Sunday, 4 November 2007

Indonesia: Illegal logging fight continues

Indonesia: Illegal logging fight continues

Source: Copyright 2007, Jakarta PostDate: November 4, 2007

Byline: Ridwan Max Sijabat Riau's police chief said Thursday a number of companies supplying raw timber for pulp and paper production in the province had obtained the timber illegally.

"So far, the investigation into 142 of a total of 189 cases of alleged illegal logging (has been completed) and (information) has been handed to the local prosecutors' office ... prior to it being submitted to court," Riau's police chief Brig. Gen. Sutjiptadi said. The police chief was speaking at a meeting with team members from the House of Representatives' forest, plantation and agriculture commission Thursday night.

"The remaining cases are being examined, then we'll go ahead with the next target of netting illegal logging financiers." Sutjiptadi's team said it had used the 1999 and 2004 environment and forestry laws to step-up various investigations into illegal logging cases in Riau and that illegal timber suppliers had committed up to three serious violations. He said these suppliers had manipulated forest concessions, looted timber from protected forests and had failed to reforest their industrial forests.

"Many companies have obtained licenses from local authorities to slash trees in protected rainforests ... so we have detained the local officials and named them suspects," Sutjiptadi said. "Other cases involve license owners who abused their licenses and slashed trees in forests which, according to the environment and forestry laws, are no longer allowed to be harvested," he said. Sutjiptadi said those excluded companies which had supplied logs stolen from protected forests and national parks.

He said illegal timber was believed to be smuggled to China, Japan, India and Europe through Malaysia and Singapore. "I'm seeking approval from the National Police chief to carry out a thorough investigation into illegal logging (so the) public (can see we are) serious (about) enforcing the law and salvaging the shrinking forests," he said.

The police had confiscated thousands of cubic meters of illegally logged timber from the mills. PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (IKPP) and PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) said Wednesday they had not supplied illegally logged timber from partner companies or conservation forests. Both companies said they wanted law enforcers to immediately process the logging cases to avoid further disruption to their operations.

The companies said they had supplied bridging and mixed wood from communal forests to meet an increased demand for raw materials. But they said the bulk of this timber had been taken from their industrial accasia forests. IKPP and RAPP said their operations were under threat following the confiscation of timber in January. Sutjiptadi said illegal logging activities had been blamed for annual flooding in the province as well as forest fires.

He said illegal logging had also been blamed for any rare animals losing their forest homes in national parks. The House team had spoken with relevant local authorities, activists, farmer groups and local forest businesspeople to gather information on illegal logging practices. "This information will be discussed in a joint working committee in the House, to give recommendations to the government on what measures should be taken for sustainable forest exploration in the province," said team member Ganjar Pranowo.

Environmental forum (Walhi) data showed Riau's virgin forests had shrunk to 420,500 hectares in 2007, after more than nine million hectares was converted into industrial forests, palm oil plantations and farming land. Walhi said in addition many protected forests and national parks had been regularly looted since 1986.