Monday, August 23, 2010

Exxon faces protests by Papa villagers

EXXONMOBIL is facing more protests for allegedly failing to consider local companies in contracts for the early works at the LNG sites, The National reports.

For almost three weeks now, there has been stop work at the project sites in the Southern Highlands, as landowners and workers in Hides, Komo, and Gobe protest poor working conditions and lack of participation by their companies in the early works.

Landowners there were also demanding the immediate release of business development grant promised by the government, totalling K120 million.

Now, landowners of Papa village outside Port Moresby have warned Exxonmobil they would sue the giant American if they were not given the control for the marine jetty at portion 152.

Papa is one of four impact village in the LNG project, and would be the most affect. That is why the villagers there formed a landowner company called Papa Resources Development Limited to bid for spin off businesses for the villagers.

They see the construction of the jetty as a project they can become involved in, with their backing of their Australian partner believed to be Leighton, a giant construction company with global reputation.

The cause for the Papa landowners, to be involved in this project, has in fact recieved the backing of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, who have separately written letters in support of the villagers and their partner.

The prime minister wrote to Duma in July, instructing him to impress upon Exxonmobil the need for local content, the inovlvement of villagers and landowners in EPC3, or early works at portion 152.

In the letter, Sir Michael urged Duma to remind Exxonmobil that the government was an equity partner in the project and was obliged to ensure that local content was maximised “through meaningful participation by landowners like PRDL who have the support of reputable partners”.

Duma also wrote to Exxonmobil, telling them he was impressed with the partnership arrangement between PRDL and Leighton, and urged them to consider their bid.

He also stressed the importance of local content, or landowner participation in the project, saying both Exxonmobil and the government have a duty to promote the aspirations of local businesses in this life changing project.

The Papa villagers delivered their petition in Exxonmobil in Port Moresby last week, after they were told they would not

be considered for the marine jetty project which is worth about K1billion.

Papa village chief Nao Nao, who is also a director of PRDL, said section 129 of the Oil and Gas Act made it mandatory for Exxonmobil to consider their proposal favourably, and allow them to be involved in the project.

Nao said if their petition was not considered favourable, they would launch an action in court.

A court action would cause further problems for the project, which is already facing delay as a result of landowner protests.

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