Wednesday, February 24, 2010

VANUATU LANDOWNERS PROTEST DEVELOPMENT

Efate projects offer little benefit to residentsBy Royson Willie

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 18, 2010) - The English saying "don’t judge a book by its cover" summarises the frustration of a man from Havannah Harbour in North Efate who told Daily Post yesterday that the colorful development in the area does not reflect the real living condition of the indigenous people there.
From Havannah Harbour in North Efate.

Timothy Kalangis who is one of the grandsons of Chief Tivate Kalangis of Utaune, or what is commonly known as Samoa Point, said news about more developments taking place in the area is of concern because currently, as custom owners they are not benefiting from the development in the area. He made this comment in the wake of reports that the government is planning on developing a mini-township in the area as well as a port-of-entry. Mr. Kalangis said his family, through chief Kalangis, was recently successful in its Land Tribunal Case that was declared about two years ago and is concerned about the rate of development taking place in the area. He said initially it was another family that allowed development to take place at Havannah mainland.

Kalangis said at first the people were included in the early stage of development but as time progressed, he said now it is only people who come in from Port Vila to work at North Efate while they have been left out.
"One of the social problems that have arisen as a result of this is young women getting pregnant with the child of those who come in to work in the construction sector then leaving them behind. "Development is a good thing but it must not make us poor. "Currently it seems this is already the case for us in Havannah because there is too much development taking up more space on the land and coastal areas which restrict movements of the people, with the resources becoming scarce. "We depend on agriculture and marine resources to sustain our living but we do not benefit at all from the current leases in the area.

The English saying "don’t judge a book by its cover" summarizes the frustration of Kalangis. "If the government is making so much noise about these developments it must consult us because I believe what is currently happening at Havannah directly contradicts the Land Summit Resolutions of 2006.
"Because there is a danger that we ni-Vanuatu may become strangers on our own land.
"The government and Shefa Province must play their part in safeguarding the interest of landowners and all ni-Vanuatu.
"By this I mean there must be a win-win situation where the developer is happy and the landowners or people in the area are happy because if only one group is happy then it is a win-lose situation which is not healthy for development. "I am one of those who is very concerned about the future of our children and I don’t want to put the future of our children at risk. "This is my first time to come to the media to raise my concern because I could no longer bear the frustration about the development that are taking place at Havannah," Kalangis said. The man who is a former member of the Vanuatu police force said he had to raise his concern because he felt he has an obligation traditionally to safeguard the future of the Havannah ni-Vanuatu children.

"The development at Havannah does not reflect the living of the indigenous people there as the reality is we are poor with difficulties to pay for school fees and other necessities in life such as a proper water supply system."
Meanwhile, Kalangis said he agrees with a recent writer in the Daily Post letters column, Mr. Trevor Hannam, that there is no space for any resort at the proposed site because currently it is a residential subdivision, not commercial. "I have seen the plans for the this proposed development and I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Hannam, which is why I said the 2006 National Land Summit resolutions must be revisited." The father of three departed yesterday for New Zealand under the RSE scheme to work for the school fees of his three children of which two are in secondary school and one in kindergarten.
Vanuatu Daily Post. http://www.dailypost.vu/ <http://www.dailypost.vu/>

Monday, February 22, 2010

Major Development Projects Affecting Ramu River

On Saturday the 20th of February 2010, I took a trip to Sepu village at Usino located on the bank of the Ramu River below the Ramu Nickel-Cobalt Mine. The Sepu village had 3 houses washed downstream as a result of the flooding which is continuing because of the continuing wet period.

Ward Councilor Peter Kema from Sepu village, said the magnitude of the flooding is severer than the previous floods, something they have never seen and experienced before. The flood has destroyed the food gardens and the river communities are experiencing a chronic shortage of food.

Sepu village is one of the many villages of the riverine communities along the 4th largest river in PNG which is currently under so much stress from sedimentation buildup.

The Ramu River runs through the Ramu Valley and is located between the Finister and Bismarck Ranges and feeds from tributaries from the two ranges. The natural forces of nature and human activities along the Ramu River and the two ranges are contributing to the impacts on the Ramu River System.

However, there are a number of major development activities around the head-streams of the Ramu River and along the Ramu Valley which cannot be isolated from the ongoing stress of the Ramu River System and its compounding impacts on the livelihoods of the Ramu River communities.

