09 May 2014

Private Public Consultations

Although many people are discussing Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a new model for developing infrastructure in Timor-Leste, Private Public Consultations (PPCs) have been with us for a long time. One example is the "Public Consultation" announced by the National Petroleum Authority (ANP) and Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources on this banner, which has been displayed across from the Foreign Ministry for about a week.

The meetings will discuss draft Technical Regulations for oil and gas operations off Timor-Leste's south coast, in the Exclusive Area not shared with Australia. The detailed rules can protect (or endanger) workers, revenues and the environment. These regulations, hundreds of pages long,   are critically important in balancing the cost-cutting, profit-seeking incentives of the companies against the human, financial and ecological responsibility of Timor-Leste's government to safeguard against such dangers.  When a similar consultation was held in 2008 on Technical Regulations for the Joint Development Area, La'o Hamutuk identified many areas which needed improvement, and we would like to be able to help this time as well. Since then, offshore oil disasters like Deepwater Horizon and Montara have been sharp reminders of the need for effective regulation.

After we saw ANP's banner, we asked them for the draft regulations, so that we could prepare for the consultation. A day later, they declined to share the documents, but did send us an invitation (left) and agenda (right). We are posting them to encourage others to join the Dili workshop, which will be at Delta Nova on Wednesday, 14 May from 08:30 - 16:00.  Four hours of presentations will be followed by 45 minutes of questions and answers.

La'o Hamutuk does not have experts on staff who can thoroughly analyze complex technical documents; we rely on experienced international volunteers.  The ANP also required outside help, and they contracted Gaffney, Cline & Associates who presented a draft in 2011, which ANP has been studying for nearly two years.

After such a long process, ANP knows that it takes time to understand these documents and give useful input. The late notice for the consultation, with no substantive information, raises doubts about its purpose. So we asked:
"Wouldn't the consultation be more effective if people had a chance to read the drafts before the workshop, and perhaps to discuss them with others to get wider and wiser input?  Or is this really a socialization, where ANP will explain what they have already decided to do, rather than expecting to modify the drafts based on people's suggestions during the consultation process?"
In response, ANP promised that "the ANP will continue receive public opinion/feedback or submissions after the workshop."  We hope that they will modify the regulations to incorporate the suggestions they receive, and that this PPC is more than pro-forma.

Update, 13 June: A week after we wrote this blog, ANP posted the draft regulations and other materials at http://www.anp-tl.org/webs/anptlweb.nsf/vwAll/PUBLIC%20CONSULTATION. They "highly encourage" and "greatly appreciate" public participation in this consultation, and recently extended the time for written submissions from 14 to 30 June. To make a submission or to ask for more information, contact anp.konsultasaunpubliku@anp-tl.org.

Update 1 July: La'o Hamutuk has made a web page about this consultation process, including the submission we gave to ANP yesterday. The main points of our submission include:

  • Timor-Leste’s interests are broader than simply maximizing production of oil and gas, but encompass state revenues, environment, sustainable development, and minimizing risks of injury, damage or corruption.
  • Many provisions on environment, health and safety should be improved, including those discussing management of discarded materials, legal frameworks, minimizing risks, banning flaring, defining “best practice” and “reasonably practical,” health and safety committees and audits, sanctions, and protecting against companies’ negligence or malfeasance.
  • Before onshore exploration begins, local communities need more consultation and protection.
  • Timor-Leste should receive more money from extracting our oil and gas, and not be so generous to the companies.
  • All revenues – taxes, royalties, fees, penalties – must be deposited into the Petroleum Fund as required by the Petroleum Fund Law.
  • Transparency is generally ignored and sometimes prohibited by these draft regulations and contracts, and needs more attention, requirement and protection.
  • Even though local content is unlikely to be a significant element in building Timor-Leste’s non-oil economy, it needs better definition and clearer requirements.
  • Obligatory monetary “contributions” from companies are inappropriate, as they violate budgetary and democratic processes.

1 comment:

  1. The week after we wrote this blog article, ANP made the draft regulations and other materials available on their website at http://www.anp-tl.org/webs/anptlweb.nsf/vwAll/PUBLIC%20CONSULTATION. We hope people will read them and offer their comments by 14 June.