Former Prime Minister and Member for Ialibu-Pangia, Peter O’Neill made this call after the prices of fuel rose in recent days. He said people in island communities rely on outboard motor fuel, Zoom, to travel further afield to fish to feed their families and earn a living.
On Karkar Island where fishing is the main source of protein, Zoom is now prohibitively expensive at over K6 per litre.
The high price means only fishing grounds close to shore are fished and the normal outer reef fishing has slowed significantly or stopped.
O’Neill says this is leading to genuine food shortages. He is calling on the Government to address this issue urgently before starvation sets in for islanders.
The burden on our mothers and forests is also increasing across the country with firewood increasingly being used as fuel for cooking due to the very high cost of kerosene.
“What are our mothers to do except collect firewood if the price of kerosene is out of their reach?” said O’Neill.
“And this is an issue not just for rural areas but in settlements around our country people are also turning to any means including petty crime to make ends meet to pay for fuel.”
O’’Neill went on to say that the agriculture and transport sectors need relief on the cost of diesel. Failing to do so is increasing the cost of everyday items such as rice, sugar, flour, PMV rides and other essentials.
“One example of the impact is an agriculture company in the Markham Valley, who employs over 4000 permanent staff and an additional 1000 seasonal workers, is faced with a rising fuel bill that is increasing operational costs by multi-millions of Kina.
Of course businesses like this will potentially lay off workers and increase the price of their products,” said the Member for Ialibu-Pangia.
He appealed to PM Marape and the Treasurer to put in place a subsidy for kerosene; zoom and the agriculture and transport sectors.
“I am confident our fuel companies will pass on savings to the customer,” said O’Neill.
“Longer term we need to hasten our transition to fuel and energy self-reliance; create a fuel reserve system and increase renewables into the mix of which our country has an abundance,” O’Neill said.