Subject: Lusa: Tax bill 'just beginning' of Dili 'control' over oil, gas - Alkatiri


East Timor: Tax bill 'just beginning' of Dili 'control' over oil, gas - Alkatiri

Dili, May 26 (Lusa) - East Timor's parliament approved two fiscal bills covering oil and gas exploration in the Timor Sea Monday, a move Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said marked "the beginning" of Dili's "control over our natural resources".

"The legislation is pragmatic", Alkatiri told the lawmakers before the vote. "It will allow us to receive quite early high and lasting oil revenues, which will be managed in a transparent and efficient manner for the good of this and future generations".

He estimated that Dili would receive some USD 3 billion in royalties and taxes if future sales of oil and natural gas from offshore fields under development "proceed as planned".

Alkatiri described the two fiscal bills as "just the beginning", saying the final objective would only be achieved when "permanent maritime borders are agreed" with Australia.

He warned Canberra that Dili would delay ratification of the temporary understanding for shared exploration of the rich Sunrise field until Australia accepted negotiations over maritime borders.

Dili had learned this hardball "lesson" from Canberra, Alkatiri said, recalling that Australia had delayed ratification of the bilateral Timor Sea Treaty until Dili negotiated the recent accord on the Sunrise bloc.

"My government will not rest until we obtain our territorial integrity - until we have permanent frontiers", the prime minister said. "Just as we fought to protect our right to our land, we must fight to preserve our right to our sea".

Under the treaty and Sunrise understanding, Australia gets 10 percent of revenues from the shared overlap zones against 90 percent for East Timor.

But Dili insists that if international law was applied practically all the jointly administered zone would belong to East Timor.


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