The Contractor Company TOA Corporation Tokyo Japan, which is constructing the Port Vila Lapetasi International Multi-Purpose Wharf, has been accused by the Custom Landowners, the Matarau Tefeke (Ifira), of both breaching the Quarry Permit Act No. 9 of 2013 and taking royalties and aggregates from the seabed that Toa is now dredging.
As per the VPMU website that deals with the Lapetasi Wharf Project: http//vpmu.gov.vu/index.php/projects/lapetasi; it states, “In executing the services, the Consultant will follow the relevant regulations, guidelines and procedures of the GOV and the Japan International Cooperation agency”.
In accordance with the Vanuatu Project Management United (VPMU) Newsletter issued in February 2017, TOA Corporation was planning to dredge 85,000 cubic metres of the seabed in the Lapetasi wharf area.
Spokesperson for the Matarau Tefeke (Ifira) Mr. Barak Sope stated since the dredging in the areas had commenced the previous week, the Custom Landowners had not signed any agreement with the Director of Geology and Mines to issue a Quarry Permit for the dredging to be carried out by TOA Corporation.
“This amounts to a total disregard for Vanuatu Laws and ‘stealing’ of the royalties and aggregates of the seabed belonging to the rightful custom land owners,” he alleged via a statement.
The custom landowners claim that on November 30, 2016 a letter was sent to Mr. Johnson Wabaiat, the Programme Director of the VPMU, regarding the dredging permit however no response was received.
“Since the Government and TOA Corporation have ignored the Quarry Act and the right of the custom landowners, they will be compiling two reports.
“The first one will be against TOA Corporation for ‘stealing’ seabed royalties and aggregates from the Custom Landowners," Sope alleged.
"This report will be submitted to both the Police and the Public Prosecutor for possible criminal offences and demanding prosecution of the TOA Corporation Management.
“The second report will be submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman for possible breaches of the Leadership Code.
“Various Ministries and Ministers are directly connected to the Lapetasi international Multi-Purpose Wharf Development Project and as such the report will target and name senior civil servants in these ministries.”
But the VPMU pointed out Toa is not in Vanuatu to ‘steal’ as they are here on contract to carry out a government project and all government regulations and laws are being complied with.
“The Lapetasi Project is a government project contracted to Toa Corporation,” the VPMU stated.
“Toa are working very closely with all relevant authorities of government to realise the project.
"In addition the government works closely with interested landholding parties to ensure the project is completed and handover on schedule.
“It should be made clear that under relevant laws, quarry materials under seabed, which is below six metres belong to the state under the Mines and Minerals Act."
In relation to the quarry permit, the Ifira Ports Development Services (IPDS) should seek an extension to the quarry permit which was last issued in 2012 but because of the delay in the start of the project, quarry or dredging has only now commenced.
The VPMU says it is aware that Mr. Sope and his clan have written to VPMU or government concerning the Vanuatu Inter Island Shipping Support Project (VISSP), but not the Lapetasi project.