Appropriate scientific research and baseline data of the Ramu River System needs to be undertaken over a sufficient period of time to established adequate facts. However, the number of developments upstream involved a significant forest clearance, thus aggravating intensive runoffs and erosion. Forest cover plays an important role in stopping runoffs and erosion.

The New Britain Palm Oil (NBPOL) recently took over the Ramu Sugar Ltd under a new commercial arrangement of expanding its oil palm business. Forest clearance along the Ramu valley at Dumpu last year, the Kainantu Gold Open Cut Mine in the Eastern Highlands Province (on the Bismarck Range),the river is a major tributary of the Ramu, the Ramu Nickel and Cobalt Mine (major clearance in the construction phase)and the Yandera Mine (Major clearance in the construction phase)all involved major involved forest clearance. Along the Middle-Ramu area, there is ongoing logging activities along the main tributaries of the Ramu.

These developments cannot be excused from impacting the Ramu River System, in terms of the recent floods and the sedimentation buildup. Once these mines go in to full scale operations, than the impacts will be added on to the current impacts. The bottom line is that, lives of people and their livelihoods are at stake.

The livelihoods of the Ramu River communities have not been taken into consideration by the government and the project developers. Over 250,000 people live and depend on the Ramu River System from the Upper Ramu to the Middle-Ramu right down to Bogia(Lower-Ramu). Therefore the potential diabolic consequences can not be undermined by the project developer and the Government of PNG.

Communities at the Lower part of the Ramu have formed a Group called, Ramu River Conservation and Management Authority (RRCMA). RRCMA main objective is to save the Ramu River from the potential destruction from the Ramu Nickel Mine and other major development projects upstream. RRCMA has been raising awareness along the Ramu River from Marangis to Sepu and show no intention of giving up even when the government is not supporting them. RRCMA was successful in get a monitoring station set-up in one of the villages along the Ramu River and have filed a case against the Ramu Nickel Mine (Chinese Meteorological Construction Company-CMCC) and the Mining Resource Authority (MRA) the government body that manages the mining industry (whose legality is also in question because it is controlled by the industry).

The RRCMA gets it! They do not want to end up like the Fly River, Strictland River and the Angabanga River communities who are affected by Ok Tedi, Porgera and Tolukama mining.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Landowners closed down Jant logging operations in Transgogol

The famous Gogol Naru Logging project in the Madang province of Papua New Guinea has been closed down by landowners from Transgogol. Jant was formerly owned by a Japanese company and was later sold to a Vietnamese company.

The Jant operations was clouded with many issues relating to environmental and labor concerns.The landowners from Transgogol staged several protests, blockades and petitioned the company and the PNG Forest Authority to look into issues relating to agreements and labor over the years.

The labor issues raised by locals include, physical labor involved in loading and unloading timber and moving timber (logs) to pick-up spots. No machinery were used. There are reports of medical complications such as enlarged testicles, blood cloth, chronic back problems etc. Even the wage is very low and does not compensate for such brutal labor.

About week ago, the Transgogol landowners literally walked into the Jant camp and shut down the operations by forcing the loggers out. The many years of brutal forest raping has suddenly come to a standstill and the land is now in the hands of the landowners after being spectators for many decades.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Child Labour used for PMIZ Fencing in Madang-PNG

The proposed Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project in Madang province of Papua New Guinea which boasts to see ten (10) more new canneries has kick-started pre-construction activities. Initial clearance and construction of fencing started in January 2010.

The locals are lured by sub-contracts of K9000 per 300 meter fencing for each community groups.The locals are sweating their guts out for these lousy sub-contracts. No major contracts has been awarded to the locals, so again, another false promises of so called "spin-offs" for locals.

The most shocking thing is that, male school children are engaged to construct the fencing and have not been attending classes. Are there no laws for child-labour in PNG? These children are supposed to be in the classroom instead of working as adults under conditions unsuitable for their age.

The use or engagement of child labour for the PMIZ fencing brings on two assumptions.
1. It is most likely that these children are working to pay for their school fees as this is a major problem at this time of the years for many PNG families. Why does the government of PNG boasts about mega-investment projects amounting to over billions of dollars and it can't afford to provide free education for its people?
If Thailand, with a population of over 67 million, whose major income is generated by only one crop which is rice can provide free education for its citizens, why can't PNG with the vast reserves of oil and gas, forest, fisheries and mineral resources and just over 6 million population? It leaves no room for any other answers than "CORRUPTION".

