Bougainville Tourism News : #Tourism Step by Step : #Bougainville #PNG has much to offer visitors and travellers. And tourism has much to offer Bougainville.

 ” Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.
Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.” 

Article by Simon Pentanu

In the photo below you can see a green kayak and the indomitable Yamaha fibreglass boat beached on a perfect sandbank – fit for a postcard – at low tide, 15 to 20 minutes from Pokpok Island.

A friend and I rode out to this location one cool morning before sunrise to feel the warmth of the sun when it rose and rose in the east. My friends and I often do this whenever I am home.

At the earliest break of blue dawn looking northwest we could see the outcrop known as ‘negro head’ protruding like a human head donning a cap in the distance. Looking to our right, not in this photo, was the bellowing volcano, Mt Bagana, which never ceases to amaze on a clear day. We could see the contours of hilly and forested Kieta Peninsula nearby jutting out furthest towards William Takaku’s Eberia and the once busy and popular resort island of Arovo.

Bougainville Island has some of the best beaches in the Pacific. Its eastern seaboard boasts a plethora of stunning beaches and sandbanks from the top of Buka in the far north to the deep south.
The coast and waters off Buin are dotted with myriad small, fully forested green islands that seem to openly defy the international imaginary border between Bougainville and the Solomons, brokered by the Germans and the British to settle territorial spoils at WW2’s end.

Bougainville has much to offer visitors and travellers. And tourism has much to offer Bougainville. But it is an industry that needs careful planning, because its basis is the environment that we all share and hold in trust for future generations.
Unplanned mass tourism can quickly turn into a nightmare for locals and the natural environment on which we all depend. In a similar way we need not look further than Panguna for real examples of what can happen.

To encourage sustainable tourism – as opposed to variety that burns out fast – our Government needs to use a little bit of imagination. It needs to put much more effort and seed money to bring land owners into the process at an early stage, and learn from how PNG has learnt from its past after realising the real potential of tourism in the economic sector. Little by little and step by step communities can be assisted  with strategies that can showcase their own beautiful part of our islands in a way that will put money in their pockets and make sure the attractions are still there for their children and grandchildren.

The good news is we’re not starting from scratch. In a way what we are doing is reincarnating tourism in our region. I have read a lot about what Bougainville Tourism was doing prior to the crisis and have been privileged to meet some of the individuals involved before the crisis. If Arovo was the icing on their cake, the rest of the cake was trekking the hills and mountains, diving the mapped wrecks, saving war relics as museum pieces for display, surfing, fishing, yachting, and boat and plane trips across to the south Solomons.

The business community on Bougainville has been the backbone of restoring our economy and commerce, virtually from the ground up in many cases. Many businesses have tried very hard while governments have squandered money on investments that should really have been left to private enterprise. Governments everywhere – and Bougainville is no exception – are not very good at making money but very good at spending it!

A boost to tourism may need a reorientation of Government ministries. I say this knowing that disruptions in life and in organisations often lead to something better, even bigger and better. So, maybe splitting up the Ministry of Community Development would see visible and tangible results.

Retain the Ministry of Community Government and let it absorb the community development responsibilities. In its place create a Ministry of Youth, Arts, Culture, Sports and Tourism. The idea to include Tourism here is to train, skill and involve the youth in something they already have, that is land and opportunities to do something with. Rather than give up on young people who cannot find employment we must help them Lto appreciate and recognise that they belong to a place that they can promote with pride. The Ministry of Economic Development / Commerce can write up the training manuals and deliver the training.

Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.

Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.

Bougainville Environment and Tourism Stories : Taming and harnessing the sea – Simon Pentanu

 

The sea offers precious gifts but it can also be fearsome.

How do you manage to keep your balance against the awesome power of the sea. Is it friend or foe? Is it benevolent – as we often know it to be – or is it malevolent, wishing us ill?

The sea. Surfers and sailors love riding and sailing it, near and far out at sea. But they know the sea is not merely a plaything. They respect its capacity to change moods quickly. When it changes, it is indiscriminate, doing no favours for anyone. But by gosh, it has paid dividends to everyone, including explorers who have conquered and harnessed it to venture far out beyond their shores.

The ocean is bigger than any supermarket, hypermart or grocery chain in the amount and variety of food and other resources it holds. Its bounty supports whole populations.

Almost everyone has some connection with the sea. It occupies more than seventy per cent of the earth’s surface. It is everywhere. The liquid cartwheels around the globe, carried by cloud storms, cyclonic winds and rains. We know it from our own experience, as well as through the stories of sailors, fishermen and explorers, whose (sometimes tall) tales are re-read, re-told and re-imagined through the generations.

Stories of the sea are interwoven with the history of human endeavours down the millennia, from Christopher Columbus to Capt James Cook, from Carteret to Bougainville. And Mendana too.

Louise-Antoine Comte de Bougainville’s sighting of this Island is being recognised as a public holiday in the Region every year on 2 July, starting 2018. Let us not read too much or too narrowly into this or politicise it. It happened. We cannot rewrite history and say Bougainville didn’t or shouldn’t have come to these shores. He braved the seas and oceans to get here.

There were many other explorers who took courage and unfurled their desire to catch the wind and find out what lay over the horizon.

I can’t help but admire the feat of anyone who is prepared to wet their feet and whet their appetite to satisfy their curiosity on a quest like that. Most of those explorers set out with little more than rudimentary navigational aids and the stars – and with them they circumnavigated continents and mapped archipelagos. They had nothing like the science and technology at our disposal today.

Humans are not cats with nine lives. Those that have gone before us made their one life – between success and failure, between survival and death – count for something.

Let us acknowledge and recognise them, not ridicule them.

The indiscriminate sea, vibrating with menace and fury is real. Participants in surf competitions, yacht races and canoe journeys may feel genuine fear when faced with swells and canyons of giant waves out at sea.

And sometimes each of us feels fear and trepidation when we face choppy seas in our personal lives. More adventurers and explorers have gone up into space than into the deepest trenches of our oceans. It can be like that with our personal travels. Sometimes the hardest journeys are the ones to our inner selves.

Being honest about ourselves, our weaknesses, our worth is not easy. But it is not impossible. The sweetest and most satisfying endeavours are often those that are hardest, most complex and which take longer to achieve.

I believe the place to begin is to feel worthy of ourselves. Because when we say ‘in God we trust’ we are saying we are worthy of His creation.

If we don’t have a sense of self-worth, we are like rudderless vessels without keels floating listlessly at the mercy of the elements. We can easily be broken into pieces and scattered to oblivion, leaving no sign that a human being with a soul once walked upon this land and ventured out by sea.

