ExxonMobil issued a statement saying the protest had not affected operations at the plant.
“ExxonMobil PNG is monitoring the peaceful protest outside the LNG plant in Central Province and continuing to engage with the relevant landowner groups,” the statement said.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our staff and the community. While this is a matter between the landowners and the government, we are continuing to do everything we can to facilitate communication between all parties.
“We respect the right of individuals to peacefully protest, but we also encourage continued dialogue between landowners and the government to resolve their outstanding issues.
“We hope that landowners and the government can resolve this situation promptly and in an amicable manner.”