Hides Gas landowners threaten to shut down the Hides GTE Power Plant

Hides Gas to Electricity Project landowners have given a stern ultimatum that if they do not receive overdue royalty payments worth around K4.7 million by end of this week, they would shut down the Hides GTE power plant.

This would have a serious impact on production by Oil Search and Exxon Mobil.

Oil Search is still re-positioning itself from the early 2018 earthquake impact that struck Hela causing massive infrastructure damage and loss of lives to citizens.

This GTE plant also supplies electricity for the Porgera Gold mine in Enga.

Speaking late yesterday afternoon, chief Marago Pate said: “It’s very sensitive and the landowners are frustrated.”

He is the chairman of their registered association, the Greater Hides Council of Chiefs.

Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan has been blamed for not releasing their royalty payments they have been receiving since 1996 but not in the last two years.

Man ya sindaun antap long samting ya…bai mipela satim daun pawa na ol bai pilim(This person is delaying our payment and we will shutdown the power plant to make him pay),” he said.

Mr Pate said he represents 17 sub clans of the Tuguba and Hiwa Tribes of PDL1.

A copy of the Council of Chiefs letter to the Finance Secretary inquiring about the prolonged delay in paying their royalties was presented to me.

The letter was dated August 16, 2019.

The letter in part reads: “We expected the payment around March this year but we are still waiting in vain after five months as the department has been sitting on it for reasons only known to you.

Further delay will result in the closure of the Hides GTE power plant and which might ignite ramifications causing unnecessary disruptions to the huge PNGLNG project which is also extracted from the same area (Hides PDL1).”

A supporting letter from OIC and Acting secretary from the Department of Petroleum Gregory Balavue was produced. The letter urges the secretary to act on it as “project security” is their concern right now.

Chief Pate said Oil Search pays royalties to the Department of Finance who then pays the Department of Petroleum who disburses it to landowners.

He said they have opted to go to the media because there has been no favourable response.

Pacific Freedom Forum concerned about sacking of EMTV news manager

Pacific media rights watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, is concerned over  what it described as heavy-handed sacking of senior EMTV journalist Neville Choi on Monday.

“We stand in solidarity with Neville, who is a well respected and leading Pacific journalist who has mentored and trained journalists across his nation. We also call on PNG Communications Minister Renbo Paita –given his powers over board appointments for EMTV’s parent company– to support a swift and independent mediation between all parties to resolve an escalating issue,” says PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon of Palau.

Senior staff members including Acting news manager Meriba Tulo, long time News Editor Sincha Dimara and Lae Bureau Chief Scott Waide had condemned the reasons for Choi’s sacking in their public joint statement relayed via Facebook late yesterday.

Last night there was no news bulletin for the first time in more than 30 years from EMTV, as newsroom staff had stopped work in protest over the termination.

Scott Waide had himself been reinstated after being stood down over his strong reporting on APEC last year, and a public outcry helped bring him back.

But for today, all three have reported they may face a similar fate for their show of solidarity when they report to work today.

Either way they have voiced no confidence in the acting CEO Sheena Hughes, and expect to continue the ‘stop work’ protest until their requests including reinstatement for Choi are met.

“Our concern at this time is that a quality news service cannot be suspended because news workers feel intimidated, unheard and unable to report without fear or favour, in the current environment,” says Melanesia co-chair Ofani Eremae of the Solomon Islands.

“The news team must be allowed to do their jobs, and the only way to do that is to work without fear of being shown the door, even for disputes which many employers would apply a warning or suspension for. There are some definite workplace standards which are of bigger concern in the long term.”

Polynesia co Chair Monica Miller from American Samoa says it’s important the government bring in a neutral mediation role keeping the public interest in mind.

“At the end of the day, ministers, board members and CEOs have to have a clear separation and understanding of their duties and powers, and neither should overstep– but the reasons for termination of a senior journalist raise questions which clearly point to those powers being blurred, and the onus is on those at the top of the chain to do the right thing.”

-Press Release PFF

Angore landowners make peace with Exxon Mobil

A peace ceremony between the Angore PDL 8 landowners and Exxon Mobil in Hela took place last Thursday.

The Mineral Resources Development company facilitated the peace negotiations and the eventual peace ceremony.

This brings to an end long standing tensions and issues affecting the operations of Exxon Mobil in the area.

