PNG GAS PROJECT FACES LANDOWNER DISPUTES

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Group alleges being excluded from benefits

By Andrew Alphonse PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 24, 2010) - Work on the proposed LNG township and International Airport in the Southern Highlands province is likely to be affected by landownership disputes.

This follows a faction of the landowner group in Komo protesting for being excluded from the project benefit sharing and agreement.

Already, the group, through their landowner company Komo Resource Development Corporation (KRDC) Ltd, has written a 20-page petition letter dated February 22 demanding clarification on their position.

The letter was addressed to Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru with copies to State agencies like departments of Petroleum and Energy, Treasury and Finance, National Planning and developer ExxonMobil.

In the petition signed by the 11 major clan leaders of the project impact areas, they called on the State and ExxonMobil to recognize KRDC as the second umbrella landowner company, besides Hides Gas Development Corporation (HGDC) for any spin-off business activities in the construction of the township and airport.

KRDC chairman David Harabe said: "We own about 80 percent of the land area for the proposed township and airport.

"Why are we not included in the benefits for impacted landowners?" he asked.

He said the call was now for the developer and the state to recognize KRDC as the second landowner company and consider it for any spin-off contracts.

Clans that make up KRDC and signed the petition include Imini Kela, Imini Ne, Tagima, Yumu, Undupi, Mogoralai, Maiya, Tamburuma, Tapamu, Tope and Tapu clans who are traditional landowners of the land on which the airport and township are to be located.

"There are 4,000 of us, who are furious at being left out. We have already made physical confrontation with ExxonMobil workmen surveying the land in Komo.

"A roadblock was mounted recently at the bridge over Waguba River near Komo station to make our position known to the state and the developers," he said.

Mr. Harabe said several meetings had been held on the issue at Komo district office, St Pauls Primary School in Komo and at Nogoli camp with representatives from ExxonMobil, like Noel Wright, business development Officer and ExxonMobil’s community affairs team.

"We have been told our demands would be looked at and addressed accordingly," he said.

"As time is running out, we are also losing patience. Any delay or failure to address the dispute quickly will affect the current work at the project sites," he added.

It is understood ExxonMobil would be meeting with the disgruntled group in Nogoli this week.

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