The National- Friday, January 28, 2011
THE court will need to exercise sensitivity to find a way forward for all so-called landowner disputes over the PNG LNG project development and benefits sharing promised by the government under the UBSA/LBBSA.
The PNG LNG project, driven by Esso Highlands and PNG government, will likely to be jeopardised because of the insensitivity of the judicial system in entertaining so-called landowners’ disputes over range of landownership, legitimacy, rights, benefits in the light of the umbrella benefit sharing agreements (UBSA) and landowner-based benefits sharing agreements (LBBSA), among others, to cloud the outstanding issues under the oil regime.
The importance of the project and the potential benefits it will deliver will not be realised if the court system is insensitive to unwinding specific issues.
The issues under the oil regime should not be mixed with the gas regime in terms of outstanding MOAs, IBD grants and government/ministerial commitments.
Some landowners are still disputing the UBSAs/LBBSAs/ where the notion of majority rules in a decision to an agreement. Some are disputing the ministerial determination.
In some cases, some elite proxy landowners have immensely siphoned off benefits in the oil regime and therefore the illiterate owners are making their way to Port Moresby to stop the same abuse on the gas resource benefits and so on.
Others who have missed out are disputing that payments were made to the wrong company within the licensed area or project foot print as per the provision of UBSA.
Landowner representatives have been given some sort of power of attorney by their people to negotiate the UBSAs/LBBSAs and secure benefits for them in their respective project licensed areas.
The business development grant was one of the benefits to be made available for the landowners in the project foot print to be given in a form of seed capital to participate in the spin-off activities during the early works phase which started last year.
Some who had been given these responsibilities have abused by not keeping their own people informed of the grants paid to them.
Hence, they have been labelled “paper landowners” in Port Moresby while others have been taken to the courts to prevent them accessing the grants.
If they wait for the social mapping which will start next month, they would miss 30 % of the opportunity remaining in the early works spin off minor contracts.
Plant site landowner