Presidential order vs. forest conversion moratorium

Source: The Jakarta Post

June 20, 2011

By Muhammad Teguh Surya

Many questions entered my mind when the plan to impose a moratorium on forest conversions was delayed for five months, beginning in January 2011.

I optimistically thought at the time that the President and his staff were pondering appropriate measures to rescue the remaining natural forest in the country.

This hope completely evaporated when Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No.10/2011 on the postponement of new license issuance and the improvement of primary forest and peat land management was announced on May 20.

It turned out the delay was not due to any substantive reason regarding the rescue of Indonesia’s natural forests, but rather a maneuver to accommodate the interests of mining companies, oil palm estates, forest concessionaires and timber estates. In principle, the new instruction enables deforestation.

This is evident because the Inpres only governs the deferment of the issuance of new licenses and concerns only primary forests, which even without the regulation are subject to protection.

In other words, the President is allowing entrepreneurs to go on plundering forests that are not primary forests or peat land.

Additional studies have found primary forests and peat land can still be converted by the timber industry, mining operations and estates, owing to a stipulation regulating exceptions.

In a period of five months, the Forestry Ministry issued a number of preparatory permits so that when the Inpres was signed the relevant companies could enjoy liberties to continue deforestation.

What happened in Central Kalimantan as a pilot province for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) proves this.

The Forestry Ministry issued the following preparatory permits for mining, oil palm estates and other forestry companies: 1) Letters of approval for the use of forest zones from the Director General of Forest Planning to eight companies from June – December 2010 covering 107,083 hectares and one company in March 2011 covering 4,336 ha. 2) Letters of principle approval for loaned use of forest zones from the Forestry Ministry to three companies from June – December 2010 covering 2,204 ha and six companies from January – April 2011 covering 4,559 ha. 3) Decrees on loaned use of forest zones from the Forestry Ministry to two companies from June – October 2010 covering 2,011 ha.

The data indicates a very strong connection between the delayed moratorium and the Inpres, which is only focused on primary forests with the stipulation of exceptions. It should be stated that the Forestry Ministry plays a very good role in protecting corporate interests instead of Indonesian forests.

The formulation of the Inpres has cost taxpayers more than US$4 million, the largest budget for a policy drafting in the country’s 66-year history, despite its low quality.

Lamenting the policy is no use though. Therefore, it’s important for us to keep demanding the
speedy rescue of our forests, certainly by strictly implementing the moratorium on forest conversion for the sake of people’s welfare and security.

The moratorium should be implemented in the following ways. First, there will be no more new licenses issued to convert primary forests and peat land and a strategy to fulfill future timber demand will be drawn up.

The existing licenses are to be audited by independent third parties. Audit results are to be used
to annul questionable licenses, particularly those issued not in line with the law.

Second, the most endangered forests will be saved by registering forest areas through re-zoning and recalculating as well as estimating public timber needs at least for the next few years.

Movements to curb timber consumption in society should be encouraged, besides revitalizing the local community’s role in forest resources management and preparing the transfer of critical forest zones to local communities.

Third, social issues need solutions. Today, tree felling is only allowed on replanted forest estates or those that fall under community management, which are separately regulated and subjected to strict control.

Later, an incentive policy should be introduced for the development of downstream industries to produce valuable commodities as part of efforts to create jobs and generate added value.

The other aspect to be handed by the government in the moratorium process is the formulation of a policy concerning conflict resolution protocols as a future guide to the settlement of conflicts in the forestry sector.

In the course of the moratorium, the timber industry can continue operating by using raw materials from the existing timber estates or, if they are not yet sufficient, timber materials can be imported from other countries, because the use of materials from natural sources at home equally eliminates the benefit of the moratorium itself. To facilitate control, the types of wood imported should be different from those found in Indonesia.

The writer is head of the international relations and climate justice department at the Indonesian Environment Forum.


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