Friday, 11 April 2008

Forest Council Finds Holes in Law

Source: The Jakarta Post - April 1, 2008 By Adianto P. Simamora , Jakarta

Forest Council Finds Holes in Law

The National Forest Council has recommended the government postpone legalizing a controversial regulation that would allow more companies to operate in protected forests.

Many articles of the regulation do not match repeated public statements made by the government, including on the issue of new licenses for open-pit mining in protected forests, the council said.

"There are no explicit articles stipulating only 13 mining companies would be permitted (to operate in protected forests)," the council said in its recommendations, made available Monday to The Jakarta Post."The government must review the 2008 regulation by considering the latest developments and mining systems in the field. The academic review should involve more parties to provide a balanced perspective of the economic, environmental and social aspects of forest use.

"So far, no parties outside the government know what processes have been used to formulate the regulation, the statement said.These recommendations were sent Friday to the Forestry Ministry, Finance Ministry, Mineral and Natural Resources Ministry and the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy.The council -- comprising government and business experts and forest activists -- was set up in 2006 to offer input on policies relating to forests.

None of the members of the council, however, were included in the formulation of the new regulation, National Forest Council chairman Hariadi Kartodihardjo said.The government issued a regulation on forest fees early this year, a month after Indonesia hosted a major UN conference on climate change, which, among other things, mandated forest protection to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Controversies over the tariff system for forest use have mounted, with claims that the regulation would allow open-pit mining companies to dig in protected forests while paying only Rp 3 million (US$326) per hectare per year.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Forestry Minister MS Ka'ban have given repeated public assurances that no new licenses would be issued to mining companies to operate in protected forests.

"There are differences in the opinions of the Forestry Ministry and the Mineral and Natural Resources Ministry. The latter says more mining firms could use the regulation to operate in protected forests," Hariadi said. "The government needs to make a general review of its mining policy, especially in forests."The regulation also fails to explain where the money raised from the forest fees would go, the council said.

Ka'ban had said earlier the revenue would be used to restore the country's ailing forests.

By law, all of Indonesia's protected forests should be free from exploitation and exploration activities for commercial purposes, but 13 companies gained an exception in 2004 following a much-publicized dispute.

The companies include PT Aneka Tambang (Antam), PT Inco, PT Freeport McMoran Indonesia, PT Nusa Halmahera, PT Nataran Mining, PT Indominco Mandiri. The Forestry Ministry said it was expecting to gain revenue of around Rp 600 billion a year from the new regulation. Activists from Greenomics Indonesia said potential revenue from the tariff system was only Rp 2.78 trillion per annum, far short of evaluated potential losses of Rp 70 trillion per annum