2. Or, this might be a classical case of "Child Abuse" as those who got the contracts for the fencing are using children so they do not have to pay them much. Something which is common in the Asian countries. Why do we let it happen in PNG?

In any case, it is crystal clear that the PNG government is on a desperate mission to exploit all the riches and people of PNG.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Development Perspective: Corporate or Western vs Melanesian

The Corporate Perspective:
“Development” is the catchphrase over used by promoters and advocates of Customary Land Reform in Papua New Guinea. The government and major donor agencies see Customary Land Tenure System to be a major default for development and economic progress. They see that access to Customary Lands is an important factor in economic development in Pacific island countries and a major consideration for investors. Financial institutions are also unlikely to lend money on custom lands; therefore it locks the economic potential and opportunity for these lands to be developed.

Our Melanesian Perspective:
We see development in terms of physical, spiritual and mental empowerment of people and our concern is the development of the whole person as we want people to grow. Too much control prevents people from advancing and therefore we want to provide space for people to discover themselves, improvise, and develop ideas that suit their needs and situation and the environment they live in. An empowered people or community has the holistic potential to cause them to progress by making informed decisions and be the master of their own destiny. We hope to see our people rise to become truly self reliant. Personal transformation is what our people need and we believe it is more sustainable than material development.

These cannot be valued in monetary and the western economic standards. These are the essence of life to us Melanesians and we highly esteem these values. Why commercializing our only link to our values. When you see the dollar, it blinds you to see the Melanesian view of land.

We are not stupid to understand that there are major problems faced by the developed world which they can not solve with all the money they have. They boast to have low poverty levels, yet, there are millions on the streets who are home less and have nothing to eat. This is the situation with the United States today with the struggling US$. Because of our land tenure situation, we do not see these problems. For example, families without any form of income generation or formal employment who earn less than a US$1 dollar a day still have plenty of organic food to eat and share with others, a simple hut to sleep in, with access of water from streams, creeks and rivers to cook and wash, and there is laughter and dancing and high moral standards.

We are not stupid to know that, the developed countries have no intent to help us get to the same standards as them. They are here because of our rich threshold of natural resources. Nevertheless, even if they have some good intentions, we fully understand that we are a different group of people with different beliefs, cultures and values. Therefore what the white men proposes is from his context, believe, culture and value. We can never be like the whites and do not think it is wise to copy or live a life of pretence and self denial. The Africans never got it right and we can never dream to get it right without the people maintaining control of the land. It will be a tragedy and chaotic for Melanesian to be landless and forced to live in an individualistic society without any spiritual and cultural connections. Once our land is gone, we’ll be defeated foreigners in our own land and also present to our dear children a future of alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes. It is our greatest fear to end up like Africa.

Thus, there is no better conclusion than this:
We see the darkness of neon lights. We see the
despair and loneliness in the urban cities. We see
the alienation of (the people) that is the result of the
present machine orientated economy. We see true
social security and (the people’s) happiness being
diminished in the name of economic progress. We
caution therefore that large-scale industries should
be pursued only after very careful and thorough
consideration of the likely consequences upon the
social and spiritual fabric of our people…There is
overwhelming evidence to suggest that a significant
number of people who live by the fruits of multi-million
dollar multi-national corporations live in misery,
loneliness and spiritual poverty. We believe that
since we are a rural people, our strength should
be essentially in the land and the use of our innate
artistic talents. (Papua New Guinea Constitutional
Planning Committee, 1975

A leaked draft EU document shows that the Commission would like to rename palm oil plantations as “forest”

Stop the EU Commission from forcing biodiesel from palm oil on EU countries.
EU Commission: this is not a forest, it’s a plantation

The Commission would like to rename palm oil plantations as “forest” in order that biodiesel from palm oil plantations can still meet EU biofuels sustainability criteria.

Palm oil expansion is a major cause of tropical rainforest destruction and biodiesel from palm oil can easily cause more greenhouse gas emissions that the fossil fuel it is meant to replace.