Let us take courage – like the explorers of the past – and be prepared to face the swells and troughs of the journey to our inner selves.

When we know and appreciate our own worth we can take on the challenges of the world around us with more certainty and a lot of positive sense, and benefits to reap.

 

 

 

Bougainville Mining ad Referendum News : BCL has serious concerns over proposed new mining laws proving divisive at a time when unity is required in the lead-up to the referendum

 ” Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) has serious concerns over proposed new mining laws that some members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) seem keen to rush through parliament.

The three bills that were introduced to parliament last Wednesday, with insufficient stakeholder consultation, are proving divisive at a time when unity is required in the lead-up to the referendum.

If passed, one of the bills seeks to amend the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 to allow a new company, Bougainville Advance Mining Limited, to be issued with a special mining licence granting “large-scale mining leases over all land in Bougainville available for reconnaissance, exploration and mining that is not subject to an existing exploration licence or mining lease”. Leases of up to 100 years could be granted.”

See Continued Part 2 Below

The government of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea believes establishing its own company to re-open the long shut Panguna mine will solve its funding crisis going into the referendum.

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine Photo: Supplied

Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on independence from PNG in June this year.

However, it claimed that the national government had not yet provided the money it is constitutionally bound to provide.

The Bougainville government had previously placed a moratorium on re-opening Panguna to ensure the vote was not disrupted, but President John Momis said the region is facing an emergency.

He said this is why it is setting up Bougainville Advance Mining in which the government and people of Bougainville will hold a permanent majority ownership.

Time is running out on us. The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum. One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.”

Landowners of the closed Panguna Copper and Gold Mine today called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government that they are ready to partner with the ABG and open the mine that created disunity amongst the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

In an exclusive interview with New Dawn FM, Chairman of the SPECIAL MINING LEASE OSIKAIYANG LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION (SMLOLA) PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA said that they are ready to talk with the Government on ways they can work together for Bougainville’s future.

They said that they were not happy with the Government trying to make amendments to the untested Bougainville Mining Act.

MIRIORI said that the Panguna landowners were tasked by the ABG to work on uniting the landowners and they had to do it just to find out that the Government had now changed their mind on the issues at Panguna.

He said when the Panguna people are finally united they want to put issues of the past and work into the future.

MIRIORI said that the Panguna situation is already complex with the landowners, RTG and BCL.

If the ABG backs McGLINN the situation will become more complex.

He said the only way PANGUNA can be resolved, is through negotiation

Part 2 BCL Press Release 

These bills mirror proposals put forward by an Australian opportunist Jeffery McGlinn, whose apparent primary business appears to be horse breeding. In presentations to MPs and others he has proposed a 40 per cent stake in Bougainville Advance Mining for his own newly formed company Caballus Mining with other unknown foreign investors and sovereign states.

These developments raise very legitimate legal, constitutional and ethical questions, not only by BCL and its shareholders, but also by landowners in Bougainville and others in the community. More widely these bills could also be interpreted as both anti-competitive and anti-investment which is the last thing Bougainville needs.

Bougainville introduced good laws and regulations in 2015 designed to rebalance Bougainville’s mineral rights after a long period of consultation with all stakeholders. Now those rights are being undermined in haste by these proposed changes. Any genuine investor worth its mettle should be able to work within the existing laws. The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 therefore does not need to be changed.

BCL urges ABG leaders to think very seriously about the unnecessary divisions being created by these proposed amendments to the Mining Act and instead re-focus on the important work of unifying landowners and Bougainvilleans at this critical time for Bougainville, as they prepare for the referendum.

From the company’s own perspective, these legislative moves also ignore current court proceedings and BCL’s rights to natural justice and they are also at odds with the ABG’s decision to place a moratorium over the Panguna project area. The ABG has maintained there should be no discussions regarding mining activities in Panguna until after the referendum.

In early 2018, the ABG advised of a decision not to grant BCL an extension of its exploration licence (EL1) over the Panguna project area.

BCL maintains that the application process was both legally and procedurally flawed and was also undermined by other parties with competing commercial interests in Panguna mineral rights.

To protect the interests of all those with a significant stake in our company, including the people of Bougainville, BCL commenced legal proceedings in the PNG National Court seeking a Judicial Review of the decision. We were subsequently granted leave by the court to seek the review.

Since being invited back to Bougainville in 2012 by the ABG to reengage about the prospect of redeveloping Panguna, BCL has always conducted itself in an ethical and respectful manner and we continue to support worthwhile community projects.

The ABG and PNG National Government remain major shareholders in the company and we retain strong support among customary landowners in the project area and others in the community. BCL also possesses valuable local knowledge, project IP and mining expertise.

We have a highly-regarded local board led by respected Bougainvillean Sir Melchior Togolo as well as strong connections within the global mining and investment communities where there are potential project partners.

For all these reasons BCL remains a viable option for future mineral development in Bougainville and in the best interests of all Bougainvilleans, we would urge all members of the ABG parliament to seriously consider this before the bills are further read on 12 February.

Community leaders, landowners and others who are concerned by these proposals also have an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers before these laws are passed.

 

Bougainville News and the Referendum : Respect #Bougainville and care for her says Simon Pentanu : What kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations ?

 

In Bougainville we should learn to start listening to each other, especially to the voices in the wilderness. The echo to a sound doesn’t always come from where you think it will. Everyone’s voice is important and must be heard. We should heed our backbench voices – not only when they raise their voices, thump the bench and walk out. Autonomy and unity must be about the caring spirit of individuals having a collective cause to promote a better humanity.

We must see the Referendum as not just an inevitable political contest. You are not going to choose between two individual competing candidates. What you will be deciding on is what kind of a society you want – what kind of community we all want.

And what kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations.” 

Simon Pentanu 

The sea is a huge food bowl – a supermarket for all varieties of seafood. Its waters serve as highways for transportation. It provides therapeutic bathing and gives us salt for seasoning and preserving food. It is the hugest swimming pool!

It provides a facility and venue for all manner of leisurely and competitive sports. The beauty and serenity of its white sand beaches – where millions of tourists and locals flock to walk, laze, tan and burn themselves – give joy to people across the world.

The sea drives the fashion industry, which keeps churning out new designs to gird the loins of bathers, swimmers, surfers, sailors and beachcombers.

The list of things associated with the use of the ocean goes on and on – in fact it goes miles out to sea. This isn’t surprising when we consider about 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is water covered and the oceans hold about 96 per cent of Earth’s water.

Water sports are among humanity’s most popular pastimes and activities. We seem to be unable to get enough of game fishing, snorkelling, diving, water skiing, kiteboarding, sailing and more.

