The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Cardinal calls for end to ‘selfish policies’ in deep sea mining discussion in PNG

Photo: Cardinal Ribat, Ms Marie Mondu, Mr Peter Bosip and Mr Jonathan Mesulam

Written by Nigel Akuani, through the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands

Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby called for an end to selfish policies destroying people and the environment at a panel discussion on seabed mining on 13 March 2020.

About 65 participants attended the event in Port Moresby hosted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands, to raise awareness about seabed mining.

Issues raised included lobbying for the cancellation of the “Solwara 1 Project” Mining Licence and all exploration licences of DSM in PNG,the Environmental, Economic, Legislative, Social and Cultural implications, and the current situation of Deep-Sea Mining in PNG.

The discussion was moderated by Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb, Social Communications Secretary. Panellists were Cardinal Sir John Ribat MSC, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port Moresby, Ms Marie Mondu, Development Secretary of CBC, Mr Peter Bosip, Director of Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights, and Mr Jonathan Mesulam, spokesperson for the Alliance of Solwara Warriors (ASW).

Cardinal Ribat, a voice for the voiceless, has spoken at meetings in different countries across the globe. He emphasised the Churches’ active role in voicing the concerns and sufferings of the majority of the people. He stated his personal experience of the lack of fish due to the destruction of the reefs. “When industries like this operate, our people in the rural areas suffer the most because they depend primarily on the land and sea for survival. Even though they speak, no one listens to them. The government has to put a stop to the selfish mentality of creating mushroom policies to make millions overnight at the expense of everyone else and the environment,” he added.

Ms Mondu spoke of the importance in self-identity and said it was key to understanding, appreciating and protecting all living things and the environment. “We are connected to everything because we are co-dependent and interrelate, and as social and intellectual beings, we are by nature the custodians and stewards of our Mother Earth,” she said.

Mr Mesulam bluntly stated the firm position taken by ASW against DSM, and said they gave the government till the end of December 2020, to revoke all existing DSM licences. “PNG is not ready for DSM and there has to be amendments made to the current legislation guiding the issuance of its licences. There is no evidence to suggest DSM is beneficial, and the social and environmental destruction far outweighs any economic benefit it might have,” he said.

Mr Bosip stressed that future contracts with international companies should be entered into only after proper consultation with the people have been made. “Before the government enters into any agreement with foreign companies involving the extraction of raw material, all documents pertaining to that agreement have to be made available for public scrutiny,” he said.

“The waters of PNG were chosen because DSM is a first of its kind that has not been tried anywhere else. For the DSM company, our country was a guinea pig for experimental trials,” he said.

Ms Mavis Tito, Director of Caritas PNG, coordinated the Panel Discussion. In reply to a question about the involvement of the government in the panel discussion, she stated that efforts to involve the government in this panel discussion proved unsuccessful.

Caritas PNG is mandated by the CBC to assist in humanitarian efforts and reassured that their social obligation to assist the marginalised stands. “CPNG as part of its efforts in social obligation, will continue to provide a strong voice for those less fortunate and disregarded by society,” said Ms Tito.

Principal of Jubilee Catholic Secondary School, Mrs Bernadette Ove, expressed her anger of how K400M of taxpayers’ money was used to pay for something that never eventuated. She made a strong call to the government to invest more wisely huge sums of money in sectors of education and health that need it most.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust