Agiru warns govt
SOUTHERN Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, a strong supporter of the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, has warned that he will withdraw this support if the government does not deliver cash and projects it has committed to landowners and the provincial government.
Since the project sanction and financiers announced the go-ahead of this massive project, progress has been hampered by disputes among landowner factions, and resentment over a perception that locals were missing out on major contracts.
Agiru’s withdrawal of support would represent a massive setback for the project, and might trigger landowner protests in Hides and Tari where landowner leaders have been demanding the release of their seed capital and outstanding memorandum of agreement (MoA) funds.
Agiru yesterday said since the signing of the umbrella and licenced-based benefits sharing agreements, the government had yet to deliver the following:
*K120 million in seed capital;
*K120 million in infrastructure grants;
*K90 million for the first phase of the Tari Airport redevelopment;
*K300 million in outstanding MoA funds;
*K660 million in high impact projects;
*K60 million for rural electrification; and
*Start work on the Gulf-Southern Highlands highway.
The K660 million is a one-off funding for impact projects to be raised through the issue of treasury bills. The Treasury Department is responsible for this.
Treasury was able to raise K125 million for infrastructure projects in Kokopo, East New Britain, but had not advance the Southern Highlands commitment, angering Agiru.
“The national government must understand that the gas is still under my feet; it has not left the ground.
“The government must come to Tari, Hides and Kutubu; it must come to the people and deliver these commitments. It must not hide in boardrooms with a few representatives and make decisions,” Agiru said.
He said landowners’ commitments, promised by the state during the umbrella benefits sharing agreement (UBSA) in Kokopo and the licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA) in respective project areas, must be honoured.
“I delivered the licence on Dec 8 last year. What they asked me to deliver; I have delivered. Now they have to deliver.”
He accused the national departments of being very confused and passing the buck, and failing to deliver.
Agiru said although the memorandum of agreement (MoA) was not funded in this year’s budget, the government must find money to meet the commitments.
Agiru is also concerned that landowner companies will miss out altogether on contracts with the early works underway, and has urged the government to release the business development grants, or seed capital, for them to mobilise.
He said the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) phase was going full steam awarding contracts to large companies.
“Small landowner companies might miss out and become mere bystanders.”
A senior Finance Department official spoken to last night said there was simply no money to meet all these commitments.
“Most of these are not budgeted items, so we have to find the money elsewhere.
“Funding will have to be spread over time, and cannot be one-off,” the official said, asking not to be named.