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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 31, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea provincial centers that rely on fuel to generate electricity will face blackouts because the Electricity Commission has accumulated a huge debt.

Sources said centers affected included towns like Madang, Kerema, Kerevat, Kimbe, Alotau, Wabag and Wewak.

They said Kavieng town in New Ireland Province, for example, had been without electricity since last Friday.

Earlier this month Privatization Commission chairman Ben Micah confirmed Elcom owed more than K 400 million (US$ 120.4 million). Mr. Micah said every household would have to pay K 1,000 to K 2,000 (US$ 301 to US$ 602) to clear Elcom’s debt.

The government is understood to be a major creditor. However, the exact amount could not be established.

Sources at Elcom say the organization owes one major fuel supplier, British Petroleum, more than K 4 million (US$ 1,204,000) which have accumulated since 1999.

British Petroleum managing director Peter Diezmann refused to comment on the matter yesterday.

But sources said BP had closed its 60-day credit facility, which previously allowed Elcom to use fuel in advance before paying. They said BP had frozen all Elcom’s accounts until upfront payments were made.

They said as long as there was a cash flow problem continuous blackouts would be experienced around the country.

Sources said BP closed their credit facility to Elcom about three weeks ago.

Sources said late yesterday afternoon, arrangements were made to pay K 25,000 (US$ 7,525) to BP to supply the power station in Kavieng with 40,000 liters of fuel.

They said this fuel was estimated to last only a week.

Sources said centers like Kerema, Daru and Alotau were relying on business houses to supply them with fuel. They did not know how long these business houses would continue to supply Elcom.

Sources said smaller centers had already started load-shedding schedules, taking into consideration the running of hospitals and other essential services.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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