Help stop the Commission from classifying biodiesel from palm oil as “sustainable” and ask them to ensure that unsustainable palm oil does not count towards our renewable energy obligations. (Start: 05.02.2010)

Source: http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/

European Union's push for oil palm is a major threat to forests and indigenous lands. That means if they move ahead with their plans, more forests will be destroyed and more indigenous lands will be lost to the industry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ramu Mine Under Valued

Ramu mine worth billions

The value of Ramu Ni-Co project quoted in The National newspaper is misleading. It also holds the largest Sino-Australian nickel and cobalt project worth $US1.7 billion (K4.6 billion)” from the article entitled “PNG on a verge of a Boom”.

For brevity, Ramu laterite deposit contains 1.44 million tons of nickel and 0.143 million tons of cobalt within a reserve of 143mt at 1.01 per cent Ni and 0.1 per cent Co. At today’s buoyant prices of $US9/lb for nickel and $US20/lb for cobalt, the in-situ value of contained nickel and cobalt in the Ramu project stands at about $US28 billion and $US6 billion.
So the actual value of Ramu nickel cobalt project is $US34 billion or K92 billion at today’s prices. This excludes exploration dollars already spent on the project. This mine will produce in excess of 31,000 tonnes of Ni and 3300 tons Co annually for a period of 20 years (with the potential for up to 30 years). The worth of metals produced annually may exceed $US750 million subject to fluctuating metal prices and production capacity. This is somewhat equivalent to well over K2 billion per annum at today’s exchange rate and metal price.

Sadly, 85 per cent of the ownership of the Ramu mineral resource was sold to MCC, the Chinese state owned enterprise for a mere 5 per cent ($US1.7 billion) of the total value of this mega resource. So the $US1.7 billion is the construction and initial operating costs.So how much is left for PNG or Papua New Guineans? Barely 10 per cent (because HPL is a public listed company) in the bones as usual through the following entities: -
* 8.56 per cent Highlands Pacific Limited
* 3.94 per cent MRDC
* 2.5per cent landowners

To set the record straight, the present value of Ramu mine is worth about $US34 billion (K92 billion) and not $US1.7 billion (K4.6 billion) at today’s price but unfortunately very little if not none will be reflected in long-term tangible development of Papua New Guinea. Indeed it is another example of broad daylight rape and exploitation of Papua New Guinea. PNG government and its entities must act radically and swiftly in changing the current trends in order to maximise realisation of the natural resources for Papua New Guinea. Sadly, PNG government is continuously selling multi-billion-dollar resources cheaply, for next to peanuts because it seems to lack comprehension and in-depth analytical skills compounded by greed and ignorance.

Kaul Gena, Ph.D
Senior lecturer
Western Australian School of Mines

The U.S. Food Crisis: 1 in 5 Went Hungry Last Year. Now What?

Sometime in the fall last year, I was at my local supermarket in San Francisco’s Mission District, picking through some melons when I heard the unmistakable sound of a body hit the floor behind me — hard. I turned to find a woman being handcuffed and led into an employees-only area, as she pleaded with the security guard: “I lost my job and need to feed my children.” It was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Later, as I waited to pay for my groceries at the register, I watched another woman set off an alarm as she ran out of the supermarket with bananas and baby food in her arms. She made it — and presumably was able to feed her child that night.

I thought of that desperate day again when I read an extensive report released today on the state of food hardship in America (pdf) by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). In it comes the striking news that one in five Americans went hungry at some point in 2009.

Food hardship was measured as those who responded affirmatively to the question, “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” By the end of last year, the national food hardship rate was 18.5 percent. For households with children, the rate was much higher, at 24.1 percent.

For the general population, food hardship, which is the most basic indicator of general socio-economic hardship, was higher in 2008 than in 2009, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet — one in eight Americans are on food stamps today. Indeed, it appears that thanks to social programs like SNAP, food hardship did not continue to skyrocket throughout last year. With the recession, eligibility for food stamps was eased and benefits were increased. (Thank you, welfare state!)

Most of the report’s stats are dismal — and I could continue enumerating them to paint a more detailed picture of our hunger crisis, but I would rather hone in on the data that might hold some real political capital. You can speak about national hunger rates but hawking national data doesn’t hold reluctant or deluded politicians accountable — America is a large, amorphous entity for which everyone ought but often no one feels responsible or moved to act.

