PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare declared a state of emergency in the province early Tuesday, with extra soldiers and police reportedly deployed to help combat growing law and order concerns in the region, according to AAP.
Oil Search said the state of emergency in the province was announced following allegations of mismanagement and corruption by the current provincial government.
The company operates the lucrative Kutubu oil field and Hides gas field in the Southern Highlands region as well as its Moran, Gobe and SE Mananda assets.
Last month, outspoken Southern Highlands Governor Hami Yawari issued vague threats against Oil Search after he was referred to the PNG’s Ombudsman Commission for misusing public funds and failing to accurately disclose personal income details.
Yawari was subsequently referred to the public prosecutor in PNG, which also prompted threats from Southern Highlands landowner groups to cease all negotiations regarding the $A4 billion PNG-Queensland pipeline project.
“Southern Highlands is a very important province, don’t come and disturb me, it might disturb the gas project,” Yawari was reported to have said at the time.
Oil Search said the PNG Government was in the process of appointing government administrators to “restore good governance and services to the province”.
“Any improvement in the level of service provision and law and order within the Southern Highlands can only be seen as positive for our staff and the people in both the local community around our operations, and the province as a whole,” managing director Peter Botten said.
“We anticipate that the company will continue to operate normally during the state of emergency.”
Shares in Oil Search closed off 11c (2.7%) on Tuesday to $A4.01.