The Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL) and the Government do not require Custom Owner Consents to proceed with the present runway upgrades.

The clarification was made by AVL Chairman, Bakoa Kaltongga yesterday.

The custom owners had written to the previous management and board as well as the Shareholders of AVL on numerous occasions since 2014 requesting settlement of a premium Vt 12,480,000 for the transfer of the Lease Title No. 12/063/014 from Government to AVL.

AVL would like clarify Bauerfield Airport sits on three leases Titles 12/0631/014, 12/06234/005 and 11/0K31/001.

Whilst the latter lease covers the major part of the airport and is an Urban Land Lease, the first two are Class E Special Leases giving AVL the right to use, erect, replace and maintain any infrastructure related to airports and aerodrome activities and runway upgrades fall within the extent of the special lease conditions, hence, AVL believes no consent is needed for present upgrades to be undertaken by CCECC and World Bank had been previously assured there would be no safeguards issues during preliminary discussions.

“With respect to outstanding land rents mentioned in their press release, AVL has paid in advance an amount of Vt7,075,840 for 2017 and 2018 and therefore would like to state there are no outstanding land rents owing to the Lessors,” the AVL Chairman conveyed.

“With respect to outstanding premiums as per their statements, AVL confirms its records indicate when Government transferred both leases to AVL, the premiums for the said leases would have already been settled in 1989 and AVL was never legally obliged to pay a premium the second time.”

The custom owners in their previous notices to the Board demanded payment from AVL of an amount of Vt12,480,000 which would appear to be part of the transfer fee paid to the original declared sole custom owner, the late Aloan Chichirua in 2011.

They said owners’ demands are based on rectification in 2014 by Ministry of Lands for the same two leases to include the three new perpetual custom owners being Sope Family (Imere), Kalsakau Family and Chief Nunu Naperikmala as per a later court determination and they would therefore be entitled to a similar payment.

AVL accordingly is not obliged to make a repeat payment of the said transfer fee for Title 12/0631/014 as it is indemnified by a Deed of Release signed between Government and Late Aloan Chichirua in 2011 as the said claim was part of the VT 31,771,000 paid out for both Lease Titles 12/0631/014 and 12/06234/005. The Deed clearly stipulated that payments made were for full settlement of Premiums and any outstanding Land Rents due at that time.

The Chairman wishes to reiterate, the board nor its management would be unable to commit to making any extraordinary and unjustified payment legally, particularly as a State Owned Enterprise.

The Chairman of AVL stated that he is misled by the timing of a statement of this nature by the said parties, especially when AVL is on the verge of undertaking a very critical runway project for Vanuatu.

He further encourages the custom owners to be patient as they stand to gain from these extensive developments including the extra land being purchased by the Government of Vanuatu for airports development.

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