And then there is surfing. Surfing has developed its own international culture, which connects a huge population of world surfers through a common language of love, fun, serious competition and an obsession for surfing and its variations across continents. Surfers flock to places like Fiji, Tahiti and Bali, to catch the famous waves in these destinations.

Humans’ connection with the sea obviously has a huge impact on many small state economies. Some of the most popular resorts around the world are dotted along the coastlines of small nations – in the Pacific, the Caribbean and south-east Asia.

Eco-tourism has emerged in many places as a conscious option for travellers who want to experience the beauty of the planet without damaging our fragile environment in the process.

Sadly, the advances being made by eco-tourism in Pacific countries are probably being cancelled out by the continuation of practices from last century that are damaging our Earth. I’m talking about multinational logging companies clear felling huge tracts of rainforest (including virgin rainforest) in places like PNG and the Solomon Islands. Rainforests, sometimes called the lungs of the Earth, are also being short-sightedly destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations, which, although they appear green, are actually lifeless monocultures that are sprayed with chemicals and leave the soil depleted.

Right on the edge of the growing township of Buka, Bougainville’s current HQ, the senseless uprooting of tracts of healthy mangrove trees has not been stopped by authorities, even though it goes on in broad daylight.

Mangroves are an amazing gift to humanity. They are nurseries for numerous fish and sea creatures – a place for marine life to breed, feed and raise their young away from the threats of sharks and bigger ocean fish. And we are finding out how effective mangroves can be in protecting human populations from tsunamis and tidal surges. To rip them out is madness and an action we will regret.

We must preserve the things that give our communities life – the oceans, the forests, the rivers, the mangroves and the mountains. Interestingly, these things, which sustain our lives, are also attractive to eco-tourists.

In many respects PNG is fortunate to have avoided the ravages of mass tourism. Whether unwittingly or otherwise, tourism in the country has developed into a niche market of mostly adventure-seeking travellers, more interested in reefs, rainforests and unique cultures than in nightclubs and international hotels. For this we should be eternally grateful.

When it comes to tourism in general and in eco-tourism in particular, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can, very clearly, learn a lot from the rest of PNG, from our cousins across the border in the Solomon Islands, from the rest of the Pacific and from countries and peoples in the rest of the world.

Before the advent of industrial logging, the Solomons was a country of hundreds of forested islands which provided for the needs of its people.

I can recall conversations that the startling Marovo Lagoon, which surrounds Vangunu Island in the Solomon Islands’ Western Province, was being considered for UNESCO world heritage status. The lagoon had the largest double barrier reef in the world and it was being considered for listed as one of the world’s natural heritage wonders.

Sadly, 15 years of open slather logging – along with the inevitable run-off and reef damage – put an end to that dream. The little money that was earned by the indigenous land owners will be long gone. The trees will be gone. The lagoon, once a place of precious local and national pride, will never be the same.

The country and the many generation of Solomon Islanders to come will be the poorer for the lack of foresight and policies of their successive governments and the wanton greed of their elders who gave this land to the loggers.

Similar examples of this abound in PNG, where huge tracts of forests are being clear felled under the guise of controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABL).

Logging Tonolei in South Bougainville, under a SABL type agreement with landowners, to introduce oil palm that will destroy good fertile land is very short-sighted.

It is the sort of plan grasped by political leaders who want quick fixes and quick returns. We must resist this sort of thinking. In the long term the landowners will be worse off after depleting what is their capital, their resource. This forest has sustained their populations over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The damage to the land, the pride and integrity of a self-sustaining people and the loss of their ecosystem is irreversible. Can we please learn from the example of the Marovo Lagoon?

It is not dissimilar to a person losing their soul.

The knee jerk reaction to this has always been that this is development and progress. The truth is we have a growing population of people who have become victims of this so-called development and progress. Yes, we want development and progress, but let’s have it on our own terms and not destroy the things that give our communities life.

Let us back ourselves that we will not go under if we do not knock over the trees, dig up and maul the earth and scavenge the seabed to supposedly ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world.
The truth is those who take from the Earth are never satisfied, while we are quite content to live by what nature provides and will keep providing, so long as we respect her and take care of her.
This may sound overly simplistic, but if we are prepared to learn from each other, we can make the world a safer, more peaceful and contented place without greed, wars and prejudice.
In Bougainville we should learn to start listening to each other, especially to the voices in the wilderness. The echo to a sound doesn’t always come from where you think it will. Everyone’s voice is important and must be heard. We should heed our backbench voices – not only when they raise their voices, thump the bench and walk out. Autonomy and unity must be about the caring spirit of individuals having a collective cause to promote a better humanity.
We must see the Referendum as not just an inevitable political contest. You are not going to choose between two individual competing candidates. What you will be deciding on is what kind of a society you want – what kind of community we all want.
And what kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations.

Bougainville News coverage : AROB ABG Day celebrates our 13 years as Autonomous Bougainville Government and the question is asked What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?

This is a day that should be celebrated by all Bougainvilleans.

 The past 13 years has brought many challenges for Bougainville as we continue our journey towards political self-determination we have faced obstacles, these includes lack of funds, limited capacity and constraints on our ability to deliver effective services to our people.

 I am proud with what Bougainville has achieved so far.

 Bougainville has demonstrated through the establishments and operation of democratic institutions that we can indeed manage our own affairs

The ABG President Chief DR. JOHN MOMIS when addressing today’s ABG Day celebration at the ABG House, KUBU said that today marks the anniversary of the day when Bougainville’s political aspirations were first recognized with the formal establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Intro Photo Bruno Louey see FB Page Bruno Louey

 

 ” What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?

Not everyone will agree but I believe they are our environment, our cultures and our people.

When we think about how to transform Bougainville into a developing, progressive region in the modern world, it’s important we do so by harnessing and protecting these resources.

Our environment, cultures and people are the things that have sustained us for countless generations past – and they can continue to do so today and into the future if we are smart.

Keeping our natural environment healthy while transforming Bougainville into a modern, progressive region is something the ABG can achieve only in close consultation with communities – the land owners and culture custodians

Simon Pentanu Speaker AROB House of Representatives see part 2

There is concern in Bougainville that the Papua New Guinea government has put off a key meeting for two weeks.

The Joint Supervisory Board, the JSB, was to meet yesterday {THUR}  in Arawa, to resolve a number of key issues concerning next year’s planned vote in Bougainville on possible independence from PNG.

But at the behest of Port Moresby the JSB meeting was put back two weeks.

