PNG POLICE DEPLOYED TO PROTECT HIGHLANDS OIL

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By Andres Alphonse

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 22, 2008) – About 100 Mobile Squad members have been deployed to Moran in Southern Highlands to protect the oilfields there.

The policemen from Lae and Mt Hagen were flown in by Oil Search Ltd (OSL) over the weekend.

They joined members of Mobile Squad 10 in Mendi to beef up security following intelligence reports of the [threatened] closure of major oil productions facilities in the area such as Moran Central (Petroleum Development License (PDL) 5), the NW Moran oil project and the new Pawa drilling site in the area.

On Sunday, Pai Parabia Resources Owners Association chairman Edward Alina gave the Department of Petroleum and Energy and OSL 48 hours to respond favourably to their demands by today (Tuesday).

He threatened to forcibly close Moran Central, NW Moran and the Pawa drilling if there was no positive response.

A development forum at Masurina Lodge in Alotau last week was postponed after another landowner group led by Elvis Alungi, chairman of Pai Howa Resources Owners Association, claimed that other landowner groups had been invited to attend.

Mr Alina’s group was upset over the deferment, and accused the department and Oil Search of bowing down to the call of a "minority".

They warned that after today, they would force the closure of the projects operations if they failed to get a favourable response from the department and Oil Search.

It is understood that the department and Oil Search met yesterday and would be delivering a decision to the landowners today.

Highlands Assistant Commissioner of Police Simon Kauba confirmed that police had been airlifted to Moro to provide security to the oil heads and projects sites.

He said that despite the threats, operations there were proceeding as normal.

"The police are ready to face any landowner uprising," he said

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