By ALISON ANIS
STUDENTS in remote schools in the Goilala district of Central province, had a slow start to the academic year, as their teachers and health workers, were stranded in Port Moresby due to flight cancellations.
Airlines PNG had cancelled all scheduled flights into the area and was operating on charter flights charging up to K6,000 .
The airline‘s decision has cut off the flow of basic health and education services into rural areas, including other vital supplies.
Many locals are now forced to remain in Port Moresby because they could not afford the charter flights.
The situation has prompted Port Moresby Catholic Archbishop John Ribat to ask Goilala MPs what happened to the millions of kina from district services funds and from the Tolukuma gold mine which operates in the area.
“Why are the people left suffering,” Archbishop Ribat said.
“Something must be done to help the people. The leaders as well as the mining company have a role in addressing the needs of the people who have been placed in a very difficult situation,” Archbishop Ribat said.
Archbishop Ribat and Bishop of Bereina Rochus Tatamai, in a joint press statement yesterday, said the Catholic church had worked hard to maintain the basic services of health and education in the region but all “efforts are now being jeopardised”.
“Currently, the only means of transporting goods and services, including passengers, up to the region is through charter flights,” the archbishop said.
“Teachers and health workers are stranded in Port Moresby.
“Medical supplies, including food and other vital supplies for church health centres, are sitting in Port Moresby with no means of being transported to the remote areas of Goilala.
“Our priests and other workers on the ground in Goilala are now isolated,” Bishop Tatamai said.
Bishop Tatamai added that Airlines PNG had decided to operate only on main airstrips like Woitape and Tapini while flights to other areas have been cancelled.
“People’s lives are at risk as they do not have quick access to medical facilities in Port Moresby.
“We, the bishops, will not stand by and allow the people to suffer like this.
“We call on our local members to look for some solution to this problem,” Bishop Tatamai said.
Goilala MP Matthew Poia said Airlines PNG may have cancelled the flight due to bad weather and bad airport conditions.
He said he would subsidise fares for travellers to the remote mountains using part of the DSIP funds.