THE Government is under pressure to address long delays associated with petroleum licensing in PNG, which industry players warn could threaten big investments in the country.
Frustration has been building up for some time about delays in the processing of petroleum licences.
The industry had hoped the Government would resolve this after it raised the concern two years ago, but the situation had deteriorated rather than improved.
This has prompted the industry’s representative, the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, to write to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention.
The concerns about the licensing delays were highlighted in the letter dated last Aug 26 to the Prime Minister.
It comes at a time when the spotlight is on the Department of Petroleum and Energy about the handling of millions of kina in project funds and the upcoming licenced-based development forums for the LNG project.
The Prime Minister’s Media Unit said yesterday the Prime Minister and Petroleum Minister William Duma had not yet met to discuss the letter.
But a spokesperson said Mr Duma was preparing a brief for the Prime Minister on the issue.
The chamber considered the petroleum licensing management issues serious enough to write to the Prime Minister to intervene.
“The situation has been progressively deteriorating in recent years to the present stage where very significant investment is now threatened by the issue,” executive director of the chamber Greg Anderson said in the letter.
“Papua New Guinea is gaining a reputation in the international oil and gas industry for inconsistent, irregular, and non-transparent management and administration of petroleum licences, categorised by inordinate delays and hindrances,” the letter said.
“There is a lot of talk about what lies behind this and enormous bad feeling and frustrations exists in the industry which is totally counterproductive to the promotion and development of a reputable internationally recognised industry in PNG,” it added.
The industry was very concerned about the operations of the Petroleum advisory board and the office of the Petroleum Registrar, especially when applications for new licences, applications for extension of licences and work programme approvals submitted to the Department of Petroleum and Energy “often take an inordinate time to be processed”.
A number of Cabinet ministers contacted said they were aware of the issues raised by the chamber.
“It’s a matter for the Prime Minister to resolve. I hope such behaviour at the Petroleum Department does not affect the LNG project led by ExxonMobil.
“The country’s long-term economic future depends on this,” one minister said.