A development partnership agreement between the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) and the Fly River Provincial Government (FRPG) has been gathering dust for the past five years. Today, Governor Ati Wobiro, along with PNGSDP CEO David Sode and PNGSDP Chairman Ross Garnaut signed a Memorandum of Understanding that is expected to increase development co-operation between PNGSDP and the FRPG.
This year PNGSDP has increased its focus on Western Province, with an increase in its development budget. The shift in focus comes as it is increasingly becoming a major player in the resource exploitation sector. Earlier this year, PNGSDP acquired a stake in Highlands Pacific Ltd, at the behest of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. Highlands Pacific owns a stake in the Frieda River Copper projects well as tenements 40 Km north of Ok Tedi mine, which could potentially be farmed into the existing mine processing facilities.
PNGSDP will also be undertaking Court proceedings against the National Forest Board and the State regarding the awarding of timber rights of the Wipim-Tapila Timber Project in South Fly. PNGSDP alleges that the National Forest Board was not consistent in applying its own bidding rules when it awarded the project to a Asian logging company. It is alleged that the National Forest Board had instructed bidders that the resource would have to be all processed onshore and later allowed the Asian logger to export round logs.
PNGSDP subsidiary, Cloudy Bay Sustainable Timber Company, had submitted its bid consistent with the Forestry Board's requirement of onshore processing and is therefore seeking relief in the courts.
This is not the first time that the Forestry Board has stuffed up in awarding Timber Bids. Recently, the Supreme Court awardedTimber Rights to Madang Timbers over Ramu Forest Management Area Project in Madang Province, over-rulling a Forestry Board decision that gave the Timber rights to another company.
Mr Sode, urged the Governor of Western Province to ensure that Western Province'snatural resources get processed with-in the province. The Oriomo Special Economic Zone and the Daru Deep Water Port would obviously facillitate any Industrial activity in the Province.
PNGSDP is currently having talks with Talisman Energy, to built a gas powered plant that would utilize gas from Talisman's Stanley Gas field, in Western Province. Mr Sode would also like to see all of Western Province's gas processed in the Province.
PNGSDP has taken a more comprehensive approach to dealing with investing in the Western Province. But even if this commercial ventures are successful, what still remains to be seen is the translation of wealth generated from these activities into improving the lives of the people of Western Province. The challenge that still remains is the creation of an appropriate model of development for Western Province.
Hopefully this time, all parties gathered here at the Tabubil golf course will get it right. Just down in the river valley adjacent to the golf course lies an ancient river that was violated and destroyed by a flawed model of development. In pursuing various commercial interests, there has to be careful consideration of their impact upon the full spectrum of life.