That’s why I am especially excited by the fact that the FRAC report gives us a highly localized look at hunger in America — and breaks it down by congressional district:

Of the 436 Congressional Districts (including the District of Columbia), 311 had a food hardship rate of 15 percent or higher. In 139 of them the rate was 20 percent or higher. Practically every Congressional District in the country had more than a tenth of respondents reporting food hardship.

Districts with the worst rates can be found in a whole range of states — California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Mississippi, New York — but, on the aggregate, hunger is most widespread in the South. These are districts represented in Washington, for the most part, by right-wingers and Democrats-only-in-name generally opposed to the expansion of welfare programs, even in the face of a massive recession.

This report could not have come at a better time. Just this morning came news that the Senate is planning a $80 billion job-creation bill that will cut Americans’ extended unemployment benefits (the House bill would not do this). This is the kind of boneheaded move that is predicated on the infallibility of the welfare-state-is-bad and/or anything-but-debt theses, and not in reality.

The battle worth fighting in 2010 is one that steers the government back to caring for the interests of regular Americans — and away from the corporations and financial institutions that have benefited most from governmental attention in this recession. There will be a lot of debate — and one-sided fear-mongering — about the expansion of low-income social assistance and unemployment programs, ranging from food stamps to COBRA; there will be a lot of talk about rising debt and budget-freezing, too.

But reports like FRAC show that as bad as hunger is today, it would be far worse without the social programs currently in place. President Obama has set a goal of eliminating child hunger by 2015. Pressuring Congress with the facts on hunger in their own districts is a good place to start working toward that goal, which while lofty, considering our current state, is completely achievable, especially in a country as wealthy — and bountiful — as ours.

(Source: http://www.frac.org/pdf/food_hardship_report_2010.pdf)

Now with our Customary Land Tenure System in Papua New Guinea. We do not see this a major problem. A family who earn less than a US dollar a day in the rural communities still have surplus of organic food and water from rivers, streams, and creeks. Adding to that, they have a house (a simple traditional hut) but they do not have to worry about all the bills.

The people who are starving in USA do not have land like the Papua New Guineans. Given the economic crisis, and companies are down sizing their labour force as cost cutting measures, how will the millions of parents cater for food and water for their families?

With the PNG government push for Land Reforms and encouraging Customary landowners to register their lands for economic development is a "death trap". Becarefull Papua New Guinea, DO NOT BE FOOLED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

We are SOLD very CHEAP!!!!!

A leading Papua New Guinea geologist says the Ramu Nickel mine has been massively undervalued and is another example of the “broad daylight rape” and exploitation of Papua New Guinea’s resources.

He claims the US$34 billion mine has been sold to the Chinese for just 5% of its true value.

“Sadly, the [PNG] government is continuously under selling multi-billion-dollar resources because it lacks analytical skills” says geologist Jerry Barry in a story by Mohammad Bashir in today’s Post Courier newspaper. This lack of knowledge and skills is further compounded by greed and ignorance says Barry

Mr Garry estimates the Ramu Nickel mine is worth $US34 billion and not $US1.7 billion as is commonly reported.


(Source: Postcourier, 29 Jan 10, Ramu mine ‘worth K92b’By MOHAMMAD BASHIR)

The LNG project which is gaining momentum and refered to many as the "economic saviour" of PNG is valued around US$16 Billion. How do we know that this is the true value. With the Geologist report on the Ramu Nickel and Cobalt Mine, these draws a major concern in the natural resource sector.

The Chinese State Owned Company - Chinese Meterlugical Construction Company (CMCC) owns 85 percent of the mine. Unfortunately I do not have the figures of the shares of the LNG project, but am sure it will be similliar. What do we get from all these mineral resource development going on? Its a shame for the government to allow this to happen in this country. This is CORRUPTION!!

The Somare Government has proved to be the worst salesmen of the PNG rich heritage. The National Alliance Salemen are selling our rich wealth cheaply, and who knows, how much they are making for their commissions.

While minerals and other naturals are getting scares across the globe, it would mean in simple economics that, when the demand is high and the supply is low, the prices go up. But we are seeing the total opposite in this country. We are SOLD very CHEAP!!!
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