Bougainville expedition seeking rare species in ‘the Galapagos’ of the Western Pacific

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Photo: Baby hornbill at the conservation site on Bougainville, PNG. (Supplied by Dr. Jeffrey Noro) Dr Jeff Noro, who will be in charge of the Bougainville leg of the expedition.

Dr Noro, a molecular scientist who did his PhD at the University of New South Wales, is director of The Kainake Project — a community cultural and conservation organisation based in his home village in prime giant rat habitat in virgin rainforest on Bougainville.

From The ABC

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An expedition to find rare and new species of mammals in a region dubbed “the Galapagos” of the Western Pacific will be the first of a series of expeditions mounted by the Australian Museum in its new Trailblazer series.

Scientists are heading to Papua New Guinea’s island of Bougainville, as well as the Solomon Islands, to look for animals such as monkey-faced bats and giant rats.

Bougainvillean scientists say they are excited to have been put in charge of the expedition by Tim Flannery, in what has been seen as Professor Flannery working to build leaders in conservation.

Professor Flannery, who has just been appointed as “Trailblazer-in residence”, will work with indigenous biologists and communities.

“The flora and fauna of the Solomon Islands is very much underappreciated for its diversity and special nature,” Professor Flannery said.

“Giant rats and monkey-faced bats are the Solomons’ version of … charismatic megafauna.

“These rats are some of the most spectacular rodents on earth.

“They are incredible things … two kilograms in weight and the best part of a metre long.”

Professor Flannery said the monkey-faced bats were an ancient lineage of bats.

“They have such enormous teeth they are capable of cracking green coconuts,” he said.

“They evolved in the Solomons because there were no land mammals apart from the rats competing with them.”

The Bougainville giant rat has not been seen by scientists since 1937 and another species on the island of Malaita has never been recorded.

The expedition’s innovative partnership with indigenous biologists and communities is already paying dividends.

A skin of the Bougainville giant rat has been found by Dr Jeff Noro, who will be in charge of the Bougainville leg of the expedition.

Dr Noro, a molecular scientist who did his PhD at the University of New South Wales, is director of The Kainake Project — a community cultural and conservation organisation based in his home village in prime giant rat habitat in virgin rainforest on Bougainville.

The teams on the ground on each island will set camera traps, test mammal DNA, listen to local people’s experiences and stories of the animals, and examine their hunting trophies.

With feral cats and logging adding to the threats to the mammals, the expedition has been labelled timely.

Junior Novera, a Bougainvillean who is about to start a PhD in zoology at the University of Queensland, will be the onsite science manager on Bougainville.

After years of being part of gruelling field trips in other parts of Papua New Guinea, Mr Novera was delighted to be working at home where the civil war of the 1990s had kept loggers away and habitats relatively intact.

“It [this project] gives us this huge opportunity to go and rediscover, and hopefully discover species are still out there and unknown to science,” he said.

Australian Museum chief executive Kim McKay sees the results being produced by the PNG and Solomon Island cultural and scientific partners as vindication of the decision to put indigenous people at the heart of the project.

“We are actually learning from the local community and working with them, and that’s the point of them being here at the museum this week — to share that experience,” she said.

As one of the world’s leading experts on mammals of Melanesia, Professor Flannery’s decision to put the Bougainvillean scientists in charge is not being taken lightly.

“For him to actually trust us, to say ‘you guys go and take the lead’, I think that is huge for me,” said Dr Noro.

“I think he is really trying to build leaders in conservation.”

Bougainville News : President Momis statement ABG engagement with Rio Tinto about Rio’s plans for its shares in Bougainville Copper -BCL

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” I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.”

EDITED STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to share with all members of this House the most recent developments in the ABG’s efforts of recent years in examining the options for the future of large-scale mining in Bougainville.

In particular, I am talking today about what is still the very uncertain future of the Panguna mine. Since the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act in July 2014, the most immediate factor causing uncertainty has been Rio Tinto’s reaction to that Act doing away with BCL’s major mining tenements, replacing them with just an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease – the SML.

Rio Tinto is the London based giant mining company that since the early 1990s has been the 53.6 per cent majority shareholder in BCL. Rio announced in August 2014 that it would conduct a review into its investment in BCL. That announcement opened the real possibility that Rio Tinto would withdraw from any involvement in BCL.

Withdrawal of Rio would raise major uncertainties about the future of BCL, and what the ABG and landowner organisations had been doing for several years – that is, we had been engaging with BCL about the possible re-opening of Panguna.

Of course, the engagement process was still in its very early stages. No decisions had been made on the major issues of substance. Further, the Mining Act gave landowners a clear veto over re-opening.

But with the announcement of Rio Tinto’s review of its investment in BCL, most aspects of our engagement with BCL were put on hold. That is still the position today.

I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

Honourable Members may recall my statement to the House about the future of Panguna, made on 22nd December 2012. I then advised of the latest in a series of attempts that the National Government has made since at least 2014 to purchase Rio Tinto’s 53.6 per cent equity in BCL. This latest attempt was made from late November.

The Member of the National Parliament for Central Bougainville, Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro met me to tell me that National Government Minister, Hon. Ben Micah, wanted to discuss with me and Panguna landowner representatives the urgent need for the National Government to purchase the Rio Tinto equity. I subsequently met Mr. Micah, and then Mr. Micah together with the Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill.

In brief, they said it was an urgent necessity for the National Government to purchase the equity as soon as possible. Initially we were told we had to give our agreement by 7 December. The reason given was that if PNG did not purchase the equity, there was a grave risk that Rio would sell the equity to an un-named third party. Mr. Micah emphasised how much that would be against the interests of both Bougainville and PNG.

A major concern for me was that Mr. Micah emphasised that it would be far too sensitive to even mention or discuss environmental clean-up of Panguna with Rio Tinto. The sale of the shares was the only issue that could be discussed, He said that issues had to be dealt with only as a commercial transaction, without any reference to environmental issues.

I made it clear to both Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill that the ABG could not support the National Government proposals. At the same time, I made contact with Rio Tinto to check their position. I was advised that the Rio process to review its investment was ongoing, and that there was no immediate proposal to sell the equity in BCL.

So I then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in mid-December saying it was not acceptable to Bougainville that the National Government become the major shareholder in, and in control of, BCL. I made it clear that if Rio Tinto does decide to withdraw from BCL, its shares must come to the ABG and the landowners. In addition, I said, Rio cannot be permitted to escape its clear responsibilities for an environmental clean-up, and for other mining legacy issues.

I also decided that because of the ‘strange’ information about Rio received from Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill, and the high degree of uncertainty about Rio’s plans, that I should re-establish direct communication with Rio Tinto. I had begun that direct communication in July last year at a meeting I had with their senior representatives in Singapore.

The main issues I raised in that meeting concerned why the Rio review process was taking so long – it had then been ongoing for 11 months. I also communicated to Rio the continued ABG and landowner interest in engaging with Rio and BCL about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

We achieved no concrete progress at that July meeting. But the ABG did make clear our view that if Rio does decide to withdraw from BCL that the ABG strongly opposes transfer of the equity to the National Government. I also indicated that we would then seek transfer of the equity to the ABG, and an environmental clean-up. Rio indicated willingness to negotiate such issues, but otherwise did not specifically respond to what I raised.

Rio agreed to my December proposal for renewed direct engagement, and we met again in Singapore in February. I was accompanied by the Minister for Mining and the Minister for Public Service.

This time we put a much more specific Bougainville position. I expressed deep concern about both the very long time that the Rio review of its investment in BCL was taking, and Rio’s failure to communicate at all about its progress.

