By James Apa Gumuno
Trucking companies transporting goods and heavy machinery to Southern Highlands have become victims of the deteriorating road conditions and unnecessary landowner demands.
Chairman of the PNG Road Transport Association Jacob Luke said during a meeting with some landowners from Nipa and media personnel last Thursday that they could not risk their drivers and trucks to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project sites.
He said trucking companies were taking a big risk to sustain their operations.
He said many trucking companies were afraid to operate into the LNG project sites.
Some have made hard decisions to risk themselves by transporting goods and heavy machinery into the province.
He said if they stopped their operation into SHP, they could still survive in other provinces.
Luke, who is also the owner of the biggest trucking company in the country, Mopai Transport, said locally-owned business were struggling to survive and urged the Nipa people to respect the big trucks on the road.
He said all the trucking companies did not get direct contracts from ExxonMobil.
He said they got sub-contracts from Southern Logistic Group to transport goods and equipment for ExxonMobil.
Luke made the comments after one of its trucks broke down along the Nipa section of the road where landowners demanded K7,500 from ExxonMobil and another K7,500 from Mapai Transport.
The Nipa people demanded K15,000 for taking care of the truck for four days.
Luke said such unnecessary demands gave headaches to the company owners when trucking companies were struggling to survive.
He said Trans Wonderland Transport gave K7,500 to the landowners on behalf of ExxonMobil.
However, he said he would not pay the landowners.
Nipa spokesmen, former councillor Jope Kowa and Timothy Teki said the people demanded compensation for looking after the truck.
They said that the people did not block the road and looted the truck.
Kowa blamed the driver of the vehicle for driving the truck into the drain.
He said it was not their fault, they wanted compensation for the service they provided after receiving instructions.
He said if the government fixed the road from Margarima to Nipa, such problem would not have occurred
He blamed the government for the road conditions and urged the government to fix that section of the road quickly.