Saturday, 29 March 2008

Charity Transparency and Accountability

Living in the USA? Want to know more about a charity you support?

This web site is very easy to navigate and will provide you with a lot of interesting information.

When looking at any charity I never, ever, look at the money
spent on fundraising, campaigns etc.
Why? Because any good
accountant can, without doing anything illegal, make such figures
appear favourable and charts/graphs look reasonable.

Far more interesting are things like, how much do the Directors pay themselves? How much money does a charity have sitting in its bank accounts? And in the case of wildlife charities, how many animals, forests etc have they REALLY saved in the last year? Because these charities exist only to save animals, habitat etc. and if they are not doing this, then why should they receive your money?

Caution: You will find some charities do pay their senior staff very well and they appear to save very little.

Finally, bear in mind when you see how much some of these groups have sitting in their bank accounts (and many groups also have overseas offices with their own money), they are still asking for more money whilst orangutans, tigers etc are facing extinction.

The Indonesian Nature Conservation Newsletter

If you would like to be kept up to date once a week on matters concerning all Indonesian wildlife and environmental news, I can highly recommend the following free newsletter. To receive it you just need to send a PLEASE SUBSCRIBE ME email to one of the email addresses below.

The Indonesian Nature Conservation newsletter (INCL) is a non-profit internet e-mail list for announcements and news about topics related to nature conservation in Indonesia. Messages appear in digest format and are sent out once a week in both English and bahasa Indonesia, text or HMTL format (English and bahasa Indonesia editions differ and are not just translations).

English version of INCL was first published as the initiation of Ed-Colijn on 1998. Then it improved on 1999 with assistance provided by Muhamad Muchtar. In the middle of year 2000, INCL in Indonesian version was published. Since 2005 INCL has started using googlegroups mailing list until now.

We like to stress that the inclusion of press clipping and information in INCL does not mean that included reports have been verified. If we come across a questionable report we try to verify its contents but not all reports have been or will be checked. Please read with skepticism, read critically and use your own judgment. The copyright of press clippings is held by the sources that are listed in each report.

We would appreciate it if you acknowledge the Indonesian Nature Conservation newsletter (INCL) in case you re-distribute any (parts) of the INCL reports.

To subscribe, please send email to the INCL team at: (English version) or Indonesian edition).
INCL Team:
Evi Indraswati Widia Lastiana Email:

Friday, 28 March 2008

RI reaps $100m in grants for forest protection

When you read this you might want to reflect for a moment on:

- if you live outside Indonesia there is every chance that some of your taxes have gone towards

Minister Kaban personally intervened in a court case recently, sending a letter to the judges in which he defended Indonesia's most notorious illegal logger. Despite about 80 witnesses for the prosecution, the logger was cleared of all charges and has since disappeared with police looking to now charge him for money laundering etc. At least one, possibly three of the four judges, has since been promoted.

This same Minister more recently began selling licences to coal mining companies who will now be permitted to work in protected forests.....despite what is said below. And now the international community is giving this person US$100 million to manage.

This is the very same Minister who totallly igores Indonesia's committment to the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes which gives (or at least it is meant to) give protection to orangutaans and their habitat. Which makes anything he says below extremely hard, if not impossible for me to believe.

Friday, March 28, 2008 12:42 PM

RI reaps $100m in grants for forest protection

Desy Nurhayati and Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 03/28/2008 11:27 AM National

The government has reaped US$100 million cash in grants from the international community to implement forest protection projects in Indonesia in an effort to sink below producing a million tons of carbon emissions per year.

Forestry minister MS Ka'ban said his ministry would issue a regulation to secure the implementation of Reduction Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects.
"Just wait a few weeks and we will announce a regulation on REDD projects," he said after the opening of a national working meeting on forestry at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Thursday.

Ka'ban said the money would be distributed to regions eligible to perform pilot activities for REDD projects.

He did not specify names of areas that would host the projects, although he included as possibilities Papua, Aceh, Kalimantan and Maluku provinces.

REDD projects represent one of many measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions adopted during the UN climate change conference in Bali last December.

"We expect to have eight or nine REDD pilot projects this year," Ka'ban said.
He said his ministry would examine existing damages to forests to determine their eligibility for project funding.

A study by the government showed that with the price of carbon at about $10 per ton, the REDD would generate up to $2 million annually through carbon trading.

Indonesia is home to 120 million hectares of rainforest, the third largest area in a country after Brazil and Congo.

Green activists have criticized forest carbon trading, lamenting a newly-issued government regulation allowing open-pit mining in protected forests, saying it went against the government's promise to protect the forests.

Ka'ban, however, said the government would continue to implement the regulation, which demands payment for forest use.

"Nothing is wrong with the regulation. We will not issue new licenses for miners to operate in protected forests. It is only for 13 mining companies," he said.

