Thank God for common sense

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday August 3rd, 2015

 IT is most encouraging that Gulf leaders and resource landowners have put aside their differences to support the Papua LNG project in their province.

Since the announcement by project developer Total SA in early July on the location of the central processing facility and plant site, Gulf leaders and landowners of the Elk-Antelope gas fields have been at loggerheads over the proposed pipeline to Caution Bay near Port Moresby where the plant site will be located.

The Gulf leaders, landowners and people have vehemently opposed the proposed location of the plant site outside their province with Governor Havila Kavo standing firm on his “no pipeline policy”.

Kavo and his supporters did not agree with the projec tbeing named Papua LNG, which they claimed had no relevance to the host province or the source of the liquefied natural gas.

Total SA, the French oil and gas giant, said the location of the central processing facility would be near the Purari River in Gulf, about 360km northwest of Port Moresby, which would be connected to the LNG facility in Central by onshore and offshore gas and condensate pipelines.

The project developer said the sites were chosen for their technical, economic and environmental benefits and followed extensive surveys and studies over the past year.

Total SA’s decision has the support of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who, amid the uproar last month, said it was in Gulf’s best interests for its political and landowner leaders and people to support the project.

And yesterday, the state-owned National Petroleum Company (NPCP) convened a forum of Gulf political and resource landowners in Port Moresby to discuss the LNG project.

NPCP managing director Wapu Sonk said the meeting was convened for the factions from Gulf to express their views. “They’ve expressed their views and they’ve documented their views, so the Government will take that on and look at how to put it together when it comes to negotiations with the developer, Total.”

The forum was a surprising breakthrough as the leaders and landowners agreed to put aside their differences and work together to support the project.

In unforgettable scenes, Kavo was sitting with his arch rivals, Kikori MP Mark Maipakai and Kerema MP Richard Mendani, listening to technical presentations on the project and even talking to each other.

The trio have not seen eye-to-eye on this and other issues since Kavo was convicted and sentenced to 18 months jail late last year for misapplication of public funds.

Kavo has been out on bail since and while waiting for his Supreme Court appeal has upset Maipakai and Mendani by continuing to hold office despite instructions from Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion for him to step aside.

In attendance at the NPCP forum yesterday were former MPs, governors and premiers who stressed the importance of working together for the success of the project.

Petroleum and Energy Mi­nister Nixon Duban, NPCP managing director Sonk, Mineral Resources Development Company managing director Augustine Mano and Petroleum and Energy Secretary Rendle Rimua gave their thumbs up to the meeting and hailed the Gulf leaders and landowners for their united stand.

Former Gulf Governor Riddler Kimave called all the leaders to the front, where on behalf of the Gulf people, they said they were committed to working with the Government.

“Tell the Prime Minister and the Government that we are standing together for the people of Gulf province,” Kimave told Duban.

Duban responded: “I’m fully, in heart and soul, in line with your thoughts, and we in government must play in the middle ground.”

We are heartened by Duban’s statement that he and Sonk have made interventions, including a comprehensive review of the Oil and Gas Act. 

“There is a proposed new way forward that will come about very soon. That report has not yet been endorsed by the NEC.”

Moreover, we hope the Gulf leaders and landowners will accept Total’s business decision to develop the project and negotiate ways to maximise benefits for their people and province.

As the technical experts indicated yesterday, Papua LNG is set to be bigger than PNG LNG.