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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PetroVietnam, Total paid govt $26m in Jan

PetroVietnam, Total paid govt $26m in Jan

Oil and gas revenues mark huge increase on previous month

THE Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, better known as PetroVietnam, and French energy firm Total together gave the Cambodian government US$26 million in signature bonuses and social funds in January, an energy official confirmed Tuesday.

Declining to be named, the official from the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) told the Post that PetroVietnam had paid money to the government following the signing of an exploration deal for onshore Block 15. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed the deal with PetroVietnam officials on November 12 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Phnom Penh, according to press reports.

Block 15 is located north of the southeastern edge of Tonle Sap lake and mostly covers areas of Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.

The CNPA official was unable to break down the total amount given by each company, but the revenues marked a huge rise on the $800,000 the government received in December, according to a presentation by Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary General Hang Chuon Naron, who spoke at the Cambodia Outlook Conference in the capital March 17.

The payment by Total related to the 2,430 square-kilometre Area III, the official said, an offshore block in an overlapping zone with Thailand that was supposed to have been agreed on in mid-2009, but has been subject to unspecified delays.

Area III lies within a disputed 27,000 square-kilometre area that cannot be explored until Phnom Penh and Bangkok agree on a production-sharing deal.

Last year Total officials told the Post that the firm would also sign with the government a 10-year conditional agreement for onshore Block 26, which covers a huge area of 22,050 square kilometres that extends southeast, from the capital to the Vietnamese border.

It remains unclear why Total made a signature payment to the government in January while deals for Block 26 and Area III are “still under discussion”, Jean-Paul Precigout, the main negotiator for Total in this case, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

Precigout did not respond on Tuesday to further questions on the issue.

According to Hang Chuon Naron’s presentation last week, the $20 million in combined revenues from the two companies related to signature bonus payments, while the remaining $6 million were for social funds, according to a disclosure cited as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard for openness within the energy industry.

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