The SABL in question was granted to the landowners themselves on 17 July 2008. BOPPL had no role at all in the acquisition of the customary land to create the SABL.
After the landowners obtained their own FCA, the landowners themselves invited BOPPL to enter into a Project Agreement, which was signed on 28 October 2010. The Project Agreement was signed by the landowners through four separate companies representing 124 Incorporated Land Groups.
The landowners then executed a sub-lease in favour of BOPPL, a necessary pre-requisite prior to the enormous investment required by BOPPL to perform its obligations under the Project Agreement.
On 1 December 2011 BOPPL signed a further Project Agreement with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, signed on behalf of the State by the late His Excellency, Governor General Sir Michael Ogio. In effect the State has guaranteed the oil palm project.
2011 to 2017 – Infrastructure and Development
Between 2010 and 2017 BOPPL has invested in excess of K1 billion in the Project. The benefits that have flowed to the landowners, the State, and other stakeholders have been and will continue to be significant.
Infrastructure which has never before been seen in the area has been created, including:
- Highways and approximately 200kms of gravel roads;
- aid posts;
- houses for landowners (more than 130 already and continuing at about 6 new houses per month);
- a sawmill facility;
- a jetty;
- log ponds;
- drains and concrete culverts and associated infrastructure;
- multiple large scale plant and seedling nurseries; and,
- Basecamps, schools and storage facilities.
Preparations are well under way for four oil palm mills. It is was hoped that the first mill would be operational by the end of 2017, but due to recent disruptions that time line is unavoidably delayed but it is hoped the mill will be in production before the middle of 2018.
Oil Palm Project not logging
Contrary to the comments attributed to Hon. Minister Tkatchenko in The National article published on 6 February 2018, the project is an oil palm project, not logging.
The project area was previously logged for 40 years by another developer, and the land currently being cleared by BOPPL is secondary forest, not virgin forest. The land must be cleared for agricultural development and to date approximately 12,000 hectares have been planted by BOPPL with approximately 1.5 million oil palm trees. This is well known to all stakeholders.
Several large seedling nurseries have been created within the project area. BOPPL is a committed investor and developer that has brought significant and real benefit to the landowners in the project area.
When the first mill is operational the benefits to the landowners and other stakeholders will be significant. From the time oil palm is produced, the landowners are entitled to 15% net profit from the sale of the oil palm.
The State will also derive significant benefits.
BOPPL currently employs approximately 1100 national workers on the oil palm project. The up-skilling of national workers will continue during the oil palm production phase and the long terms benefits to the landowners will be significant and enduring.
No Court has declared the oil palm project illegal
The comments attributed to Hon. Minister Tkatchenko in the article published on 6 February 2018 are fundamentally incorrect in that no Court in PNG has ever cancelled the title or declared any aspect of the Bewani oil palm project illegal.
On the contrary, three separate judges of the National Court have made orders the effect of which is that the Bewani oil palm project must continue, and the SABL title the subject of the oil palm project must not be dealt with contrary to the interests of BOPPL.
The landowners overwhelmingly support the oil palm project
Commencing in February 2016 and continuing in June 2016, His Honour Justice Kandakasi of the National and Supreme Court conducted an extensive mediation process in Vanimo.
The mediation involved all relevant parties and hundreds of landowners from within the project area.
As a result of the mediation in Vanimo, a Mediation Agreement was signed by all relevant parties and confirmed that the majority of landowners within the project area supported the oil palm project. The mediation also resolved that the National and Supreme Court would determine a dispute which had arisen as a result of the creation of another SABL title, which overlapped with the project area for the oil palm project.
Significantly, throughout the legal proceedings the landowner companies representing the 124 ILG’s resolutely defended the on-going success and viability of the oil palm project.
On 21 July 2017 the National Court gave its Ruling, quashing the competing title, thereby affirming the continued existence of the title for the oil palm project.
BOPPL acknowledges there are concerns about certain aspects of the project. BOPPL assures all landowners it is committed to working with all stakeholders to work through those issues to ensure the long term viability of the project and the benefits it will bring to the people of Vanimo.
The National specifically retracts and clarifies the following:
- To the extent that the article published on 6 February 2018 suggests BOPPL has acted corruptly, illegally or not in accordance with orders of the National and Supreme Courts of PNG, the National unreservedly retracts such comments.
- The National unreservedly retracts the statement that BOPPL is involved in or conducts illegal logging within the project area.
- The National acknowledges that the Bewani Oil Palm project is on-going as confirmed by various Orders of the National Court of PNG.
- The National acknowledges that the legality of certain aspects of the project are still before the National Court.
- The National acknowledges that to date no Court in PNG has ever declared the oil palm project or any aspect of the oil palm project illegal.