By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
THE PNG LNG project licence-based benefits sharing agreement forums were undertaken and guided by the Oil and Gas Act, Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma said.
Mr Duma was responding to concerns raised by some landowner factions in Kutubu and Angore, including executives of the National Gas Corporation that the forums were illegal.
Last week, for Kutubu PDL2, former Southern Highlands governor Hami Yawari said 115 Incorporated Land Groups did not participate and that the forums were undertaken using threats and bribery.
Mr Yawari is seeking a court ruling to nullify the forums because he maintains that the forums were undertaken using threats and bribery.
Also, factions of well head landowners from Angore led by Jim Wage expressed similar sentiments and were adamant the forum was not signed by all genuine landowners.
Similarly, the National Gas Corporation is suing the forum facilitators as it believes certain proper procedures were bypassed.
Under the Oil and Gas Act 1998 the Petroleum and Energy Minister shall convene a development forum, and must include, amongst others, the project area landowners determined under section 169(2) or their duly appointed or elected representatives.
Mr Duma said all genuine landowners were invited to attend, and most leaders raising issues were personally invited in writing by him.
“We applied the Oil and Gas Act, the Government has complied with the law, and if they have a reason to believe otherwise, then let the Court decide…but let me assure the developer and all stakeholders that the project is on track,” he said.
The minister then assured landowners who raised issues during the forums that a side issues committee will be established during the course of this week to peruse some of the concerns raised.
“The landowners should appreciate that no one had the guts to set up such a committee, but this Government has to look into issues over the last 10 years that have been swept under the carpet,” he said.
Mr Duma will announce the composition of the committee and how much it will cost the committee to facilitate the process of addressing the issues.
On that note, he praised the effort of all stakeholders involved in the forums, especially Department of Petroleum and Energy and Oil Search staff.
From these forums, the Government is now learned and should be able to muster the next round of talks with landowners for the second LNG project.