ExxonMobil blasted

National, Normal

 THE PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project developer, ExxonMobil, came under fire yesterday, not from landowners, but from Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma.
Mr Duma said that ExxonMobil had rushed into deals with landowner firms prior to the designated venue of the Licence-Based Benefits Sharing Agreement (LBBSA) forums.
“In relation to the recent landowners protest, ExxonMobil have, for their own reasons, gone ahead and recognised a company as an umbrella company,” he said.
Mr Duma was responding to questions from Komo-Margarima MP Francis Potape, who asked why landowners said to be from Juha, Angore, Komo and Hides 4 gas fields in Tari, Southern Highlands province, converged at the ExxonMobil office in downtown Port Moresby.
They swamped the downtown office last Friday and on Monday, demanding an explanation to a recent “service agreement” signed between Hides Gas Development Corporation (HGDC) and Esso Highlands Ltd.
“At this stage under the Oil and Gas Act, as minister responsible, I have not recognised any landowner company yet,” he said.
Mr Duma said the matter would be decided at the end of the LBBSA forums “where all landowner groups would be given the opportunity to present their case”.
“It is only after that process that a company can be recognised as an umbrella company,” Mr Duma said. 
He said that K120 million for business development grants (BDG) had been approved by the Cabinet.
It was understood the Government had devised a formula and as soon as budgetary processes were met and funds became available, it would be allocated to the nine licence-based areas.
“Once funds become legally available under the usual budget process and, if there are funds available, the Government will deliver on its commitments,” Mr Duma said.
“The Government will not let its own people down.”