Don Wiseman spoke to the deputy leader of the PNG opposition and MP for southern Bougainville, Timothy Masiu, about the delay

Listen to interview

Part 1 ABG President Chief DR. JOHN MOMIS addresses ABG Day celebration

The ABG President Chief DR. JOHN MOMIS when addressing today’s ABG Day celebration at the ABG House, KUBU said that today marks the anniversary of the day when Bougainville’s political aspirations were first recognized with the formal establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The President said that Bougainville has implemented important reforms established enabling laws and developed public service institutions and structures for the future.

And through the finalization of our strategic development plan we have a road map for the future that includes the referendum and beyond.

President MOMIS stressed that Bougainville cannot become complacent as we mark the anniversary of the Autonomous Government we must also continue to recognize the continued issues that we face.

He said we must remain vigilant in our fight against corruption and in our desire to ensure that our affairs are conducted according to the highest standards of good governance.

At the same time we must continue to grow our economy, empower our people and lay the continued foundation for lasting peace and prosperity throughout Bougainville.

Part 2 THIRTEEN YEARS ON THE SAME MESSAGE CAN BE REPEATED ON BOUGAINVILLE DAY 2018.

 ” THE morning began with a dawn service. The heavens opened with clear blue skies above and cool breeze from the sea unfurling the PNG, Bougainville and NSW flags to show their cacophony of colours flapping high on flagstaff.

The Bougainville Parliament devoted today’s 13th AROB Day celebrations to the Youth of Bougainville with students from St Mary’s Asitavi Secondary, St Joseph’s College Mabiri, Bishop Wade Secondary and Hutjena Secondary, invited to attend.

Our other main guests was a parliamentary delegation from the NSW State Parliament.

Our theme 2018: Children and Youth represent continuity and future of Bougainville.”

Simon Pentanu Speaker

As another Bougainville Day arrived and passed us by we continue to contemplate, celebrate and share the belief, hope and faith that with the right efforts and proper use of resources Bougainville will continue be a resilient society among its Melanesian brothers in the country and in the Pacific Islands.

What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?

Not everyone will agree but I believe they are our environment, our cultures and our people.

When we think about how to transform Bougainville into a developing, progressive region in the modern world, it’s important we do so by harnessing and protecting these resources.

Our environment, cultures and people are the things that have sustained us for countless generations past – and they can continue to do so today and into the future if we are smart.

Keeping our natural environment healthy while transforming Bougainville into a modern, progressive region is something the ABG can achieve only in close consultation with communities – the land owners and culture custodians.

Wherever we look around the world, there are lessons we can learn. Some communities and their environments have become victims of progress, not partners in development.

Think about the Melanesian people of West Papua. In the past 40 years vast quantities of their gold, copper, timber, palm oil and other resources have been mined, chopped down, extracted and exported, but few impartial observers would say this has been to the benefit of West Papua’s environment, cultures and people.

Of course, the vast majority of the resource extraction that has happened in West Papua has been undertaken with little or zero community consultation.

We have the opportunity to do things differently. To this end Bougainville’s mining legislation and policies address this. Let us hope it works in practice so that all parties involved in this industry and any such investment which harnesses resources are equal opportunity benefactors.

When we consider the various options open to us, I believe a CGP (community government partnership) is a more sustainable choice than a PPP (public private partnership). PPP have not really worked to any great success anywhere because there is still a dependence and expectation syndrome on the public purse of governments.

Free enterprise in our community oriented existence must involve initiatives and better participation by women at sustainable levels where they haven proven themselves in local enterprises.

CGP has the community as its starting point. CGP is a partnership that regards and protects the environment as enduring capital for sustainable humanitarian development.

A PPP is fine if it regards resource owners in communities as equal partners. But too often PPPs see resources merely as disposable commodities and consumables in a profit-oriented business model.

That way of thinking ends up depleting our strongest long-term assets for short-term gains that are here one year and gone the next.

Bougainville’s greatest resources – our environment, our cultures and our people – deserve so much better than that.

We can learn from the lessons from the past – some of which have been the most profound insofar as they have affected Bougainville more than any other society in Melanesia, and the whole of the Pacific for that matter.

Bougainville Environment News Alert : Rusty wrecks and major oil spill threaten Island life ,economy and environment

 

” If those responsible took notice and took heed Kieta Harbour wouldn’t be in this situation and we wouldn’t be talking about the oil spill now.

What has happened is criminal. I think it is more than criminal because even if the people responsible are arraigned and put behind bars it may not rid the Harbour of the oil very well.

ABG must formally request and assign environmental experts in oil spills to carry out an immediate survey and assessment of the spill. They can then either confirm the worst fears of the Pokpok Islanders and other coastal villages regarding the extent of the oil spill or put people at rest that the problem can be arrested and alleviated at least.”

Simon Pentanu

I am writing this with a lot of hurt and annoyance. My people’s and my worst fear is now real. The oil spill is real. It is not in Alaska or the Gulf of Mexico or in the Middle East. It is at home. The waters of the Harbour come right ashore along the village beachfront where children swim and play everyday.

Kieta Harbour is one of the most pristine, picturesque, much photographed and captivating harbours anywhere; anywhere in the Pacific Region, anywhere in the world.

The Harbour is not big in comparison to other beautiful harbours I have seen in my travels around the world. But I have always thought to myself it is a big enough Harbour for the size of Bougainville Island. Every harbour in the world has its captivating features. Kieta Harbour has hers.

I have no doubt captains and sailors of every ship, schooner, yacht, and sloop – even the penische the Germans may have used around here pre WW1 – that have come here for the first time, enter with a breathtaking welcome by the contrasting colours of the pristine blue waters and the rainforest green on all sides of the Harbour.

Because the Harbour is also a shape of a water-filled crater the oil spill is, potentially, going to have a devastating effect. The Harbour is roughly encircled at both entrances with the snout and tail of Pokpok Island almost meeting the mainland at both entrances.

It is almost like a large pond. This means any oil spill in the Harbour will get trapped in the heart of the Harbour, and spread along the coast of Pokpok and the mainland from Tubiana and all along Happy Valley and out.

The principle signatory to the business arrangement and agreement that brought the ill-fated ships into Kieta is the local member for North Nasioi and Minister for Primary Industry Hon Nicholas Daku MHR. This is his second term both as a member of BHOR and as Minister in ABG. So he is someone that has matured into Bougainville politics and fortunate enough to have a bite at the same cherry as far as ministerial portfolios is concerned. Yet, during all this time he has been conspicuous by his overt absence and muted silence.

The other signatory is an officer in the ABG Commerce division Raymond Moworu.

As a matter of fact and record this is an ABG project, a project quickly cooked up and hushed up by the Minister on the eve of 2015 ABG election. Even if the Minister and the officer signed the papers blindfolded it does not exonerate them or make their responsibility – or culpability – any less because they were acting for and on behalf of ABG in promoting the project. When all is said and events come to pass the buck stops with the Minister. It is called ministerial responsibility.