After all, the ABG and landowners are significant stakeholders, and Rio has duties, that it acknowledges in its own published policies about how they do business, to maintain open communication with stakeholders.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

I emphasised the history of BCL in Bougainville. Although it may have operated legally, under colonial legislation, the basis for the Bougainville Copper Agreement was clearly deeply unjust. It was not based on anything like the informed consent of impacted landowners, and almost completely ignored the concerns and interests of those landowners, and of Bougainvilleans more generally.

It was the long-term impacts of the injustice that led to action, not just by Ona and Serero, but also Damien Dameng, young mine workers, leaders of the Arawa Mungkas Association and the Bana and Siwai Pressure Groups, and others. Their key goal was NOT the long-term closure of the mine, but instead forcing BCL and the National Government to stop ignoring them. Instead, they wanted to negotiate a new and fair agreement, taking account of the concerns of landowners and the rest of the Bougainville community. Long term mine closure was not their goal, but rather the result of the much wider violent conflict that resulted from the conduct of first Police mobile squads and then PNGDF units deployed to Bougainville.

We stated clearly the need for Rio to honour the lessons that it had learnt from its Bougainville experience, and which it has since applied to its operations world-wide. As a result, widely published and advertised Rio policies emphasise principles of corporate social responsibility, informed consent by impacted indigenous communities, and the need to operate on the basis of terms that are just for all stakeholders.

The Rio officials made no official response. Other than emphasising the complexity of the issues involved, no explanation was offered for the long delay in completing the investment review. When pressed on when it could be expected to be complete, they indicated probably before the end of 2016.

In relation to the issues I raised about transfer of equity and Rio being responsible for a clean-up etc., I can understand that they might have some difficulties with what we put to them. Rio might feel, for example, that its majority-owned subsidiary (BCL) operated legally – in accordance with the laws of the day. Yet it lost everything at Panguna as the result of what they might see as a small violent group opposed to mining.

But if that is Rio’s position, then quite apart from the fact that the mine did not close because of Bougainville opposition to mining, in addition Rio would be ignoring its gravely serious responsibilities.

Rio Tinto is a foundation signatory to the sustainable development, and other principles of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). Those principles are absolutely clear that the responsibilities of a mining company are not limited to its legal obligations alone – especially its legal obligations under deeply unjust colonial laws.

In today’s world, there is no doubt that Rio Tinto would be subject to intense international public criticism if it tried to walk away from its responsibilities for the environmental damage and other unjust legacies it created, or contributed to.

I presented Rio with a two page statement of the ABG position, and I seek leave of the House to table that document. I will arrange for copies to be provided to all members of the House.

The Rio officers indicated that they would consider the ABG position, and would respond within 2 to 3 months, probably at another meeting in Singapore. I am yet to hear more about such a meeting.

But I can assure this House, the Landowners from the former Panguna lease areas, and all other Bougainvilleans, that under my leadership, the ABG will continue to make it clear to both the National Government and Rio Tinto that Bougainville remains determined to protect its own interests.

It is not an option for the National Government to become majority shareholder of BCL.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans. It cannot just walk away from Bougainville, and at the same time pretend to hold itself out to the world as a highly responsible company that learnt from its horrific experience in Bougainville by adopting new and appropriate modern standards of corporate responsibility.

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

 

 

Bougainville News : Momis : Debate on the process for lifting the ” moratorium ” on Bougainville mining exploration

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It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.”

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences “

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

The BEC has recently agreed to a recommendation from the Mining Minister that it is vitally important that this House discuss the future of the ‘moratorium’ on mining exploration.

The ‘moratorium’ was originally imposed 45 years ago, in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented any mining exploration licences for areas of Bougainville other than those already covered by BCL leases. It was imposed in response to the deep concerns of Bougainvilleans communicated to the colonial Administration by their then leaders.

45 years ago, I was a young, recently ordained Catholic priest working in Kieta. I was being called upon by landowners to support them in their struggle with CRA and the colonial Administration. So I was one of those leaders whose request resulted in the moratorium being imposed. It was imposed to protect our people from the unlimited mining exploration and development that they feared might :

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

When the last ABG House proudly passed the two Bougainville mining laws – the Bouganville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014, and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – both laws retained the ‘moratorium’. It was adopted as if it was a reservation of land from mining exploration made under the Bougainville Act.

Members need to be very clear about what the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 says about lifting such a reservation (or moratorium). It gives the power to the BEC. The BEC can lift it partially (just for particular parts of Bougainville), or fully (for the whole of Bougainville). But when the BEC considers lifting the reservation, either partially or wholly, it must first get advice about its proposed decision from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council (the BMAC). It must also provide an opportunity for debate of the proposed decision by this House.

This procedure is very different from how a reservation under the National Government Mining Act is lifted –that needs just a decision from the National Government Minister, with no consultation or advice required. In developing the ABG’s law, we were determined that an issue of this importance had to be subject to careful scrutiny. That’s why the decision cannot be made just by the Minister – it requires a BEC decision, and only after receiving considered BMAC advice and hearing a debate on the issues involved held in this House.

As the Minister also emphasises, as yet the BEC has not made any decision about the future of the ‘moratorium’. We are not coming to you with a proposed decision. Instead, we are asking this House to debate what we should do about the ‘moratorium’. We are doing this to generate broad public discussion of the issues involved.

Members might ask for an explanation of the reasons why we need such a public debate about lifting the ‘moratorium’. There are several reasons.

First, lifting the ‘moratorium’ is still a highly sensitive issue for many – perhaps even most – Bougainvilleans.

Second, many of the same issues that led to the request for the moratorium in 1971 remain. Even people open to some mining in Bougainville want it very strictly limited.

Third, if we do lift the moratorium, and especially if we lift it fully (that is, for the whole of Bougainville), it is likely that a very large proportion of the land of Bougainville will soon be covered by exploration licences. That will have huge impacts for all of us. There will be great difficulty turning back from such a massive change if it produces results that we do not like.

So there is a clear need for the most careful deliberation on the issues involved.

Ideally we want to have a major Bougainville-wide public consultation and awareness campaign about issues of such great importance. But because of our serious financial difficulties, that is not an option for us at the moment. So instead, the BEC has agreed to an initial debate in this House. That must be a thorough, careful and well-informed debate.

I believe that it is also essential that we engage with our people as part of this debate. So I recommend, in the strongest terms, that this House debate the ‘moratorium’ issue in two separate sessions. One should be now. Then when the issues have been carefully considered, I recommend that all members go out and consult the people of their constituencies, and seek their views. They should then have a second round of debate at the next House session – a debate further informed by the views of our people.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.

Before we consider options, we need to consider carefully how either partial or full lifting of the moratorium would interact with, or impact on, other major aspects of the Bouganville Mining Act 2015. There are at least two aspects of the Act where there could be major impacts.

The first is the provisions on putting exploration licence application for particular areas out for international tender. The aim of international tender is to see if the ABG can raise significant revenue from exploration licences – for international tender could perhaps bring offers of millions of kina instead of a usual small exploration licence fee.

To put areas out to international tender, the Mining Department must first identify areas that have a potentially high prospective value, and then get geological survey done for those areas. The resulting information would then be made available as part of the tender process, so those offering to pay for a licence have some real information on which to base competitive bids.

If the ABG were to lift the ‘moratorium’ fully, we would be shutting the door on the provisions on international tender, for many years to come. The reason is that lifting the moratorium will mean that most, if not all, highly prospective areas will very quickly be covered by exploration licences. There will be nothing left to deal with under international tender processes.

If we are to keep the door open to using the international tender process in the next few years, we need some time to identify prospective areas and find the funds needed to get the necessary geological survey work done. We need perhaps 2 or 3 years to get such things organised.

