PNG LANDOWNERS DEMAND PROMISED ROADWAY

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Oil Search tightens security

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 28, 2008) - Landowners have threatened to shut down the Moran oil fields in the Southern Highlands Province in protest over the Government’s alleged failure to fund landowner projects.

Operator of the oil fields, Oil Search Limited, said yesterday it had stepped up its security on the site to counter trouble.

The landowners have given two separate petitions to the Petroleum and Energy Minister, William Duma and Oil Search Limited to comply within seven days or face total closure.

The landowners want the Government to pay all outstanding agreements including the Government’s commitment by releasing PGK260 million [US$104 million] to fund the completion of the Homa-Tari road.

However, they also questioned why the provincial government had taken charge of the money when it was a national government commitment.

They have demanded Oil Search to pay landowner firm, Moran Development Corporation (MDC) PGK20 million [US$8 million] as service contract.

They have also demanded that Oil Search employ landowners permanently and claimed that there were no landowners working for the company.

Landowner spokesmen councilors Joseph Andayapo and Huguba Gabono said yesterday if those demands to Oil Search and the Government were not met in seven days, all drilling works would be shut down by today.

They said the two main gates into the site had been blocked by trucks and logs. They added that by 4:06 p.m. yesterday, all flights in and out would be stopped.

Oil Search executive general manager for oil operations, Phil Caldwell, yesterday said security had been stepped up at the site following threats by MDC employees who had been working on the Homa to Tari road currently under construction with funding under the tax credit scheme and government MOA funding.

Mr. Caldwell said MDC had also advised its employees that they will be laid off unless additional funds were released by the Government.

MDC received additional funding of PGK9 million from the Government in August this year but this had been exhausted.

He said the employees had asked Oil Search to help with negotiations with the Government for the release of additional funds.

"The safety of our people is paramount and these measures have been adopted to ensure the safety of our workers, our equipment and the oil field facilities. We are currently trying to find solutions to this problem in discussion with MDC and Government," he said.

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