By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS at IAGIFU RIDGE, KUTUBU
A SIGNIFICANT step towards realising the PNG LNG project has been taken with the signing of the first PDL licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA) in Kutubu yesterday.
With only a week left before the Dec 8 deadline for the final investment decision (FID) by developer ExxonMobil, Kutubu landowners of PDL2 signed the agreement.
More than 300 Kutubu landowners signed the LBBSA with a lot of fanfare, including a feast of 21 pigs and traditional song and dance.
The signing was the first for a project development licence (PDL) area, following the plant site signing earlier this year, and the signing of the pipeline agreements last week.
Namo Aporo landowner group chairman, John Kapi Natto, described the signing as very significant for the PNG LNG project, as it paved the way for other PDL areas to sign up during the remaining days of this week.
“Most of us leaders are pleased with the outcome of the LBBSA forums and with how we have agreed to share the benefits,” Mr Kapi Natto said.
“The people of Kutubu have spoken and we have shown the way that this project is of great importance and magnitude to the nation. As such, we have put our differences aside to sign the agreement,” he added.
“What we need to do now is get our priorities right and deliver projects earmarked under the agreement, such as the Kutubu township,” he said.
Foe landowner association chairman Sese Vege and general secretary Asi Ibususbu, shortly after the signing, expressed similar sentiments, adding that landowners would now work with the Government to ensure that the project gets off the ground.
Other landowner leaders who signed the agreement expressed similar sentiments and urged other landowners to put aside their past differences for the benefit of the province, the PDL areas and the nation as a whole.
Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma appreciated the efforts of the landowners in putting aside their differences for the sake of the project, calling it an example of leadership and maturity.
State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare said: “The signing of the PDL2 is significant as it underpins the PNG LNG project and sets the precedent for other project areas to follow.”
Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch assured the developers that the Government would ensure that it fulfilled its part before the FID on Dec 8.
“Kutubu plays a significant role in the economy of PNG, and with this signing, we are optimistic to deliver before the FID,” he said.
Esso Highlands managing director Peter Graham said the developers were keen to move this project “successfully forward”.
“This is a massive project and we realise that it will change the future of this nation, in particular the children that are here today to witness this important occasion,” Mr Graham added.
The signing was held at the Kaipu sports field in Kutubu.
Areas that are set to sign over the next few days are PDL4 (Gobe Main), PRL12 (Hides), PRL11 (Angore), Juha (PRL2), PDL1 (Hides) and PDL5/6 (Moran).