Benefit sharing deal for Central villages to be signed today

National, Normal

AN agreement is expected to be signed today between portion 152 landowners of Central province and the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu said.
“I was told last night (Tuesday night) that the agreement would be signed tomorrow (Thursday), that is why I came to the district. If it was going to be signed today (Wednesday), I won’t be there,” Sir Puka said via phone from his Abau district yesterday.
Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma said the Benefit Sharing Agreement, to benefit the four Central villages of Boera, Papa, Rearea and Porebada would be signed when their lawyers were satisfied with it.
Mr Duma said the agreement would be signed as soon their lawyers had read through it and was satisfied with the wording.
“It will be signed, but as soon as their lawyers go through it,” Mr Duma said.
“We can’t rush through it, they have a right to see the documents and that is what’s happening,” he said.
“This signing was expected last week but clan differences and threats of court action have delayed it.”
Yesterday, villagers from the area turned up at the Ben Moide club at Murray Barracks where the supposed signing was to take place, to celebrate the event.
Also there, were staff from Esso Highlands, the project developers, Oil Search, the Department of Petroleum and Energy and the PNG Gas office.
Some came as early as 10am and left after 4pm disappointed.
But Mr Duma said he was not aware that the agreement was scheduled to be signed yesterday.
“Was it going to be signed today,” he asked when posed the question yesterday.
“I am not aware of it being scheduled for signing today,” he said.
Mr Duma also stressed that no landowner from the project site along the pipeline route and at the refinery would be left out.