The regulation, in effect since Feb. 8, stipulates non-forestry firms operating in protected forests must pay between Rp 1.2 and Rp 3 million per hectare per year, with open-pit miners having to pay the maximum fee.

Ka'ban also said forest crimes had sharply decreased in the past two years due to intensive monitoring.

"There were only 325 forest crimes in 2007, down from 769 cases in the previous year," he said.

He said the ministry had recorded illegal logging and illegal trading in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, this year.

"Currently, there is no more illegal logging in Riau," he said.

Surfing and crashing in the Indonesian oil palm boom

Friday, March 28, 2008 12:35 PM
John McCarthy, Canberra Fri, 03/28/2008 1:38 AM Opinion. Jakarta Post

Surfing and crashing in the Indonesian oil palm boom

As boom towns flicker to life across rural Indonesia, the relentless pursuit of oil palm wealth poses social and environmental problems for Indonesian policy makers.

In India the rural poor ration every last drop of cooking oil. In Malaysia and Northern Australia factories built to convert vegetable oil to biofuel sit idle. Food riots have erupted in Guinea, Mexico and Uzbekistan, all linked to the price of vegetable oil and other basic foodstuffs. But it is perhaps in Indonesia where the commodity boom in vegetable oils is affecting rural communities most of all.

In the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, government officials and plantation companies are racing to convert every available corner of the lowlands into oil palm. Here oil palm companies are carving out large spaces between neat rectangular blocks of existing oil palm plantations.

With a new policy allocating 6.5 million hectares of land to investors interested in planting new crops to boast bio-fuel production, Indonesia is expecting to triple the area under oil palm to 20 million hectares. The reason is obvious: The price of crude palm oil has increased 88 percent from US$570 per metric ton at the beginning of 2007 to over $1,440 in early March 2008.

Oil palm fever is endemic to Sumatra and Kalimantan. The logic is clear. A two hectare smallholding of oil palm can produce fresh fruit bunches now worth Rp 5 million per harvest. As the oil palm tree is harvested every two weeks, this is around Rp 10 million a month. Some small time farmers earn this income -- considerably more than the salary of a university professor.

During the 1990s, Soeharto's government brought in poor migrants from Java, granting them small plots of oil palm in the forested frontiers of Kalimantan and Sumatra. Many of these migrants are now surfing the boom, earning enough to purchase a car, a motorbike, buy up new areas to grow oil palm, or make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

In the West Sumatran village of Koto Salak, Afrizal stands in front of his house, showing off oil palm seedlings he just bought. He acquired his first plot of oil palm 10 years ago when a large plantation company was cutting deals with local leaders as it expanded across West Sumatra.
At this time policy makers had recognized that oil palm is really a rich farmer's crop, requiring large investments in quality seedlings, large quantities of fertilizer, and careful husbandry. Under state supported development schemes plantations obtained forest land within village boundaries in exchange for developing small plots for villagers who joined a farmer's cooperative.

Afrizal used his first plot to trade upwards, selling it for a large profit, and then buying a second and a third plot, which he then sold on. Building up his capital along the way, eventually he opened his own acreage. Now he has 300 hectares under various stages of cultivation.

But not all farmers shifted upwards. When the plantations moved into the villages of eastern Jambi, Aris had never planted this crop. While some refused to take up plots of land in the new developments, Aris found that the area of oil palm he was granted was unproductive and that he had a large debt. When land speculators moved in, Aris sold on his plot for a low price.

Now, with the surge in oil palm prices, villagers are enthusiastic about oil palm. With spiraling land prices and large sums of money on offer, poor villagers can be induced to sell off their ancestral land. A family crisis can push a village family into a downward spiral: After they sell their land, they are forced into poorly-paid piece work on other people's oil palm land.

Meanwhile Siregar, a doctor working in a town on the East Coast of Sumatra, described how he had bought a hundred hectares to grow oil palm. "The village head helped me buy the land from villagers four years ago", he said. As the oil palm trees come into production, he plans to send his children overseas for their education. In this way the oil palm is generating a new rich -- and a new poor.

In the face of this oil palm boom, plantation expansion continues apace. With many villagers hoping to gain a foothold in the booming palm oil economy, oil palm companies readily find village partners willing to grant areas of customary land in exchange for productive oil palm smallholdings. But in the absence of a clear regulatory framework, disputes erupt as villagers are often unhappy about levels of compensation, unmet promises and unequal arrangements with the "step parent" plantation.

In West Sumatra, Afrizal expects poor farmers to fall behind. He now employs scores of people in his 300 hectare plantation, including members of his extensive clan.

From the largesse generated from his large holding he has accumulated enough funds and a following to support a campaign for public office. He now sits in the Regional Council. As a member of the assembly's economic commission, he travels to Jakarta to discuss agricultural policy with the ministry.