In our current serious situation of financial crisis, we would be very unwise to throw away the possibility of raising serious funds by tendering exploration licences.

The second aspect of the Mining Act where fully lifting the moratorium would have major impacts is the arrangements for small-scale mining. Under the Act, COEs or Community Governments have authority to request the ABG to reserve areas exclusively for small-scale mining. Once areas are reserved, then the COE or Community Government will have the authority to issue licences to Bougainvilleans who are landowners of the area they are mining, or have permission of the landowners. That will then be the only basis for small-scale mining to be legal.

The Act gave the Mining Department time to get the new system of community mining licences organised. It made existing small-scale mining (in the absence of the new licences) legal for just 18 months, ending in October 2016.

I am very concerned now because I’ve recently been advised that the Mining Department has done nothing at all to organise the community mining licence system.

The problem now is that if the ‘moratorium’ if lifted for the whole of Bougainville, before the community mining licence system is set up and operating, then it will probably be almost impossible to have land reserved for community mining licences. The reason is that exploration licences will almost certainly be granted for most areas where small-scale mining is occurring. Once an exploration licence is granted over land, there can be no reservation of land for community mining licences without agreement of the exploration licence holder. Experience elsewhere suggests that exploration licences will be very reluctant to agree to community mining reservations that will encourage small-scale miners.

So again, we need some time, perhaps 12 to 18 months more, to allow the Mining Department to do what it should actually have been doing over the past 12 months – that is, working with the Community Government Department and other departments to set up the community mining licence system.

If we do not allow the time for this, then most, if not all, small-scale mining in Bougainville will be illegal. It will become more or less impossible to establish the community mining licence system. But of course, that will not stop small-scale mining from continuing. So that will set up serious risks of tension, confrontation and conflict between small-scale miners and exploration licence holders.

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences.

There would also be other advantages in partial lifting, for just one or two areas. That would also allow the Mining Department the time it is likely to need to see how well it is able to administer the new tenement applications system established under our new Mining Act.

The Mining Department is a completely new and untried organisation, with no established experience of operating our new Act. Clearly the Mining Department must already be struggling to carry out its heavy responsibilities under the Act – for that would be the only acceptable explanation for its compete failure, so far, to do anything to establish the community mining licence system.

Once it has established that system, we could perhaps feel more confident that the Department is developing the kind of capacity it will be needing to effectively

My recommendations to the House to consider in this debate are:

  1. To debate the issues and options for lifting the moratorium thoroughly during this session of the House, and when the issues have been covered fully, the House should adjourn that part of the debate to return to our constituencies to consult our people on the issues involved;
  2. That there should then be a further debate on the issues at the next session of this House;
  3. That in that second debate, the options for lifting should be carefully evaluated, taking full account of likely impacts of maintaining the moratorium, partial lifting, or full lifting on both:
  4. Setting up the system of international tenders for exploration licences;
  5. Setting up the Community Mining Licence system for small-scale mining.6
  6. The House should consider the possible advantages of a partial lifting of the moratorium in just one or two areas, thereby allowing the Mining Department time to get the arrangements under the Act operating properly.

I must assure the members of this House that as President, I believe that this debate on the future of the moratorium is one of the most important debates we have ever held.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all members, that I, and the BEC, will listen most carefully to the views expressed in this debate, and in the wider public debate, before we make any decision on lifting the moratorium.

I must also remind members that if we do later make a decision to lift it either partially or fully, then that decision too will have to be referred for advice of the BMAC, and the House will have to have the opportunity to debate the decision. So the future of the ‘moratorium’ could be a matter before this House for quite some time.

In my view, Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate for the House to take an extended time to deal with such an important issue.

I look forward to hearing the contributions to the debate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bougainville’s Carteret Islanders home to the world’s first climate refugees to Benefit from US $30 Million

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Good news for the people of Carteret Islands in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

The Carterets, home to the world’s first climate refugees, will benefit from US $30 million in development funding (approx. K88 million).

These funds have been made available through a partnership program between the PNG government, Asian Development Bank and Climate Investment Fund.

Carteret Islanders, as beneficiary to these funds, was made known, following series of questions from North Bougainville MP, Lauta Atoi, on the national government’s commitment to climate change affected island communities in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

While others have faced the challenges, Carteret Islanders, although being declared as first climate change refugees of the world, for far too long have silently suffered.

“Has the government got plans to address the specific needs of the Carteret Islanders and other atoll islands that are equally affected,” Atoi asked.

Minister responsible for Environment and Conservation and Climate Change, John Pundari, told parliament that the national government through the Climate Change Development Authority signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank for funding support.

“I want to confirm to the member and the people of Carterets and other islands, that Bougainville has been identified as a pilot area. They will benefit from the funds,” he said.

Minister Pundari said funding has always been a challenge for the national government and thanked international partners such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for their continued support.

“IOM are already at Carterets, working there, following a Memorandum of Agreement with the Climate Change Development Authority,” Pundari said.

Bougainville Chocolate Festival- A boost for Bougainville’s Cocoa Industry

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Bougainville’s cocoa industry will be expecting a huge boost following the recent announcement by the ABG Minister for Primary Industries Honorable Nicholas Darku, on the Inaugural Bougainville Chocolate Festival.

The event which is a first of its kind in the autonomous region will be held in Buin and Arawa from the 4th to the 8th of July this year.

Minister Darku says this project aims to encourage good cocoa farming practices, while at the same time, raise awareness of the efforts put in by the ABG and its stakeholders to develop this industry. It will also give Bougainville the chance to showcase its cocoa farmers to the international chocolate community and create opportunities to build better market links.

“The cocoa industry represents the economic sector with the greatest immediate growth potential in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. It can, and will into the near future, provide for sustainable rural employment, generation of government revenue and contribute to household incomes and improved livelihoods”, he said.

One of the highlights of this event will be the Chocolate Competition which involves international judges tasting and providing feedback on chocolate made from Bougainville Cocoa.

“Growers from across Bougainville- twenty from each region, North, Central and South will be invited to submit twenty kilograms of dried cocoa beans, and each sample will be made into chocolate by Paradise Foods.

Chocolate samples will then be distributed to the judges well in advance of the festival to enable a thorough appraisal and judging”, explained Minister Darku.

There will also be agricultural showcases, business stall displays and entertainment during the three day festival. The opening of the Primary Industries Field Station in Buin will also coincide with this event.

This festival is an initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, led by the Department of Primary Industries in partnership with the Australian government.

From 2014

A small New Zealand business is demonstrating how Bougainville can have a future without a return to large-scale mining and the reimposition of colonial-style dependence on foreign powers like Rio Tinto… (Mine Watch)

Source: PNG Mine Watch

The Wellington Chocolate Voyage

A voyage to make a unique artisan chocolate bar and a better tasting world. This is the new chocolate revolution.

Can you imagine the most beautiful tropical paradise on earth?

And the most mouthwatering, delicious chocolate you’ve ever tasted?

We’re going to bring them together and help make a better tasting world. 

We are Gabe Davidson & Rochelle Harrison, co-founders of New Zealand’s Wellington Chocolate Factory, and international development worker Sera Price.

We are Kiwis with mad passions and big hearts. 

We’re going to make a delectable artisan chocolate bar with rare cocoa beans from Bougainville, a South Pacific region devastated by civil war. The bar itself will be a unique taste experience of the highest quality: the voyage of making it will connect us and you with a cocoa-farming legend, a better way of doing business, and a sailboat journey across the mighty Pacific. Plus you can get chocolate!

We see this as part of a new chocolate revolution, and we want you with us on the adventure.

