High cost of transport discourages residents

Focus, Normal

The National , Monday, May 30, 2011

TRANSPORTATION is a major problem in Kerema town, people there say.
A number of people The National talked to said they faced serious transport difficulties trying to travel to and from Port Moresby.
Gulf caretaker provincial administrator Immanuel Xavier confirmed this, saying the province’s geographical setting had a big impact on transportation services.
He said the town’s wharf had been closed since 1999 because of sediment build up and that certain portion of the trans-highway between Kerema and Malalaua had deteriorated, the result of heavy rains.
“It’s something that we, as an administration, will sit down and consider,” he said.
“We are aware of the problem and are trying to fast-track things,” Xavier said.
Kerema General Hospital acting chief executive officer Alphonse Tauma acknowledged the problem, saying they often ran low of basic medical supplies because of the poor road conditions and rough seas.
“It really depends on the weather,” he said. “If it is bad, then the roads are impassable and the seas are a death-trap,” he said.
Tauma said the hospital had only one vehicle running with others had to be hired for K900- K1,000 per week.
James Opa, a local public servant and his wife, said travelling “is expensive due to the high fares charged by PMVs”.
“It’s the survival of the fittest here,” Opa said. “We make do with what we have.”
One teacher, who did not want to be named, said her pay was taken up by transport fees so she no longer travelled out of the province much.
She said the journey by sea from Kerema to Isapeharo was K50 and it took another K25 to travel by road from Isapeharo to Port Moresby on a one-way trip.
She said it took around K200 to make a return trip.
“Really, transport is not good,” she said.
“I think the planes are unreliable.”
Airlines PNG flies into the area, operating five days weekly and charges around K600 for one-way travel from Kerema to Port Moresby.
But, locals said that was not always the case as the flights were subjected to bookings and passenger availability.
They told of a portion of the road between Kerema and Malalaua called Javora where vehicles got bogged down because of a waist-deep pool in the middle of the road.
Xavier said two road construction companies were engaged in a K43 million World Bank-funded project and, once completed, the road would be good for travelling.
He said that the provincial government had plans to relocate the wharf to a better place so that ships could unload and load easily.
“With the LNG project coming, we will see to it that these issues are addressed,” he said.