I’m very annoyed because I have personally mentioned the impending disaster to the Hon Minister Daku more than once verbally since 2016-17. I started doing this after I went around by boat to the Kieta government wharf where the ships had been berthed for some time. I first took photographs of the boats in March 2016 because I noticed they were not sailing anymore. It looked very obvious to me then the boats were fatigued and were rusting away into disrepair and wreck. I even posted the photographs with a warning on my FB Timeline observing that there were obvious signs of impending disaster and that the authorities must do something about removing the ships.

If those responsible took notice and took heed Kieta Harbour wouldn’t be in this situation and we wouldn’t be talking about the oil spill now.

 

It is futile and waste of time calling for a commission of enquiry especially when the Minister and ABG should have acted to prevent this after they were warned and could see the impending disaster was obvious out there staring into their face in broad daylight.

The Minister has been AWOL and very hard to contact when all this has been going on. With all due respect he should resign. If he does not he should be decommissioned and relieved of ministerial responsibilities and someone else that is prepared to work and is serious about ministerial responsibility appointed to take charge. Party politics, including party allegiances, should not get in the way of such a decision. IF it doesn’t happen we might as well throw the towel in because otherwise we are complicit in a style of governance that isn’t going to deliver Bougainville where it wants to go.

North Nasioi constituency also has the option to pursue the member through the recall provision in the constitution and evict him from Parliament.

When I saw myself the ships were let off afloat from berth at the Kieta wharf the least I could do is ask someone – anyone – to help after contacting NMSA whose officers to their credit immediately turned up in Buka. Before their arrival I was very heartened that the member for Selau and Chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Referendum agreed and was, also of his own volition, so ready and willing to travel to Kieta with two of my senior parliamentary staff I asked to be at NMSA’s disposal on the visit to Kieta.

The Member for Selau knows Kieta well and leaders from Kieta well. In Parliament he and Hon Minister Daku are sat next to each other. Pokpok has a historical link with Selau through Chief Keroro. Growing up in the mid 50’s I saw Chief Keroro arrive in his penische (dinghy) and would beach it in the village beachfront while he would spend time to visit and talk to our Chief at the time. These were times when Chiefs in North, Central and south Bougainville knew of each other.

The other day I posted a piece on my FB Timeline with an old photo of Pokpok Island and village looking across from Kieta in a moving speed boat in 1989. I wrote about how the Islanders are resilient and generally how the folk in the communities around Bougainville are resilient in times of difficulties, disasters and other adversities. I was deliberate in the timing of that posting as I felt a disquiet anticipation that it was just a matter of time before one of the hapless ships would sink.

This oil spill is something terribly alarming. Our Disaster office does not have the capacity to attend to it. It pains my heart to think how my people will be affected. I’m traveling away abroad on medical leave for the coming two weeks and even more pained not knowing the extent of the oil spill and its resultant effect on the Islanders and their livelihood from the sea they depend on in so many ways.

Mr Ho the ships owner must be found. His second vessel is still afloat but has no anchor to keep it anchored safely anywhere.

It is time for ABG to ask for help from GoPNG and from outside to assess and contain the spill.

 

Bougainville #Referendum and #Environment News : A choice between selling our inheritance down the river or creating a future for all

 ” The Referendum on 15 June 2019 is not just a political referendum. It is a Referendum on what kind of society Bougainville wants to have. It is a referendum on our resources and economic choices into future.

It is a referendum on how we relate and contribute to the world’s wellbeing being part of the global community.

It is a referendum on how much and for how long we want the island to prosper and what our generation will bequeath to our children and their children and their children’s children.

 We definitely do not want a Bougainville where a few benefit at the expense of the majority.

No child in Bougainville should suffer or sacrifice their future owing to poor decisions around development and management of our natural resources and our environment.

The choice is we either sell our inheritance down the river or create a future for all, always putting children and future generations first.”

Simon Pentanu

You might have seen a recent TV report showing a huge area of rainforest in Pomio, East New Britain, that has been completely logged and bulldozed and is expected to be turned into an oil palm plantation.

It is like walking through a thick and dense tropical jungle, after some hours you walk into an empty space, into an open field denuded and devoid of trees. You look straight ahead and you see nothing standing but a barren field with odour and sight of death and destruction. It is very confronting. You do not know what to think or what to say. You find it very hard to breathe because a solid lump of something has come up your oesophagus and is embedded in your throat. This is what losing whole tracts of native forests in traditional land can do to you.

Logging by foreign companies is the worst example of intrusion into traditional landowners natural habitats. These are complex habitats, including many sacred sites, that have supported lives, cultures, and that give meaning to the relationship between man and his environment. It is an existential relationship beyond any symbiotic explanation that defines why and how the world’s people find themselves settled where they are on this planet

Papua New Guinea, insofar as the world’s rainforests are concerned, is a part of the planet that is still blessed and still full of life compared to others countries that have squandered their forests and dislocated their forest people. Companies that arrive here with men, machines and plants from these countries do so with foreboding contempt of  the planet as if it is lifeless with no feelings. It is a total disregard for the people’s lifelong dependence and fascination with the places they have call home – their seas and oceans, the old growth tropical rainforests, the creatures that add life and colour to the beautiful landscape where there is sharing and caring  for  one another.

The planet is not lifeless to not be concerned  about snuffing life out of it. And yet this is exactly the behavior of loggers that come here after depleting forests in their own countries. Somehow they have succeeded to numb us, hypnotize and buy us off with the colour, smell and value of money which will never ever be enough to account for or replace what they take away and the destruction they leave behind.

 The recent report on TV also let it be known that Papua New Guinea has overtaken Malaysia to become the world’s biggest exporter of tropical hardwood

 The desolate moonscape you see on the screen used to be a living, breathing forest, providing habitat for animals and birds, filtering drinking water for villages and providing an ever-renewing source of house-building materials. Now the trees, animals, birds and clean water are gone. The wood has been shipped to China to be processed and sold in other parts of the world.

 So much damage has been done to the next generation’s inheritance through the notorious Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs). SABLs have been big money-spinners for multinational logging companies, allowing the companies to clear fell vast tracts of people’s forest and use the profits from timber to finance establishment of oil palm plantations. The plantations might look green, but they are nothing like the richly biodiverse rainforest. Rather, they are barren monocultures with a limited lifespan.

 Why do we continue to let this happen to irreplaceable tropical rainforests? And why is it up to NGOs to tell us what’s happening! Why aren’t the people we elect to represent our interests actually representing our interests?