The Wellington Chocolate Voyage will: 

1. Upgrade a South Pacific cocoa plantation– a farming community in Bougainville, led by legendary grower James Rutana, will be able to improve their drying sheds and grow a high-quality crop of unique Criollo varietal cocoa.

2. Buy a tonne of beans– literally. The Wellington Chocolate Factory will purchase 1 tonne of the resulting bean crop at a fair, premium price.

3. Sail the sparkling seas– in the tradition of legendary ocean voyages and historical trade routes, we will transport the beans from Bougainville to Wellington harbour ourselves via sailing ship!

4. Make amazing chocolate – once the beans arrive, we will use our master chocolate-making skills to produce the ‘Bougainville Bar’, a highest quality artisan treat with a unique flavour.

The Wellington Chocolate Voyage combines everything we’re passionate about: making great food, supporting ethical development and trade, connecting with people across the globe, and going on an adventure. We see this as part of the new revolution in artisan food, where mega-industrialised production takes a back seat to skill, care, and people.

By backing us you will be part of:

Supporting Bougainville and a local legend– recovering from a 10 year civil war, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea is trying to develop its own economy and future. James Rutana helped build Bougainville’s cocoa industry only to see it get destroyed by war and neglect. He is committed to rebuilding and we want to help him.

Making truly great food– the Wellington Chocolate Factory are a values driven company who make highest quality bean-to-bar chocolate. You’ll be invited into our world and get to share the inside story of creating the Bougainville Bar. Then you’ll get your very own bar to try or share or hoard!

Nurturing unique cocoa varieties–  rare and unique cocoa varieties are being lost to the dominance of lower value industrial strains. We’re encouraging farmers to grow higher quality crops and earn a premium price for their effort.

Doing it by sailboat!– Sailboats are fun and romantic in all the right ways, and there is a proud tradition of great Pacific sea voyages throughout history. Imagine being in Wellington Harbour as the first sail-driven shipment of cocoa beans in over fifty years arrives. If you’re super-keen, imagine coming on the boat with us!

Wouldn’t it feel good to be part of a better tasting world?

 What’s the Wellington Chocolate Factory?

We’re snuggled in the heart of Wellington city in New Zealand. We have 11 staff and are open to the public. We make organic, ethically traded, bean-to-bar chocolate of the highest quality.

Why Bougainville?

Bougainville is a beautiful tropical island cluster just north of Australia, with a troubled history. Geographically part of the Solomon Islands but politically part of Papua New Guinea, Bougainville is now an Autonomous Region with its own government and economy.

In 1970 Bougainville had the world’s largest open pit copper mine. The mine contributed significantly to the development of the region, but also to its collapse. A civil war followed that lasted 10 years from 1989 – 1999 and killed 20,000 people.

The Bougainville people brought about peace with assistance from the New Zealand and Australian governments, and the new Autonomous Region hasn’t looked back! There are many challenges in rebuilding the economy and raising business confidence: cocoa growing, for which Bougainville was once internationally renowned, is a way forward.

We want to help put Bougainvllle cocoa back on the map! Making the world class artisan Bougainville Bar will help shine a positive light on the region’s potential, and demonstrate that this is a great place to work and do business.

Bougainville Tourism : Wakunai interesting sights, things ,places and people

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In this article Simon Pentanu picks out interesting features, sights and things in Bougainville where most locals take the ordinariness of  life and place for granted.

After travelling the world whose variety of civilisations, traditions and cultures provide so much variety and spices of life, he says seeing and writing about things and places gives him a new lease of in the twilight years of retirement and rest from work. Here is his offering on Wakunai in Central Bougainville.

W . A . K . U . N . A . I .

Wakunai is one of three districts in Central region, central Bougainville. The other two districts are Kieta and Panguna. To those that have visited or have worked on Bougainville, Kieta and Panguna do not need much introduction.

Next time you are on the east coast highway from Buka to Arawa or all the way to the bottom end down south in Buin do yourself a favour and take a quick stop along Wakunai beach. You will be pleasantly surprised what meets with your eyes and senses. It is a breath of fresh air of the sea breeze facing out to the open sea. During and nearing the end of the crisis the same seas were part of the lanes for the plying sea traffic of outboard motors doing cargo supplies from Buka to Kieta. Wakunai station also served as the half way security check for sea traffic between Buka and Kieta. This is all in the past tense now.

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Wakunai has a long, wide consuming bay where you’re a tiny speck in the distance with long, jutting peninsulas on either side which give the bay its width and vast expanse.

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Along its long beach with the Wakunai river mouth delta at the northern end pebbles and polished stones in assortment of smooth shapes, sizes, colours and contours adorn the black beach. They are bared out by the ebb and flow of the tides. They are nature’s work and a marvel to hold or carry and look at.

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Looking up from the beach this a place where the daily sunset disappears behind the ruminating Mt. Balbi, the highest altitude on Bougainville. On some very clear days the vents atop bare Balbi can be seen to jettison its own geyser-like white steams like a tired baldy old man at a very advanced age that is trying to exhale his puff and smoke in slow motion. It’s a clear view from the bluish black beach along Wakunai bay.

Nearby by the beach inland from Kiviri point is an overgrown Wakunai landing strip that has seen better days. You can’t see much of the strip driving by with kunai-like tall grass getting in the way. I can still vividly recall landing here on my first airborne travel on a TAA DC-3 in late January 1965 after taking off from a dirt Aropa airstrip on the way to Buka to start high school at Hutjena. The Wakunai airstrip is in disuse now but it is a short-cut walking track. It is also there, not really abandoned, if ever a distressed small aircraft or a helicopter might need it for emergency crash landing.

Wakunai used to boast one of the biggest coconut plantations in the southern hemisphere, the Numanuma plantation. Numa was planted during German times. The Numa WW2 track that traverses a tropical terrain from east to west starts here. The trek is either a trying and difficult walk or an exhilarating, refreshing walk to the west coast. It depends on level of fitness and mental preparedness to start and finish this personal challenge.

Wakunai’s evergreen hinterland and soaring hills and peaking mountains right up to and around Mt. Balbi remain a Pandora’s box with such tales as sightings of the mamanguria for example. This is the district where you cross the Red river with its source high in the mouintains, so named because of the red rocks on its river beds and banks that you can see from its old bailey bridge crossing.

This is Rotokas country. The Rotokas language holds the claim in the Guinness Book of Records as the indigenous language with the fewest vowels. Up inland on good, trafficable dirt road are Togerau and Ruruvu where there is majestic waterfall that attracts local visitors no end.

See Rotokas Ecotourism Info

Up here too is Bougainville’s first hydro project that is supposed to harness the Wakunai river at its multiple heads not far from the waterfall. Rotokas culture and traditions up here and further inland remain intact, including the Upe culture that is revered and protected here and along the West Coast.

The Upe symbol on the Bougainville flag livery gives the flag it most identifiable and conspicuous feature.

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The upe is totem-poled to mark the inner boundaries of Bougainville’s Parliament House at Kubu on Buka Island.

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Wakunai district will also always hold pride of place and history on the Island where the first girls high school was established. The Catholic nuns from Australia from Society of Mary established the only girls Asitavi Girls High School when teaching began here with a handful of girls in 1959. The roll-call of girls who have passed through the school and done well in professional life and personal and family lives in the country and at home on Bougainville is a long one. The school as it exists today is worth a visit.

Next time you are travelling by road along the east coast highway, do yourself a favour and stop. Just like Colin Cowell did on a Bougainville Experience Tour last year

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Or convince your driver to make the next relief stop by the beach. Walk Wakunai’s black beach and pick yourself a souvenir to take home, a small or large pebble polished by the ebb and flow of both sea and sand since creation They come in all sizes and are a marvel for all seasons. The rarer ones are the round and elongated, clayish- to-almost-mission- red colours.

