Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Please clarify, says forest council

Please clarify, says forest council

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 03/11/2008 1:39 AM

The national forestry body is asking the government to clarify the operation of mining companies in protected forests, following a new regulation imposing fees on forest exploitation. The National Forestry Council (DKN) said Monday it would be seeking an explanation from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in the near future.

"We need to consult with the ministry to clarify several issues with the controversial regulation and with its decision to allow more mining companies to operate in productive and protected forests, in addition to the 13 companies that secured permits under the 2004 presidential decree," said DKN chairman Hariadi Kartodiharjo.

"The critical issue with government regulation No. 2/2008 is not just the compensation companies have to pay if they want to operate in protected forests. It is more about the licenses," he said.

The DKN, established in 2006, is tasked with supervising forestry policies. As a link between the government, the business community and the public, the council must provide businesses with forestry information, such as how to channel forestry fees. The council consists of scholars, government officials, NGOs and businesspeople.

Environmentalists have called on the government to annul the controversial regulation, saying it gives greater access to companies to destroy forests.

The government initially said it would grant no licenses other than those for the original 13 mining companies, but the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry later said any mining investors would be allowed to apply to operate in productive and protected forests as long as they paid the required compensation.

"The regulation does not specifically allow forest exploitation, but it does have many possible implications. This is what we need to clarify," Hariadi said.

He said local administrations had issued many permits for mining companies without the central government's knowledge.

"NGOs have found many cases in regional areas. It is uncontrollable, but the central government does not pay attention to what happens in the regions," he said.

Siti Maemunah from the Network for Mining Advocacy (Jatam) said local authorities in Kendari, South Sulawesi, had granted 112 permits to mining companies, most of which were issued after regional autonomy became operational.

"Neither the local authorities nor the central government are concerned about the environment's capacity to survive exploitation. They only care about the benefits," she said.
Siti said revoking the 2008 regulation would not be enough.

"The government should conduct a thorough review of the country's mining sector, which is already a total mess because of poor management," she said.