BY JASON GIMA WURI
THE Trans-Island Highway (stage two) road project agreement, which will run 600km between Kiunga in Western and Central's Hiritano and through three provinces, has been given the go-ahead by the national government, landowners and developer Independent Timbers and Stevedoring Ltd, The National reports.
Western Deputy Governor James Ukin said the project was a long time coming but it had finally arrived for the people of Western and southern region.
The highway would run through Western, Gulf and Central provinces.
"This project has taken eight years of negotiations and, at last, the government has approved it," Ukin said.
"We thank the developer who willingly came in and assisted us with more than K30 million to do feasibility studies to meet the requirements of all line departments including lands, forest, transport and works, commerce, trade and industry and civil aviation.
"Western is the largest province but parts of it have not been developed since independence.
"In fact, the people are dying, they are still fighting each other and practise cannibalism.
"Since independence, no good development had taken place although the Ok Tedi mine is there," Ukin said.
He said basic services like schools, health centres and markets to sell their fresh produce were hard to access by the rural people.
"The road project is very important to link the people to better services.
"The national and provincial governments will not put any money on this project.
"Two major bridges will be built from 100 tonnes of brick across the Fly River and Strickland River," Ukin said.
Minister for Commerce and Industry Gabriel Kapris, who was at the signing ceremony, said it was the sheer determination of the landowners who wanted to trade off their resources for access to roads and sustainable development in agriculture by agreeing with a developer to harvest forest within the road corridors for a second phase of the trans-national highway.
The highway would also open up links to Gulf, Southern Highlands and West Sepik.
Kapris urged all stakeholders to proceed with the implementation of the project as per the spirit of the agreement to ensure the project benefits were derived for the landowners, developer, province and the country.
Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio signed the agreement on behalf of the state with the Fly River provincial government, North East West Investment Ltd, Kebogas Investment Ltd, Tosigiba Timber Group Ltd, PNG Agency for International Development and developer IT&S Ltd.