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See All tours HERE

Six Day Bougainville Culture Tour

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Bougainville Tourism News: Some insights into tourism development in #Bougainville #PNG

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“ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done . Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything.

ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.

Simon Pentanu was appointed Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives in June 2015.

Picture above Bungalows under progress at Uruna Bay Retreat

He comes from Pokpok Island where he has a home and a private retreat through which community participation and paid employment of women and youth amongst its Island communities is being promoted. He advocates“small, rural and local is beautiful” across Bougainville.

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Bougainville’s natural  beauty and attractions, including its vibrant culture like the rest of the country, can be best showcased with serious and deliberate government involvement. For now this is lacking and can be explained largely as a result of lack of resources, capacity and focus and due to the fact that since it was established the tourism office and responsibility has been moved from pillar to post. The settling in, focus, funding and seriousness has been amiss.

With so much potential staring at us in the face tourism in Bougainville it is time our political leaders and bureaucrats alike take the attitude that if tourism has to contribute to ABG’s coffers, then it should be well-intended and for good gain. A number of private operators that have been self-starters to promote tourism are the ones carrying the baton up front. The amount of promotion they are doing both out of joy in promoting the beauty of the Island and as a business is a good story.

The Autonomous  Region today is, in many ways, at the stage in its attempts to promote tourism where PNG was about 30 years ago. Then, PNG started its budding attempts to promote the industry. It wasn’t something easy like a casual walk along the beach, a nearby bushwalk or a small hill climb. It was gradual with early forays into areas of unique attractions like for example driving into a village in Asaro to be greeted by its famous mystical Asaro mud men. There are other numerous examples such as the early cruises up the Sepik or the Baining Fire Dance and the Malagan mask phenomena in the New Guinea Islands. Along the way tourists started fitting their itineraries and visits to the annual calendar of many provincial Cultural Shows which have now become well renown and frequentedannual events. Bougainville can not only learn enormously from these early starts, including teething issues in the rest of PNG but can start to fit its own cultural events around some of the dates of these events.

The PNGTA is a vast repository of information and experience that Bougainville tourism authorities can tap into. The world has become small in an industry that has virtually encompassed countries  globally and where there are no boundaries or barriers to movement or travel, barring religious and fanatical wars. PNGTA is benefitting enormously from its membership, attendance and participation in regional and global tourism events. It has also learnt that it does not have to copy or compete for the same markets like others but has created its own brand of adventure, cultural and niche’ attractions.

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SEE Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority Website

Along the way PNGTA has learnt some hard, some sad but many useful lessons. The aches and pains have come with the successes and joys in seeing and industry grow into many niche’ attractions around its many tribal and ethnic cultures, languages, landscapes and seascapes. Bougainville stands to gain a lot from the road travelled and challenges met by PNGTA. Bougainville does not have to reinvent the wheel but we can improve the oiling and lubrication in our spokes and nuts and bolts to cruise forward with so much potential begging to be tapped.

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SEE : Bougainville community support and vision puts Bougainville tourism on the world’s stage

Zhon Bosco Miriona, Managing Director of Bougainville Experience Tours for second time in the past few years was able to represent Bougainville on the world stage supported by Colin Cowell an International media and tourism consultant with over 25 years’ experience marketing Indigenous tourism

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In March 2016 Zhon is representing Bougainville in Germany at ITB the worlds largest travel show VIEW ITB SITE Listing

Download the PNG ITB Promo press release

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Top Photo Social media  : Online tour bookings site , Facebook ,@YesBougainville on Twitter and Bougainville Tourism INSTAGRAM are playing an important role in Bougainville Experience Tours  International Marketing

Second Photo Above : Developing partnerships with Wako Napusu Inbound operator Country Tour PNG and Asian operators above to bring in small groups for a 7 day Bougainville Tour Experience

PNGTA has also matured in keeping in check the pros and cons of tourist invasions, so to speak. It is a very sensible approach. The country does not necessarily want to promote tourism for arrivals en mass. This is a very important consideration in developing niche’ markets and keeping cultures genuinely intact. No one can ever completely preserve cultures in a test tube or a freezer but impact of outside influence and modernity can be managed with sensible long term policies and cooperation between government policy makers and independent state supported tourism bodies or corporations. In this regard, in terms of government support to PNGTA it has been a journey on bumpy roads, through humps, pot-holes and sometimes swaying bridges along the way. But the Association has been the richer and mature for the experience.

Bougainville can learn from all of the above. We can forge meaningful contacts, contracts and understanding for assistance in going forward in a planned and deliberate fashion with PNGTA.

It is heartening to see emerging self-start operators like Zhon Miriona Bosco from Bougainville Experience Tours and others in north and south Bougainville to establish links with PNGTA in brooding tourism in Bougainville. In time, there is no doubt other individual operators will emerge as Bougainville continues to open up to one of the cleanest and visible industries that can promote the Island.

ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done over the years. Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything. ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.

Clear, comprehensive, comprehendible mid to long-term policies is one way ABG can put tourism on a better footing. It is from this position that the Ministry, office and authority charged with responsibility to promote tourism in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can develop deliberate and better long term view from the standing, stationary start is at now.

In the present Momis-Nisira Government the Minister for Economic Affairs Hon Fidelis Semoso MP has the will, the clout, the credentials and the leverage required to establish a meaningful and working contact with PNGTA. This would move the office from its dormant existence to at least some level headed planning view to where or how far Bougainville wants to take its tourism.

There are some aspects of office work that does not necessarily need huge funds but rather just thinking things through and mapping out. One such area concerns the risks and inhibitions to any opportunity to attracting and expanding tourism as an industry. First and foremost is the issue of law and order. This is a major concern in selling tourism in PNG but to its credit the PNGTA has spared no effort in putting better and localised perspective to this menace. Bougainville can certainly learn a thing or two from the arduous efforts PNGTA has made in this area. Landowner issues is another one when trekking and bird watching or just bushwalking is involved. Issues of benefits to a local community are matters that should attract attention to authorities. Advice and mentoring to willing starters in local areas is another area our officials in tourism office can help without much expenditure in resources or efforts.

The cost of travel to and within PNG is expensive. In more Bougainville it is even more expensive right across the board including airfares, local transport, accommodation, even food in lodges and motels. This should change over time and there is some evidence of this as the level of accommodation and variety of food in Buka and Arawa in more decent accommodation is improving.

Bougainville Office of Tourism Website

Developing an annual calendar around cultural events that are staged by communities for their own importance and purpose at their own time is something the office responsible for tourism in Buka can certainly work on. It is more reliable to plan this way because for communities these cultural events aren’t scheduled around tourist visits but have been a part of their life and cultural significance for years. On the part of tourist office staff this involves going out to the people to promote awareness over time. Instead of waiting for large funds the tourism office should go out to the people for which the cost shouldn’t be huge at all.

Some training and education for intending and existing tour operators and tour guides is a must so there is proper awareness on the do’s and don’ts of tourism. Again there is no need to reinvent the wheel. A working relationship can be established with PNGTA to help the tourism office in Bougainville. To this end there are also opportunities annually for the office of tourism and for private operators to attend tourist expositions hosted by PNGTA and by other Associations in the region.

It often begs the question, what does the office of tourism actually do in Bougainville? This is not a rhetorical question but a question that is being asked more and more. And rightly so. When you have good, attractive, usable and functional product to develop and promote and sell very well  why is it hard to promote and sell. Everyone boasts about how Bougainville is beautiful, how we might become a Mecca for tourists looking for authentic pristine beauty or how relatively peaceful it is for tourist to find once they get here. BUT who is doing the hard yakka that’s got to be done?

