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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 14, 2008) - Landowners from the North West Moran oil project in the Southern Highlands Province are giving the National Government 48 hours as of today to make a public statement on the next course of action the Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE) has for the now aborted development forum.

Edward Alina, chairman of Pai Parabia Resource Owners Association, the umbrella landowner group from Moran project said from Port Moresby yesterday that if DPE failed to respond or give their next course of action on the Moran issue, the landowners would have no option but force the closure of Moran Central (Petroleum Development Licence 5), North West Moran oil fields and the Pawa and Moran Jet drilling sites in the area.

Mr Alina issued the warning after the forum and the project memorandum of agreement (MoA) that was supposed to be held at Alotau never eventuated. Alina blamed politicians from the Southern Highlands Province for "bulldozing and hijacking the whole process" of the forum and the agreement which resulted in parties not agreeing and the whole three weeks camp a total waste of resources, time and money.

Alina also questioned the motive of engaging former Mining Minister Sam Akotai as mediator adding that even the parties did not comply with the MoA put forward by the mediator for the forum and the project agreement signing. "The whole process at Alotau was hijacked by politicians while DPE did not take the lead as it was supposed to do," Alina said.

He said as a result the forum was not held and the agreement was not signed as the 156 people that attended the camp including the politicians wasted public funds on holidaying and sightseeing. A senior DPE official revealed that an estimated PGK1.3 million [US$482,214] was wasted on the forum while a consultant was paid PGK69, 670.43 [US$25,843] on Monday for a one-day failed mediation for the on-going dispute between NW Moran landowners.

The PGK1.3 million was spent on transportation, hotel bills, allowances and other costs incurred by landowners, government officers and staff of DPE and developer Oil Search in the past three weeks for the forum in Alotau. Alina said the landowners are giving the National Government 48 hours to respond on the issue, failing that would mean the immediate closure of Moran central, NW Moran, Pawa and Moran Jet drilling projects in the area.

Attempts to get comments from the Department of Petroleum and Energy, Oil Search Limited and the SHP politicians were unsuccessful yesterday.

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