Melissa Yafoi | Post Courier | September 7, 2017
Highlands landowners from the LNG resource site yesterday stopped the K15 million payment for their coastal counterparts.
And their actions are likely to cause a shutdown at the plant site in Port Moresby as a result.
They insisted no payments be made until their own houses were put in order including the clan vetting process and other outstanding payment commitments made by the O’Neill government over the years were honoured.
They said failure to pay them will result in their shutting down of the project from the upstream end.
Their action is likely to result in the same threat from the coastal provinces who have resolved their outstanding clan ownership issues and only awaiting the first K15 million payment.
The Central landowners were about to be paid the amount having fulfilled all the legal requirements until yesterday when a demand for stop payment was made to the government through the Department of Petroleum and Energy.
The LNG site landowners insistence were despite court actions and disputes and the outstanding clan vetting process on ownership of the land which the project is located delaying their payments.
All monies owed to them are banked in trust accounts including those from Central Province.
In the ransom-like situation newly appointed Petroleum and Energy Minister Fabian Pok was caught off guard lamely saying he was new to the job and needed more time to understand the outstanding issues.
This is despite the Government’s previous hard line stance in paying landowners that resolve their landownership issues ahead of those pending in courts, the mediation process and other resolution arbitration.
Departmental Deputy Secretary Kepsey Puiye and Mineral Resources Development Company Limited external affairs general manager Imbi Tangune also succumbed to the demands saying it was sensitive and payment would not be made to the Central landowners.
Mr Puiye said the K15 million will be paid to the plant site land owners once the minister gives his approval.
He said of the amount 60 per cent will be kept by MRDC as per the Oil and Gas Act under section 176 and only 40 per cent will be paid for immediate investment.
“This is one of the very important projects that will have a profound effect on the economy of the country that is why it is important that the minister needs to appreciate all the issues for the upstream.
“Because the upstream holds the pipeline and that is important so the minister is also very cautious of the implications it will have on the upstream landowners because projects such as this is fundamentally important so he is saying let me look at the issues first.
“The plant site landowners need to appreciate that once the upstream is not alright then we are going to destroy the project,” he said.
Mr Tangune added: “I’m actually very sensitive to the minister’s need to ensure that he understands the issues surrounding payments for the plant site, licence areas and the pipelines so when he is actually comfortable he will give us the timeline for us to make that payment.
“We’ve done everything and the money is with us and we have done everything to pay the money to the land owners.
We ask our landowners to be patient because money is coming, it’s not an issue of its not, it’s an issue of when and I think we have done everything possible to give money to landowners whatever they are entitled to.”