The Minister responsible for tourism can be best served by the tourism office by providing good briefs on where we are at, where we want to be in the next four years based on the remaining years of the current Government. And, in addition, how best the Government and private operators can best consult each other. The experience of PNGTA in this regard would be quite valuable. The current Minister’s audacious, no nonsense and result oriented approach would bode well with the benefit of good, regular advice from those that are charged with developing the industry. As already mentioned, establishing meaningful links with PNGTA is bound to pay good, tangible dividends.

Bougainville has always learnt the hard way from its shortcomings. The courage and conviction of the people to succeed at all is always there and has always moved everybody on and forward. Tourism has the potential as a reliable and clean income earner and cash generator . We can do this through joint effort between government and private enterprise and through humbling ourselves to ask others that have travelled this road to help and guide us, specifically PNGTA. PNGTA is already a very recognisable product, a global brand name in the tourism industry.

Bougainville can prove its worth best through doing the hard work led by those tasked and paid in the office of tourism. Any other joint effort will come if the officers and authorities start pegging and advancing their work inside and outside the office. It is not enough to just trumpet out the all too familiar metaphor we are so used to chanting and hearing that “we can do it”.

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Simon Pentanu pictured above learning international tourism marketing from Colin Cowell ” selling ” to 30 international buyers at a travel Expo in Port Moresby 2014. From left Zhon , Colin ,Simon and James Tanis.

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“Bougainville is a land of simple, untouched pleasures; from our turquoise seas to lush rain forests.Experience our unique Bougainville Island, nature, culture, history and friendly people “

 

 

 

 

Bougainville reflections :For the mothers, peace in Panguna has come in many respects.

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“A mother in the village is one with Mother Earth, she never ever doubts motherland will provide all bare and sumptuous necessities for life. Always, in all ways.

Development, progress, growth and impact projects continue to be misnomers for the rural majority that is subsistent, self sufficient, interdependent and content.”

Simon Pentanu

I took this shot in a recent visit to Panguna, 15 January 2016. It was a moving white marvel against dense forest greenery to look at with naked eyes from the distance. It was saying something the more I looked at it and the more I noticed it and saw two other white smokes rising from bushes in the distance farther beyond.

This white smoke was bellowing from the evergreen forest floor and bushes on the hilly periphery of one of the largest open cut mines in the world, Panguna, along old growth alpine virgin forests and rugged, rocky mountain spine of Moreha’s (Bougainville) Crown Prince Range.

Where there’s white smoke rising there’s a mother weeding, toiling and gardening. She will return to her garden in time to harvest the fruits of her labour.

A mother in the village is one with Mother Earth, she never ever doubts motherland will provide all bare and sumptuous necessities for life. Always, in all ways.

Development, progress, growth and impact projects continue to be misnomers for the rural majority that is subsistent, self sufficient, interdependent and content.

Food security also means you cannot eat money but you should still grow, gather, hunt or catch for your sustenance. This is what the world is coming to, not what Referendum and Independence promise which is trying to catch up with the rest of the world and be like the Jones’s or join the rat race with the Toms, Dicks, Harrys and Muhammads.

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills, in the rift valleys and ravines, along the the river banks and along meandering creeks that the possibilities in the modern, civilised world are limitless.

Mothers though will say this to you: theirs is a symbiotic and mutually belonging relationship together with Mother Earth where they live for each other everyday. It is not an existential crisis or struggle for survival. They belong to the land, they aren’t separate from it. They sow and reap with care and respect without ripping into the guts and disemboweling their land.

For the mothers, peace up here has come in many respects. The most telling is that the land is replenishing and renewing itself albeit it’ll never ever be the same again. But their consolation and proof of this is in better root crop harvests, many more fingers on banana bunches, firm and oilier ground nuts, plentiful fruits and vegetables and seeing grasshoppers that have come back often to their annoyance.

May be even the copper, gold and silver are replenishing and growing to replace what was mined and taken out.

The other thing that is quite telling and that makes life worth living as it was is that women in Panguna can experience and benefit from the power of quiet in their own world which which was always disturbed by unrelenting world of noise of men and machines digging and ripping out the heart of their land.

Life in the village usually starts early for women than men. When he’s still taking time to get up and wipe his eyes awake, she’s left for the garden with her metal and wooden implements to continue from where she left her gardening the other day.

Seeing rising thick and thin white smokes here and there from the gardens on hilly and forested peripheries of the mine means life has gone back to normal.

But has it really?

Bougainville Funding opportunity alert up to US$100,000 U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation 2016

 

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The U.S Embassy Port Moresby and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State are pleased to announce the 2016 call for proposals for the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP).

Since its creation by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. AFCP has provided financial support to more than 640 cultural preservation projects in more than 100 countries and represents a contribution of nearly $26 million towards the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide.

Proposals are welcome from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The Fund is aimed at preserving cultural sites, objects and forms of traditional expression that have a historical or cultural significance. Of particular interest are projects that support risk reduction and disaster preparedness for cultural sites and collections in seismically-active and other disaster- prone areas as well as projects that empower women, youth or under-served communities. Grants usually range from $10,000 to $100,000, but may be higher for exceptional projects.

The deadline for submitting a proposal in English is Friday, January 8, 2016 at 4:30pm PNG time.

Proposals should be submitted to:

U.S. Embassy Port Moresby, Public Affairs Section
Attn: Public Affairs Officer
PDPortMoresby@state.gov
Subject: U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation 2016

For more information about the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation 2016, please contact the Public Affairs Section at PDPortMoresby@state.gov or go to the Embassy’s website at http://portmoresby.usembassy.gov

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Bougainville 2015 Elections : Chief Momis ABG President full inauguration speech

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The third ABG will increase the speed of transfer. Priority areas include: land; environment; mining health and safety; fisheries; incorporation of associations; police; and the ABG’s foreign affairs powers – proposing names on the PNG visa warning list, work permit applications for Bougainville, and so on.

With autonomy, significant new powers were fully transferred through development of many new laws passed, including physical planning, Public Finance Management, Mining, and a separate Bougainville Public Service.

How did the ABG perform in relation to these matters between 2010 and 2015?

  • great unity,
  • a tremendous sense of purpose,
  • intense energy, and

an unwavering commitment to the course we intend to follow.On behalf of all the newly elected members of the third ABG, I commit all of us to work on behalf of all Bougainvilleans to ensure that our common dreams and aspirations are achieved.

Thank you all for joining me in marking this beginning of what I believe will be the most exciting, but also challenging, five years in the history of Bougainville.

DOWNLOAD FULL SPEECH HERE

Chief Momis -Bougainville President Inauguration statement – June 2015

PHOTO above : The current elected ABG President Hon Chief Dr John Momis and Acting Prime Minister for PNG Hon Leo Dion

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Introductory Report from by Aloysius Laukai: Managing Editor Bougainville News

The ABG President, Chief DR.John Momis yesterday said Panguna may never Open although Bougainville’s financial woes can be resolved immediately if it opens.

Speaking at the Inauguration ceremony, DR. MOMIS said that under the Bougainville’s law on Mining, the landowners have the power to decide what’s on their land and no one can push them around.

President Momis said that options are if the landowners want or if BCL wants to re-invest in Panguna it’s up to them to decide as the ABG can just facilitate the process.

He said that if PANGUNA is allowed to open it can take up to seven years for reconstruction to commence before actually getting Copper ore from the ground.

For a complete new mine it would take over fifteen years for exploration to take place and to get the first ore from the ground.

He said some options are already available for the Government to consider if PANGUNA does not open.