Sadly, the lessons of the past are going unlearned. The Fly River is not the same since BHP left it for dead. The only worse river disaster in our region is the Aikwa River in Indonesia’s Papua province, which has turned thick and grey from decades of tailings from the Freeport gold and copper mine being dumped into the waterway. Mining there, which is carried out under armed military guard, looks set to continue until the entire resource is gone.

 The Jaba River in Bougainville isn’t too far behind. While there is evidence the river and its tributaries are regenerating, the banks and marshes will never be the same as they once were. Those opposing any return to mining in Panguna raise concerns about the natural environment and the legacy that will be left for future generations of Bougainvilleans.

 It won’t be long before Ramu Nickel’s effluence clogs the rivers and estuaries where everything is being dumped including the sea. Don’t hold your breath that environmental laws will protect the environment on which the bulk of the population depends for their entire livelihoods. They cannot eat effluent

 PNG is a guinea pig, the world’s first, in underwater/seabed mining by Nautilus off the waters off of New Ireland, East and West New Britain and Manus Provinces. The world should be absolutely appalled that a company that has borrowed and uses the name of a beautiful sea living creature is sending down gigantic machines, controlled from the water’s surface, to plough the sea floor, mechanically scavenging sea vents and destroying everything in their way, including the habitat of the nautilus shell.

 This is why Nautilus, a Canadian company, will not mine the seabed off Canada. If it is not allowed or is illegal to mine underwater in Canada. So, where does the company pluck the courage or get the audacity to ravage and plunder in our waters.

 The company has done its sums, while in a too familiar story in this country, the local populations are left scratching their heads, wondering just how their contented and happy lives are going to be made happier by this ravaging of their local environment. Nautilus company executives and its PNG citizen staff that are promoting and supporting this guinea pig project should be looked in the eye and asked just why this destructive project should proceed. Greed and insatiable appetite for profit at whatever cost to the local environment are the apparent underlying reasons. Enough is never enough.

 The company and its promoters seem to be wilfully blind not to want to see how much the people depend on the environment for their lives. Nothing can ever take the place of what the indigenous people have always regarded and used as their capital that has supported and sustained generations since time immemorial

 The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is in a great position to learn valuable lessons from the Panguna mine and from the violent crisis that followed. A story Bougainville is still reeling from. Bougainville must also learn from the experiences in other parts of the country and the region where resources wealth when exploited does not equal economic or social improvement for the resource owners.

 Bougainville is a small island, fragile and prone to all manners of exploitation, given its natural resources. Resource development in partnership with investors is not evil. But there must be zero tolerance when it comes to companies not complying fully with environmental laws of protection and conservation. There must not be a repeat to the worst case scenarios of what led to the Bougainville scenarios. The leaders must maintain a level of vigilance and commitment that behooves all of us to be at our best standards and practices of good governance.

 We may be already lagging in enacting relevant environmental and conservation legislation. It is simply wrong to say it is impossible to attract investment if we are strong on our statutory requirements and benchmarks for investment. It is in the interests of Bougainville and prospective investors to do sustainable business. This is not possible if the land and resources are destroyed in a one-off feeding frenzy. Careful stewardship is what sustains any business investment

 Most of all, Bougainville must beware – and be aware – and learn from its mistakes and the mistakes of others. Smart business will always pay. Mindful business will always pay. The people who need protection are the resource owners. Long before Panguna the landowners there were self-sufficient, independent of the judgment of others and wise with how they treated and used the land, the rivers, the trees and the forests.

We need the efforts and assistance of others to ‘develop’ Bougainville in a way that will last. We need investors that will build mutual trust with our leaders and resource owners. We need to educate and inform resource owners to respect laws and agreements with genuine investors. It must be a two-way street. 

The Referendum on 15 June 2019 is not just a political referendum. It is a Referendum on what kind of society Bougainville wants to have. It is a referendum on our resources and economic choices into future. It is a referendum on how we relate and contribute to the world’s wellbeing being part of the global community. It is a referendum on how much and for how long we want the island to prosper and what our generation will bequeath to our children and their children and their children’s children

 Any development at, around, and in forest rich resource areas in fragile environments like Tonolei must stand and pass the scrutiny of all stakeholders, the ABG, independent experts on land use and those that have studied the known damage to land by palm oil plantations. We must not shy away from independent critique on the potential decimation of the area, including logging and denuding  trees if an SABL-type Agreement is what is being proposed. Transparency is the key to all resources development to which governments are a party.

 We must come out of the Referendum, irrespective of how the cookie crumbles, with a Bougainville that caters to everybody. A Bougainville that everyone benefits from because we all own a piece of her. A Bougainville where our inherent cultures are not so much about giving and taking but rather, more about sharing.

We definitely do not want a Bougainville where a few benefit at the expense of the majority. No child in Bougainville should suffer or sacrifice their future owing to poor decisions around development and management of our natural resources and our environment. The choice is we either sell our inheritance down the river or create a future for all, always putting children and future generations first.

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News : OF WORK, PLAY and REST and Pokpok Island Youth

Much like a lot of the mainland of Bougainville, Pokpok Island just off Kieta is blessed with water, small creeks and springs, large chunks of green forest areas – mostly still intact – bird and insect life and marsupials and feral swine.

In fact, because of awareness taken by the community there is more bird life on the Island than many areas on the mainland where birds are still hunted for game.

And of course the Island and the many islands nearby have beautiful white beaches and unpolluted pristine blue waters.It’s a good life here, but it can be tough with finite arable land areas to go around amongst increasing population. The sea with its shoals and reefs provides most people’s livelihood and income.

But more and more everyone is going out farther and trying harder.

Families with children working in PNG benefit from remittances, but when it’s shared around the extended family, it doesn’t amount to much. The other real benefit in remittances is in maintaining family contacts and in the way the workers are acknowledged and appreciated when they come home on vacation and special occasions.

Most people here are self-employed. Fishing by day or night, trawling, bottom fishing or night diving. Spouses, aunts, nieces and mothers sell the catch at the fish market. Beche de mer (sea cucumber) harvest time is one of the busiest times for everyone on the Island, harvesting, buying and selling in the village and, for some, selling in Buka.

There’s also copra. People take turns for each other or organise busy bees groups to do village chores within extended families and from for all of community benefits.

Wednesday is community day – a colonial legacy that still works where whole communities devote most of the day to work that benefits the collective. Repairing classrooms or teachers’ houses, or the village clinic, cleaning around the common cemetery, cleaning the beachfront, or meeting to resolve impending issues.

Every other week, that is once a fortnight, some of the expert hands do stevedoring at Kieta wharf, operating cranes and forklifts to unload Consort Shipping vessels. Kieta wharf has one of the shortest turnaround times for Consort shipping in the country. After the ships sail away, it’s time to clear the wharf.

