Locals want payments before House meets

National, Normal

The National, Friday, May 6, 2011

LANDOWNERS from a development licence area of the multi-billion kina liquefied natural gas project in Southern Highlands have called on the authorities to ensure they are paid their outstanding K170 million in ministerial commitments and memorandum of understanding funds before parliament sits next week.
Provincial chairman of mining and petroleum and Komo local level government president Thomas Potape yesterday expressed frustration that the commitments and other development grants had remained outstanding since last year.
“We are close to halfway into the New Year and no one in government is giving us a straight answer.”
He also warned the authorities against involving Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) Ltd, a business entity set up by parliament to manage the equity funds for landowner companies, in the LNG project funds.
MRDC’s current shareholders included Mineral Resources Star Mountains Ltd, Mineral Resources Ok Tedi No.2 Ltd, Mineral Resources Enga Ltd, Petroleum Resources Kutubu Ltd, Petroleum Resources Gobe Ltd and Petroleum Resources Moran Ltd.
“It is a business entity and cannot be involved in handling landowner funds from the government,” Potape said.
“All outstanding payments must be made before parliament meets next week; we do not want our funds to become an issue for debate in parliament among politicians, especially when we suspect that attempts will be made to have the K170 million parked in MRDC.
“If that is done, landowners will not see their money and we can only brace ourselves for more problems at the project sites.”
Landowners were first told last year that the Department of Petroleum and Energy would deal with all matters relating to their payments. That responsibility was later transferred to the ministerial gas committee, then to Finance and Treasury and recently to the national planning committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister and Wabag MP Sam Abal.
“However, word along the corridors of power is that certain politicians are pushing to have all LNG money duties passed onto MRDC.
“If that happens, there will be big problems,” Potape warned.