PNG GOVERNMENT OWES MILLION FOR NATURAL GAS NEGOTIATION

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Benefit Sharing Agreement meetings lasted six weeks

By Barney Orere

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier) - A whopping PGK7 million [US$2.7 million] debt is left behind in East New Britian, incurred during the Benefit Sharing Agreement (BSA) forum, which the government is yet to settle.

Many business houses and service providers in the townships of Rabaul and Kokopo are waiting for their money, six months after the forum ended.

Those who outlaid their money are getting desperate because according to one legal source, when six months has elapsed, claims outstanding will not be honored.

Some business houses though have been paid in full and they happen to be for the costs incurred by the Government ministers.

Those still waiting patiently include Kokopo Village Resort, Takubar Village Resort, Takubar Guest House, MSC Sisters, Vunapope (Missionary of Sacred Heart), Seaview Beach Resort, Foreign Hire Car, Lisko Car Hire and many PMVs and hire vehicles. Lisko Car Hire had two vehicles wrecked and is owed around PGK3,000 [US$1.1 million] and MSC Sisters are owed around PGK14,000.

All resorts in Rabaul and Kokopo have not been paid yet. University of Nature Resources and Environment, Vudal had 500 people staying there.

Seaview Resort which was used as the headquarter for the BSA meeting by the host Department, Minerals and the Energy (DME), provided lunch and dinner every day for six weeks and 24-hour conference facilities including computers and vehicles. Werner Arns from Seaview Resort said "you could not walk in there, it was like a fortress, heavily guarded by policemen.

Those listed would be grateful if the DME could honor it’s commitment because the services were provided in good faith.

"We are looking forward to the settlement of all outstanding bills as soon as possible so we can replace our wrecked cars, damaged buses and pay creditors for goods supply to us to serve landowners and participants who took part in the meeting," said Mr. Arns.

A statement attributed to Rabaul town mayor Changol Manoai said a lot of businesses were facing difficulties after using up their resources for East New Britain to host the meeting.

Vehicles that were purchased at the time with Bank loans in anticipation of the demand for transports during the meeting were being reposed. Other small operators had ground to a halt while waiting to get what is owed to them. East New Britain being a peaceful place provided the best venue for the BSA meeting and the State and all other stakeholders should appreciate this.

The meeting was good for the province as it provided an opportunity for people to make some money; nevertheless bills must be settled within reasonable time.

Mr. Manoai warned other provinces to be careful if this was going to be the attitude of the Government.

It was all very well for the Government to preach about how huge the benefit of the LNG project would be but the reality was that people had spent their money to help the government and they deserved to be paid quickly.

The BSA meeting was planned for 700 participants but 2,000 people turned up. The meeting lasted two months. PGK4million was paid out to landowners in two lots of PGK2million, a daily allowance of PGK50.00 per person. There were two riots squads from Port Moresby, 110 regular policemen in addition to local police. There was to be a follow-up meeting in East New Britain "but 3,000 people wanted to attend and nothing further has been heard of it.

You can see why there won’t be a second meeting in Kokopo because the Government owes PGK7m across there and 3,000 people come with hundreds of landowners getting PGK50.00 a day in allowance; what on earth will happen is a very good question! Post-Courier Kokopo contacted the DME several months ago and we will not know if our questions ever reached because there was no acknowledgement.

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