Tensions were high since the destruction and vandalism of machinery and property in June last year after landowners protested over a non-payment K 35 million for “project security”.

Last Thursday’s truce was witnessed by Exxon Mobil, Government representatives and state agencies, MRDC, Kumul Petroleum Holdings, Department of Petroleum and Energy , Oil Search and landowner leaders.

On behalf of the 59 ILG Chairmen of Angore, Malex Au, a young landowner leader and chairman of the ATALA apologised for the destruction and damage to properties and ongoing issues which have been interrupting the company’s operations in Angore.

“This is our way of taking back PNG, we are starting in Angore by bringing peace to our area”, said Au.

“I take this time to say sorry to Exxon Mobil. I take full responsibility of my peoples’ actions and today, I personally say sorry”, said Au.

Au has invited Exxon Mobil to resume operations in Angore and assured Exxon Mobile  on behalf of his people that issues would be addressed through round table discussions rather than fights in the area which will affect the company’s operations.

Meanwhile MRDC’s general manager for social service Imbi Tagune called on the people to remember the day and keep peace in the area.

He told them that Hela is looking after PNG’s garden which is the LNG Project.

“God has blessed Hela and there must be peace here so you can enjoy the blessings. We at MRDC recognise the importance of peace. We proved this when we went into Beneria, a No Go zone to open bank accounts and we also brought peace there,” Tagune from Ialibu in Southern Highlands said.

“Angore must keep peace because with peace comes services and developments,” Tagune added.

Angore school children who attended the peace ceremony came with placards appealing for peace in their community and for services to be delivered.

Community leaders presented 15  pigs to Exxon Mobil as a sign of expressing remorse.

PNG cabinet ministers sworn into office

Prime Minister James Marape had a challenge choosing his Cabinet ministers.

When announcing his 33 member Cabinet after they were sworn in on Friday June 7, he admitted it was not easy choosing from 101 members who voted him.

He described his Cabinet as a team of competent and experienced and capable men who could step into each others pace.

More than 10 ministes from the previous O’Neill government were removed from cabinet.

Kerenga Kua who did not vote James Marape as Prime Minister James Marape has been given the petroleum ministry.

Bryan Kramer has also been appointed as police minister.

Kokoda Track reopens after two weeks closure by disgruntled villagers

After two weeks of closure as disgruntled Kokoda Track villagers in the Central Province complained about poor benefits, they agreed to reopen it late last Thursday.

But there is also a condition which was agreed to-they desire review of the Kokoda Track within three months.

Central Province Governor Robert Agarobe was the key negotiator in arriving at this and he was at the reopening of the track at Depo, just before Sogeri National High School.

“Now that we have opened the trek we can turn that into a better product,” Agarobe said.

Prior to that Agarobe did visits to the inland mountainous areas of Kagil, Naduri, Efogi and Manari.

These are Koiari inland villages where Kokoda Track adventurers pass through as they hike the infamous historical war track to Isurava in Oro.

The fuzzy fuzzy angels did their humanitarian life saving acts 75 years ago and the Kokoda Track itself became a popular ecotourism and multimillion kina product 23 years ago.

Villagers along the track argued they have not seen tangible and maximum benefits reaching their villages and impacting on the socio economic lives.

Despite millions of kina being pumped in through various organisational names like Kokoda Track Authority, Kokoda Initiative, Kokoda Track Foundation and the involvement of government entities like Conservation Environmental Protection Authority (CEPA), the villagers remain as poor “porters” earning little ferrying goods for trekkers, they argued.

They told governor Agarobe they wanted better deals and benefits.

Agarobe though has challenged the people to be smart and innovative in creating products that tourists would use as they pass through their villages.

And in his governorship he will ensure this materializes.

“The only thing we’ve gained from the trek is being carriers and we’ve done that many years ago,” he said.

“I have assured my people from now on they’ll always be good consultation with everyone that’s involved.

“And they’ve agreed on that and are willing now to work with me as the governor and see how best we can empower everyone along the trek so that we can improve the living standards of the people along the trek,” Agarobe said.

“As the governor I have settled in for the last six months and I have plans for the province.

“Our plan is to stimulate the economy in the province and the trek being one of our very good existing products, we’d like to promote it.

“The last thing we want to do is damage it,” Agarobe said.