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INAUGURATION OF THE 3RD  AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

MONDAY 15 JUNE 2015

SPEECH BY CHIEF JOHN L. MOMIS PRESIDENT

Fellow Bougainvilleans, and Guests from elsewhere in PNG and from other parts of the world: I welcome you all to the Inauguration of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s 3rd House of Representatives.

There are 2 major reasons why this day, 15 June 2015, is important to all Bougainvilleans.

First, it marks 10 years since we began our journey to self-determination under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Second this day starts the 5 year period during which we are guaranteed the right to participate in a referendum on our independence.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement is the real basis for us all being here today. It provides us with an exclusive right to self-determination. We can choose and shape our future, a right unique in PNG, and rare internationally. We should celebrate this right, as we do by being here today.

We also celebrate and are grateful for the support we receive from our many partners, especially the two most important, PNG and Australia. We rely mainly on PNG grants and donor funding – especially that from Australia.

The Peace Agreement is a political and constitutional contract between the National Government and Bougainville. It must be honoured in full.

The Agreement is not a gift without any strings attached. Instead it will deliver real benefits only if we work hard to make use of the opportunities provided to us. We cannot just sit back and wait for the National Government and donors to deliver us to a promised land.

Only we Bougainvilleans can build the new Bougainville we want. We must grasp our opportunities. We cannot ignore the requirements of the Agreement. Without it, we would have no legitimate basis for what we do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I must acknowledge the vital contributions of those that have helped us to achieve the things that have got us here today.

First, I congratulate the people of Bougainville, for participating actively and peacefully in the process to select Bougainville’s leaders.

Next I acknowledge those who led the peace process. Some are no longer with us. But their contributions are not forgotten.

The first ABG Presidents provided the solid foundations for the ABG. I acknowledge the presence here today of not only Rose Kabui, widow of the 1st President, the late Joseph Kabui, but also the 2nd President, James Tanis.

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I thank members of the 2nd House for their contributions to Bougainville, from 2010 to 2015. The 3rd House will be standing on their shoulders.

I thank the Bougainville Electoral Commission, the electoral officials, their advisers, and the donors, whose efforts delivered the general elections.

To the other 8 presidential candidates, I offer my congratulations. You contributed to debate about how to meet the needs of Bougainvilleans. Presidential candidates were invited today. I aim to work closely with them. I also thank all the candidates in other seats, as well as their committees, scrutineers, and supporters.  Voters had real choices of leadership and policies.

I acknowledge the presence of senior National Government representatives. In the absence of the Prime Minister (who is overseas) acting Prime Minister Hon. Leo Dion is with us. Others include Governor of East Sepik, Hon. Sir Michael Somare; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Mr. Rimbink Pato; and Minister for State Enterprises, Hon. Ben Micah. The Peace Agreement was a joint creation with PNG, and ongoing partnership is needed for it to bear fruit.

I acknowledge the Chief Justice. All ABG members deeply appreciate the recognition of the ABG by the participation of PNG’s  highest judicial officer.

We are honoured too by the presence of three senior colleagues, all who played major roles in empowering the PNG people.They have been friends of Bougainville, playing major roles in peace-building. I refer to Sir John Kaputin, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Sir Moi Avei. We salute you all and welcome you

Finally, I acknowledge the presence of international community partner representatives – the UN, Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand, China and the United States of America, whose support is of critical importance to us.

I also offer my humble thanks to my people, for the honour of returning me to the leadership of Bougainville

I turn now to consider the work of the ABG. On this same date in 2010, I outlined five major tasks then facing the newly elected 2nd ABG.

I want to share here my honest assessment of both successes and failures of the ABG in its efforts to carry out those tasks in the last 5 years, and indicate priorities (some of them new) in what the 3rd ABG will do.

The first task was unification. Progress in the past 5 years has included:

  • Many reconciliations;
  • The 2011 ceasefire ending the 5 year Konnou conflict;
  • Increasing engagement with Me’ekamui groups;
  • Progress towards ending the Morgan Junction roadblock. But although Bougainville is more unified than in 2010, much still needs to be done. Unification continues to be essential as we prepare for the referendum.

The ABG’s 2nd task was improving the welfare of all Bougainvilleans, by promoting appropriate economic development.

There’s been progress. Cocoa production is better than expected when the cocoa pod borer arrived. Small-scale gold production has increased. The ABG has 2 new ships. A partnership with a Chinese consortium is doing metal fabrication at Toniva, producing bricks and aggregate using Jaba tailings material, opening a wholesale store in Buka, and creating over 100 jobs.

The K300 million in National Government SIF funds since 2011 has contributed infrastructure, contracts and jobs. Our POGE partnership delivers basic goods at lower prices, starting with rice.We need more broad-based development to bring improvements in people’s lives.

We face obstacles. Attracting credible investors is hard due to the risks of our post-conflict situation, made worse by ongoing law and order problems.Another factor is limited ABG funds. Because of PNG’s fiscal crisis when negotiating the Peace Agreement, the main National Government grants cover only basic costs of delivering services.

We have little internal revenue. The Agreement does provide a Restoration and Development grant, with a formula intended to increase when National budget development expenditure rises.With rising commodity prices, PNG development expenditure increased rapidly from 2005-06.

The grant should now be over K75 million a year, but we’ve got only K15 million most years. Arrears are now well over K400 million. The National Government SIF funds since 2011 are helpful. But as conditional grants, they are no substitute for the Restoration and Development Grant.

The ABG has been trying for three years to get the Peace Agreement provisions on this grant honoured. We must pursue this matter vigorously.Although finding appropriate foreign investors is an important goal, we also recognise that Bougainvilleans are hard-working people. We can expand our economy by building on things our people are already familiar with, such as:

  • Moving from copra to virgin coconut oil;
  • Serious efforts on downstream cocoa processing;
  • Increased seaweed production;
  • More small-scale gold production, and assisting producers to invest in appropriate machinery for more safe and efficient production
  • Producing house bricks, as is already happening using Jaba River tailings.

The ABG’s third major task is securing Bougainville’s future by full implementation of the Peace Agreement, which means:

The radical new Bougainville Mining Act means any new mining will be on totally different terms from under the Bougainville Copper Agreement. The biggest protection is that no development will be possible unless both landowners and the ABG are satisfied with all the conditions for mining.

It is certainly possible Panguna will not re-open, if landowners oppose it, or if BCL don’t return and alternative developers can’t be found. But other communities want mining exploration and those possibilities will be evaluated.

Under our March 2015 Bougainville Mining Act, customary land owners also own minerals. They can reject mining exploration and development. So Panguna will not re-open without landowner agreement. That means clear agreement by a clear majority of landowners, with no manipulation of consent.

Our only realistic option for rapid fiscal self reliance and improved levels of services is large-scale mining. Re-opening the Panguna mine would provide the best chance of early revenue, as it could open in 6 or 7 years. Alternative new mining projects would take from 15 to 30 years from exploration to production.

The referendum timetable places pressure on us to achieve fiscal self reliance rapidly. Our annual budget is over K300 million, but internally derived revenue is only about K30 million. Gradual economic expansion will not deliver self-reliance (covering costs of current services) as well as providing the much improved levels of services Bougainvilleans both expect and deserve.

Cheap and reliable power will be vital for such projects, as well as for improving the lives of people by village electrification. So the 3rd ABG will work towards a hydro-electric grid. Two hydro projects are already in progress, one at Togerau, and one on the Ramazon River, funded by the ADB.

Our Chinese joint venture plans one at Toniva. These projects must progress as soon as possible. I will discuss support for the Togerau project with its main organiser, Sam Akoitai. I will seek funding for a scoping study for developing the hydro-electric grid.

Promoting these and similar activities will be a key priority of a new Ministry of Economic Development that my Government will establish.