Jomik group of companies has a permanent employee arrangement with a village company of workers from the Island. They clear and ship all cargo shipments into Arawa after the vessels sail away. Lukui Trading has a similar employer arrangements that involves another group of shippers that transport cargo to Arawa.

It has been a pleasant surprise to find out how these employer- employer arrangements have worked very based on trust – No complaints, no unions, no strikes, no pilfering. Everyone gets paid and benefits with some bonuses at year’s end and/or sponsorship of sports teams from the Island.

There is always so much to do, work and fun. The most spare time is on Sundays, when everyone is involved in one way or another in male and female volleyball teams that compete after church. The standard is high and it is good entertainment for spectators. Lately a soccer team with boys from the mainland has joined the local soccer competition at Toniva field.

There is good self management in teams that ensured everyone keeps an eye on each other to make sure no one gets inebriated the night before the games on Sunday. Those who do so (and get caught) can expect to pay a fine and be left off the team sheet for the Sunday games.

When young people have too much time on their hands with little to do, mischief can become a problem. You see this with young people drinking and doing drugs in the main towns and some villages. This doesn’t tend to be a problem in places where whole communities take an interest in young people’s activities and show young people that what they are interested in is worthwhile.

Community governments can play a role in maintaining peace in the village by supporting youth-initiated activities, like sports, one-off events, music gigs and arts projects. Everyone benefits.

There are visible and tangible dividends when communities take time and effort to organize around and inclusive of everyone as much as and as often as possible. There is a lot of common courtesy that comes and flows through as well as respect amongst everyone. Sports becomes an important tool more than just a fun activity and sports.

The fun, joy and happiness experienced by the young people flows through to the parents, the Chiefs, the clan elders and community Government Ward representatives, making everyone’s tasks less cumbersome, less complicated and lot easier.

At the back end of the village near the volleyball courts is the community cemetery. All early settlers, Kukurais, Tultuls, Chiefs rest here and are remembered by the community. To visit the cemetery is to be reminded that we can learn from cultures and societies – our own and those from far away – that have long held their peace and sanity together, and found ways to juggle the needs of young people and old, of the land and the sea, of work, of play and of rest.

Bougainville Mining News : Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial #Bougainville mine

 

” The Bougainville Government is holding a crucial mining warden’s hearing at the abandoned copper mine which sparked a decade-long armed insurgency against the Papua New Guinea Government.

Key points:

  • RTG Mining chairman Michael Carrick says a proposal by the Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited consortium is more realistic and “for the benefit of the people of Bougainville”
  • But BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock says the consortium’s conduct is “less than honourable”
  • Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata says all landowners will be asked for their views

Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial Bougainville mine By Papua New Guinea correspondent Eric Tlozek See Part 1 Below

” ABG Vice President and Minister for Mining, RAYMOND MASONO is calling on Panguna leaders, PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to know that the Panguna mine is no ordinary mine.

He said that the Panguna mine has a bad history that has crippled the economy of PNG and Bougainville and with many lives lost fighting for it.

The Vice President said that the Panguna mine no longer belongs to the landowners because Bougainvilleans blood were spilt over that particular mine.

DO NOT MEDDLE WITH PANGUNA SAYS MASONO By Aloysius Laukai see Report Part 2 Below

Rival companies ramp up battle to reopen controversial Bougainville mine

The Bougainville Government now owns part of Bougainville Copper Limited and wants it to redevelop the mine, but a rival consortium is challenging their bid, and said it has the support of key landowners from Panguna. RTG’s chairman Michael Carrick said the group’s proposal was more realistic and better-supported by the people of Panguna.

RTG Mining has told the Bougainville Government that BCL’s exploration licence for Panguna has expired and legally cannot be renewed.”For the first time in 30 years a mining company has been endorsed and supported by the SMLOLA,” Mr Carrick said.

He said the landowners would present a 2000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.RTG Mining said the dispute had been settled with their preferred candidate, Philip Miriori, in charge; the Bougainville Government said the mediation had failed and that the matter is still before the courts.

The Bougainville Government has also criticised the consortium for paying landowners who support them and implied it is not respecting the approval process.”… The ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.”

Michael Carrick from RTG Mining says the consortium has been dealing openly with the Bougainville Government and that landowner payments are wages for its employees.”The joint venture is a commercial operation and landowners, like anyone else, are able to work and to get paid for their services.

Mr Carrick said the intent of the travel ban against Mr Duncan appeared to be to help Bougainville Copper Limited.Bougainville Copper Limited is deeply unhappy with RTG Mining and its partners.

He said BCL’s licence application was legal, and wasn’t processed on time because the Bougainville Government wasn’t ready to implement the processes of its new Mining Act.”It now has all those facilities in place.”

Mr Hitchcock said many landowners do support BCL, but are not being properly represented.

Bougainville’s Mining Secretary Shadrach Himata said all landowners will be asked for their views as part of the approval process, not just the leaders of the association.”It won’t be affected by the leadership tussle of the SMLOLA landowners.””Right now, the only legal applicant on the exploration tenement is BCL,” he said.

The eventual decision on the exploration licence will be made by the Bougainville Executive Council, the regional government’s Cabinet, probably sometime in 2018.

“Until that process is completed, there are no other applicants or applications over the same tenement. That’s the position of Government.”

Crucially, Mr Himata, said BCL is the only company currently being considered by the Bougainville Government.

“The warden’s hearing is a process that will engage the views of all the landowners in the resource areas,” he said.

“From what we’ve seen, there is widespread support for mining in Panguna and mining with Bougainville Copper,” he said.

Landowners set to weigh in on hearing

“The department didn’t have the resources to manage the application at the time it was taking place,” he said.

“We think they’re less than honourable in how they’re carrying on their conduct and their activities in the area,” BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock said.

“It is clear the ABG, on the appointment of the new mining minister, supported BCL and the temporary banning of Renzie, I assume, is designed to limit the support that could be afforded to the landowners of Panguna,” he said.

“Our dealings with landowners have been completely transparent and professional.”

“The wages paid are in respect of services rendered to the joint venture,” he said.

The ABG has had the PNG Government ban the key executive from Central Exploration, Sydney lawyer Renzie Duncan, from coming to Papua New Guinea.

“The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests,” Mining Minister Raymond Masono said in a statement.

There is a legal dispute over who rightfully chairs the landowner association.

RTG Mining said longstanding resentment against BCL over the conflict and the ongoing environmental problems caused by their sudden withdrawal would prevent the company from being able to operate the mine again.