He said there would now be three months of consultation and review between all stakeholders and he wanted his people to be involved and speak their hearts.

After brokering peace and lifting the track ban, Agarobe said it was unfortunate and unnecessary but what transpired was a result of ineffective communication between stakeholders.

“A lot of them are unaware, ignorant and ill-informed about everything that goes around them. And that’s where the frustration is,” he said.

“They are frustrated because we aren’t trickling information right down to them.

He said tourists from Australia and other countries are invited and welcome to walk the Kokoda Track again.

PNG produced TV drama series to premiere on EMTV

History was written at 8.40pm on Sunday, February 11, 2018 when a locally produced drama series premiered on the country’s oldest TV network, EMTV.

Grace, is directed by McPolly Koima from Kerowagi in Simbu and it attempts to portray societal challenges and ultimately aims at discouraging us from that are affecting our progression.

The story line in my view reflects the daily occurrences and challenges faced by many rural and low income earners in Papua New Guinea.

Koima once shared with me that the idea is to get ordinary people to act and send a message across.

People will relate to themselves well.

Most times we attempt to use sporting stars or celebrities to convey messages but it could it different when we use people themselves.

National Research Institute says revive tourism, agriculture and fishery sectors

The country’s think tank- National Research Institute believes Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries sectors are receiving little government attention to stimulate their growth.

Head of NRI, Dr Charles Yala says these sectors are the economic backbones of the country.

He spoke in light of the current debate on the status of the economy triggered by the release of the Mid Year Economic and Financial Outlook- a report by the Treasury.

Yala said NRI could not speculate on what the real status of the economy is like until it receives official data about it.

He however stressed that the country could not rely heavily on mining and petroleum alone as revenue streams.

It must activate its Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries sectors, he said.

Yala said coffee production has sadly dropped from a million bags per year- a record 10 year figure, to now between six hundred to seven hundred thousand per year.

“Agriculture is on a decline,” he affirmed.

Fruits and vegetables sold at Kokopo Provincial Market, East New britain. Picture by ELIAS NANAU
Producers selling fruits and vegetables at Kokopo Market, East New Britain. Picture by Frontier Media Productions

“Coffee Industry Corporation is yet to release figures but I predict it will be around six hundred thousand bags.”

“Coffee is down and the same is applying to cocoa and copra,” Yala said.

“So our what is called agriculture sector, the backbone of the economy where 85 or 75 per cent rely on is really really coming down.”

Yala who recently took over from Dr Thomas Webster said a decline in the agriculture sector is a result of many issues and among them transportation, law and order, and land issues.

 (l) Dr Charles Yala, Director of the National Research Institute addressing the PNG Media today. He was accompanied by Dr Osborne Ogis Sanida, a Senior Research Fellow and Program Leader in the Economic Policy Research Program at NRI.
(l) Dr Charles Yala, Director of the National Research Institute addressing the PNG Media last week . He was accompanied by Dr Osborne Ogis Sanida, a Senior Research Fellow and Program Leader in the Economic Policy Research Program at NRI. Picture by Frontier Media Productions

“Fundamental reforms are required to kick start the agriculture sector, putting it on a safe path,” he suggested.

Yala was concerned why the country was producing a million bags of coffee per year when there was much land available.

“Why producing one million when we have the finest land in the country to grow the finest Arabica coffee which is used in so many blends globally.”

“That’s a serious issue,” he said.

Yala said on a brighter note though, Oil Palm is picking up and growing but is hurdled by the SABL inquiry.

“There are many good oil palm developers,” he said.

“The inability of the government to be forthright with the implementation of the findings in providing clear direction on SABL is affecting and creating uncertainty on the Oil Palm industry.”

“So when you look at agriculture… oil palm has come to pick up but coffee, cocoa and copra are down hill.”

“Food production, we have ignored,” Yala said.

On the Tourism sector, he was very concerned that we have not really got into it.

“We haven’t built tourism,” Yala was blunt.

“The flight from Jackson’s to anywhere within the country is far more expensive than a flight from Jackson to Cairns or Brisbane.”

He said neighboring Melanesian Fiji rides on Tourism despite its challenges with coup and what they have invested on was building great infrastructure.

“We have far better beaches than Fiji.”

“I have not seen us taking the fundamentals right,” Yala said.