KUTUBU landowners protesting against the state over their benefits have shut down some facilities, stalling progress on the liquefied natural gas project in Southern Highlands, The National reports.
The landowners had shut the gates to Moro Airport, Angogo Ridge, access road and Mubi valve facilities at 6am yesterday.
The landowner leaders said the central production facility (CPF) that pumps oil to the Kumul terminal in the Gulf of Papua would be shut down this morning.
Fasu landowner leaders Kossy Sosoro, Keith Puara, Peter Heno and Foe leader Hami Yawari told a joint media conference the facilities "will remain shut until the state honours its outstanding commitments under the Kutubu petroleum development agreement".
The leaders said the Kutubu project started production in 1990.
"We signed (the agreement) because we understand that we will get the MoA funds and special support grants. But, this has not been honoured by the state since 1990 with more than K5 billion outstanding in MoA and SSG commitments."
Puara, a leader from Sisiba village that owns the Agogo facility, said the people had been patient for a long time and had never damaged project facilities.
"What we are doing today is for our rights and it is a peaceful shutdown," he said.
Kossy Sosoro, who heads the Moro Airport landowners, said the government had set precedence by paying K16 million to Hides 4 landowners to allow for LNG work and "must do the same for Kutubu".
Chief landowner of the central production facility Peter Heno said: "I warn the state and Oil Search Ltd not to intimidate and harass my people because this is a peaceful protest.
"We want our money."
Oil Search Ltd late yesterday issued a statement that there were a number of threats by landowner groups to disrupt oil operations because of their frustrations with the state over a number of alleged unfulfilled commitments, including the release of memorandum of agreement (MoA) funds and the review of the petroleum development licence 2 agreement.
"Oil Search Ltd will take all necessary action to protect its people and property and continue to undertake our lawful business within our licence areas," it said.
"Oil Search has obtained an order from the National Court, restraining any trespassing on its licence areas, as all the issues raised by the landowner groups relate only to outstanding state commitments and not actions or commitments by Oil Search."
The developer said it had been working tirelessly with landowner leaders to understand their grievances and facilitate their communication with the state, "notwithstanding that all these issues are external to Oil Search".
"As a member of this community, Oil Search always welcomes constructive dialogue with project area landowners and appreciates the manner in which this is being conducted, but impacts on operations are unacceptable.
"Following threats to government to shut oil operations, crowds have gathered around the Moro Airfield, the Agogo processing facility and the Moran oilfield."
All ExxonMobil, Oil Search and contractor-owned vehicles had been grounded and field work and business activities had stopped.