It wants the Bougainville Government to consider its application instead, saying the landowner association for the mine pit, the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA), backs its bid and would present a 2,000-signature petition in opposition to BCL.

“[It’s] a sensible and well-supported and economically deliverable proposal to develop the mine for the benefit of all the people of Bougainville,” he said.

That consortium, Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, includes ASX-listed RTG Mining.

The hearing will help determine if the company Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), which was forced to abandon the Panguna mine in 1989, should retain an exploration licence for the site.

Part 2 DO NOT MEDDLE WITH PANGUNA SAYS MASONO

By Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 6 December 2017

ABG Vice President and Minister for Mining, RAYMOND MASONO is calling on Panguna leaders, PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to know that the Panguna mine is no ordinary mine.

He said that the Panguna mine has a bad history that has crippled the economy of PNG and Bougainville and with many lives lost fighting for it.

The Vice President said that the Panguna mine no longer belongs to the landowners because Bougainvilleans blood were spilt over that particular mine.

He said that whilst the resources in Panguna and other parts of Bougainville might belong to the people, the ABG has a responsibility to protect its people from unscrupulous companies whose sole interest is to exploit our people for their own economic interests.

The Vice President said that we have seen how Bougainvilleans were exploited by foreigners since colonial days and the ABG does not want a repeat of the past.

He said that he was surprised that certain individuals can so easily sell their birth right for as little as FOURTY THOUSAND KINA a month to a foreign company when foreign exploitation was one of the issues against which our people fought and died.

Also the ABG rejects companies that think they can bribe their way into the people’s resources by giving certain individuals money to gain landowner consent.

PANGUNA WILL BE DEVELOPED SAYS VICE PRESIDENT

The ABG Vice President and Mining Minister, RAYMOND MASONO says that the PANGUNA MINE in Central Bougainville will be re-developed under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 and by a developer or developers who respect the Autonomous Bougainville Government and its laws.

In a press statement, MR. MASONO said that the developer must also come through the main door.

MR. MASONO made these remarks when commenting on a statement by RTG of a deal supposedly made between MR. PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA to support RTG to develop the PANGUNA mine.

He said that it seems ironic that two people who were fighting over the leadership of the Osikayang Landowners Association in court, a mediation case which is still the subject of a court decision can suddenly reconcile to support a company that does not respect the legitimate government and its mining laws.

The Vice President said that the ABG, the landowners and the people of Bougainville will not entertain companies who use the back door or break and enter through the window using self-centred individuals who think that they have a monopoly over the people’s resources or represent their interests.

He said that the landowners will decide who the preferred developer would be through a transparent process undertaken by the ABG Department of Minerals and Energy Resources currently underway.

MR. MASONO said that the process has not yet been exhausted and any deals supposedly made between landowner leaders,companies,or the National Government and in particular RTG are premature at this stage.

#Bougainville #Tourism #Environment News : We must protect our paradise islands for future generations

“If there is one memory that still reoccurs and revisits my mind more than any other, it is this. This is a nice place to grow up in. I have never stopped going back and re-living that childhood to this day.”

Simon Pentanu

Pokpok Village. Pokpok Island.
photo credit: Stephen Hurd

Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville PNG

For information and bookings

Dense forest, with tall trees creating huge canopies as they competed for sunlight, used to come down right to the village backyard. As kids we were cautioned not to wander alone into the hills. There were too many unknowns in the untamed forest.

However, one thing was certain. The trees, vines and shrubs had to give way to gardens. And people always chose the best land areas for garden plots.

The forest was cleared and the produce harvested by mothers and daughters was always plentiful and colourful. Nature never failed to provide sustenance to our community on Pokpok Island.

Slash-and-burn gardening continues today, although there is some reprieve with the coming of consumer goods and processed edibles now readily available in village tucker shops and trade stores. It’s a small island, so human impact on it is quite obvious. The land and surrounding waters bear the burden of an increase in population. Much of the island is rocky and rugged. Arable land is very limited.

Where today there is secondary forest, starting from the beaches and village backyards, there was once primary forest. During storms, especially when it was windy, you could hear the whole forest howling, sounding like a thundering underground train preparing to come to a stop at the platform. After continuous heavy tropical downpours the sound of the flowing creeks in the forest and bushes was more like a jet aircraft pulling up to park at the bay to disembark its passengers – a hissing noise throttling in between.

A little away from the main village, the possums used to come down along the tree tops to the trees by the beach. Birds’ nests were everywhere, some from birds we don’t see anymore. Among the trees and shrubs were wild berries and fruits for the picking, although most were not picked, but left to provide natural decor to the bushes because garden food and fish from the sea was always plentiful. The forest provided more than enough for possums, flying foxes, fruit bats and other nimbling creatures.

The reef you see in this photograph used to be fully laden with colourful coral all the way along its edge. Starfish, schools of different fish, weed and sea grass meadows and varieties of edible sea urchins shared their natural habitat with the children of the village.

What is now largely white sand under water was mostly covered with long sea grass where squid laid their eggs. Parents would tell us to look out for the squid eggs and avoid them. Much of the tall grass is gone and squids don’t spawn around here anymore. In fact, the whole reef area, which makes the whole village seafront beautiful, was larger, richer and prettier than it is today.

Around the reef perimeter was coral of every kind, fully alive and breeding. The sea anemone with its clown fish tenants were plentiful. Other colourful small marine creatures contributed to an underwater aquarium of teeming small colourful fish complementing the living beauty of coral.

As kids we grew up swimming and canoeing around here. Today it is no different. It still is a playground for every child who lives here. It is always hard to get children out of the waters, even after sunset.

The noticeable difference to our generation is the whole reef area has shrunk. The best parts of the live coral all around the village, which naturally extended the reef out under water, are almost gone. Washed away. Bleached. Dead. Disappeared. Even the crown of thorns and a whole array of star fish that were part of the reef aren’t here anymore. Fish are still around, but not in the numbers, colours and varieties we used to see and enjoy.

At its best this area acted much like mum’s garden in the hills. It provided fish, shells, clams, seaweed and varieties of sea urchins. The unique smell of the sea flavoured the village. It was a constant reminder that you lived by the sea.

The ground level photos and the pictures from the air are stunning. There is no doubt about that. They are some of the best sea scenery photos you can get. But much of the real, live natural beauty underwater is gone. We often recognise our own reckless and perilous ways when it is too late to save what we have lost.

The village is still a beautiful and serene habitat. But it was even better, as people of my generation remember.

Some things can be restored and nature is, as we know, capable of replenishing itself. Given space and left alone to regenerate, forests and even reefs can revive. But they will only get the opportunity to do so if we humans acknowledge and change the things we do that are hurting our own Mother – the source of our life – the Earth.

Simon Pentanu