Achieving full autonomy,

and  Preparing for the referendum, and

Achieving complete weapons disposal.

Several options have been discussed for setting the date. Although I’ve suggested considering 2019, I’m open to all possibilities. I will consult widely on the issue, with both the new ABG and the Bougainville community.I have strong views on the process to be used to set the referendum date.

The Peace Agreement clearly states that maximum period for delay of the referendum is 15 years after the ABG is established, which is mid-2020.

That maximum delay cannot be extended except on a decision by the ABG. Weapons and governance can be considered when deciding the date between 2015 and 2020, but they cannot be used to delay the referendum beyond 2020.

Suggestions at the National level that the referendum could be delayed beyond 2020 on the grounds of weapons or governance are a matter of grave concern for the ABG. Any such attempt would breach the Peace Agreement. However, I remain optimistic that good sense will prevail, and that the clear meaning of the Peace Agreement and the PNG Constitution will be honoured.                       

We are on the threshold of perhaps the most important, and portentous, five years in our history. To achieve all that is necessary in that period will require:

MY FRIENDS, THERE IS MUCH MORE THAT COULD BE SAID. BUT I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE ALREADY GAINED A SENSE OF THE CHALLENGES THAT FACE US IN BOUGAINVILLE.

At the same time I must point to the need for more coordinated planning of the use of fiscal resources of the ABG, the National Government, the donors, and the Bougainville MPs. Limited coordination causes confused objectives, overlap, and even waste. I propose developing a new mechanism for consulting the National Government, MPs and donors so as to agree both development goals under a rolling plan, and what aspects of the plan each will fund.

There could be considerable pressure on the new ABG to be very restrained in our spending. We will face the major challenge of trying to achieve more while using less funds. I ask all ABG members as well as all other Bougainvilleans to understand these financial difficulties that we face.

The financial resources available to us will of course have a huge impact on what the 3rd ABG can achieve. And although what I have just outlined might suggest that the ABG has plenty of funds available, the truth is otherwise. That’s not only because of the limited funds guaranteed by the Peace Agreement, but also because of the current fiscal problems of the National Government. Those problems are mainly caused by falling natural resource prices. As a result 2015 SIF funds for the ABG expected from Port Moresby may be under threat.

We will explore partnerships with high quality hospitals in other countries. We must aim high, towards our own university, high quality technical colleges, a computer literate population. During the next five years, I will be seeking a massive expansion in Technical and Vocational Education and Training, beginning with development of at least one high quality Technical School.

Development also depends on our population being both healthy and well-educated. So our development plans must seek the highest possible health standards and the best education facilities in the Pacific.

Economic opportunities and good education are also critically important to law and order. For example, semi-educated young men with no employment or business opportunities have been a major factor in our ongoing law and order problems since the early 1980s.

So we must pursue real improvements in health and education, and basic infrastructure too. Economic opportunities, good health and good education all go together. They contribute to our economic development. That then generates the tax revenue needed for fiscal self-reliance.

The ABG also has a sixth major task – to improve basic services.

Since the late 1990 we have made progress in restoring health and education services destroyed during the conflict. But service standards are worse than before the conflict. The ABG must solve the problems faced by our people. Our other efforts mean little if the basic condition of people’s lives don’t improve.

Awareness will need to be a major priority as the referendum approaches. So we will explore options for cost-effective and widely accessed awareness methods.

In the process we learned about the practical difficulties and high expense of conducting awareness and consultation campaigns. The basic truth is that with unlimited funds and personnel, we could do far more. But funds are limited.

The fifth ABG task is public awareness. The 2nd ABG put much effort into awareness and consultation on mining policies, both Panguna, and the Bougainville Mining Act. With awareness of the Peace Agreement, there was much training of staff, but little awareness was actually conducted.

Under the 2nd ABG proposals for reform of the Council of Elders, COEs will be re-named as ‘Community Governments’. Together with custom-based village assemblies, they will have more responsibility for law and order, working more closely with police, administering small-scale mining licences and so on.

Bougainville’s the rule of law situation is generally better than many other parts of PNG. But much more is needed. We need progress on weapons. Our Police Service needs to be more respected and integrated into rural communities, and responsive to local leadership.

In terms of corruption I fear we’ve made little progress. The situation MUST change under the new House. So reform of the Public Service will continue. I will resume efforts to establish an office of the PNG Ombudsman to work with us to establish the highest standards of conduct for leaders and Public Servants.

The fourth task for the ABG is promoting good governance and the rule of law, and ending corruption. In terms of good governance, in general, the processes of the ABG were strengthened, and worked well in the last 5 years. But good governance involves much more than that.

So clearly weapons disposal must be a major priority for the 3rd ABG. So I propose holding a summit of former combatant leaders, including Me’ekamui groups, as well as other sectors of the community, to consider the ways ahead.

Fourth, international community support may be required to encourage implementation of the referendum outcome. We must make sure weapons disposal issues do not undermine international community support.

Third, the National Parliament has the final decision on the outcome of the referendum, and could use weapons issues to decide against independence.

Second, weapons availability could result in referendum observers determining the referendum is not “free and fair”, as required by the Peace Agreement.

First, disagreement between the governments on weapons could push the date back towards mid-2020.

Without much more complete weapons disposal our law and order situation will only get worse, and we risk major problems over implementation of the referendum result. There are four main issues here.

On achieving complete weapons disposal, despite progress on reconciliation there’s been almost no progress since 2005. Weapons not destroyed during the UN supervised disposal process from 2002 to 2005 include those: held by Me’ekamui groups; captured at Kangu Beach in 1996; secretly retained by some BRA and BRF elements; or held by criminals. Since then, some additional weapons have been added, including some WWII and modern weapons

On preparing for the referendum, the 2nd ABG achieved some progress by proposing establishment of a joint government working group, which reported to the JSB. But the real preparatory work begins now, with the election of the 3rd ABG. Key issues remain to be negotiated, including the referendum date, and the question to be asked in the referendum.

With these and other serious problem areas, the key leaders and officers involved are often not aware what the Agreement requires. So the ABG will seek a better understanding so that the Agreement is implemented in full.

Other aspects of the autonomy arrangements have not been fully implemented. The Restoration and Development Grant arrears is one example. Another is failure to appoint the ABG choice of head of the Police in Bougainville (the Agreement requires appointment of the ABG nominee as ACP – something that the Police Commissioner has not ever done).

I will seek the earliest possible National Government agreement on an agreed approach to timely negotiation of the necessary funding to accompany every transferred power.

The key issue is not just transfer. The ABG must also get PNG agreement to funds in the main Recurrent Grant for salaries and operational costs for transferred powers. Without such funds, we have no capacity to use newly transferred powers. Subject to negotiations between the governments, the Peace Agreement guarantees this funding for any newly transferred power.

The 3rd ABG will increase the speed of transfer. Priority areas include: land; environment; mining health and safety; fisheries; incorporation of associations; police; and the ABG’s foreign affairs powers – proposing names on the PNG visa warning list, work permit applications for Bougainville, and so on.

With autonomy, significant new powers were fully transferred through development of many new laws passed, including physical planning, Public Finance Management, Mining, and a separate Bougainville Public Service.

How did the ABG perform in relation to these matters between 2010 and 2015?

  • great unity,
  • a tremendous sense of purpose,
  • intense energy, and

an unwavering commitment to the course we intend to follow.On behalf of all the newly elected members of the 3rd ABG, I commit all of us to work on behalf of all Bougainvilleans to ensure that our common dreams and aspirations are achieved.

Thank you all for joining me in marking this beginning of what I believe will be the most exciting, but also challenging, five years in the history of Bougainville

photo JM 80