Meanwhile the boom towns across Sumatra and Kalimantan flicker to life. The city of Jambi has a new five star-hotel, flashy shopping malls and travel agencies. Sungai Rumbai, just a few years ago a sleepy village on the border of West Sumatra, boasts several mobile phone and car dealers and a new supermarket. The houses of the new oil palm kings dominate the village, two story monoliths with giant satellite dishes.

Oil palm is indeed a tree wrapped up in contradictions. On the one hand, who can begrudge the industrious farmers of Sumatra the chance to earn real money -- to school their children, buy a new car, renovate their house or even take the haj to Mecca. Yet the environmental and social consequences of the boom give space for pause. The lure of oil palm profits has many implications.

An official in a provincial forestry office in East Sumatra confides that many district forestry officials now have 100 hectares of oil palm. He unfolds a map and points out the expanding belt of plantations in logged over and degraded forest concessions now rezoned for agriculture.
Safrial, an environmental activist, notes that oil palm can be good for local farmers.

But the problems are many: Oil palm requires huge volumes of fertilizer which end up as chemicals in the water people drink. Few oil palm mills have effective pollution management, and the putrid effluent also finds its way into local rivers where the poor wash and fish.

Converting forest hillsides into oil palm also has consequences: Unlike the deep roots and tangled undergrowth of the forest, the water runs off the oil palm rapidly, flooding the lowlands. At the same time, carbon emissions from forest fires are associated with peat drainage and land clearance by plantation owners.

The writer, a lecturer at the Australian National University, is managing a research project on oil palm in Indonesia. His research involves a focus on both Sumatra and West Kalimantan in 2008, and he can be contacted at john.mccarthy*

Greenpeace hails Papua log export ban

Friday, March 28, 2008 12:34 PM

Greenpeace hails Papua log export ban

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Fri, 03/28/2008 11:27 AM The Archipelago

The international environmental activist group Greenpeace called for Jakarta to strongly support the maintenance of Papua's log export ban despite recent logging industry pressure to loosen the regulation.

The log export ban, a joint initiative of the governors of Papua and West Papua, has been in place since Dec. 19, 2007. Under the ban, which has received strong support from Papuan people concerned about losing their forests, logs from Papua can only be used inside Papua.

However, at a March 17 meeting between governor Barnabas Suebu and 40 forestry investor representatives in Jayapura, the investors asked the governor to loosen the regulation, a call backed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

The central government should uphold the commitment it showed at the Bali Climate Talks to protect Indonesian forests, Greenpeace said in a press release issued Thursday.

Globally, tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter largely due to deforestation. If Indonesia's government is serious about saving its forests and tackling climate change, it should fully support the Papua log export ban.

"The Papuan government is one of the few local governments to have taken a strong stand to save its forests and to increase the welfare of the people who depend on them," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner.

"The central government should support the regulation to keep Papua's forests breathing as one of the world's lungs. The deforestation rate in Papua should be decreased gradually down to zero in a well-planned program with consideration for Papuan people's welfare," he said.

According to Bustar, Papua, forming the western half of New Guinea Island and comprising the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, is one of the world's last remaining treasure troves of biodiversity.

New Guinea itself has been described as the last remaining intact forest tract left in the Asia-Pacific region. Papua's forests are Indonesia's last jewel, since other forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan have largely been destroyed by logging and large-scale forest conversion for palm oil plantation.

Allowing deforestation to escalate in Papua to the same level would not only be an environmental crime but also a crime against the people of Papua whose lives depend on keeping the forests intact, said Bustar.

Before the log export ban, logs from Papua's forests were shipped off the island in recent years with no benefit to local government and the community.

In April 2007, the governors of Papua, West Papua and Aceh in Sumatra, declared their joint commitment to save the forests, giving cause for optimism that Papua would not repeat the failed forest management of Sumatra and Kalimantan. The declaration was positively received at both national and international levels.

"The time for action is now, the expansion of clearing in the remaining intact forests must be stopped. Papua's forests must be protected and community-based sustainable forest use encouraged," Bustar said.

No unprocessed logs to come out of Papua: Official

Thursday, March 27, 2008 10:25 PM
Jakarta Post Nethy Dharma Somba

No unprocessed logs to come out of Papua: Official

The Papuan government insists it has no plans to revise the new decree on sustainable forest management and that no unprocessed logs will come out of Papua and West Papua.

Vice Governor Alex Hasegem said Wednesday that despite a recent presidential appeal, the joint gubernatorial decree issued by the Papua and West Papua governors on the new forestry management remained effective and the two provinces would not allow the marketing of unprocessed logs.

"The heaps of confiscated illegal logs in forest areas will be discussed with the President to seek a better solution. And the governor has remained firm on our policy of barring unprocessed logs from being marketed to other islands and overseas," he said.

Alex said the new policy was made to accelerate the development of the forestry industry and empower local communities, as the forests in the two provinces belonged to the people.
"With the new policy, all logs are required to be processed locally to create added value for the province's economy and generate jobs for locals," he said.

Celebrating Forestry Day in Jakarta on March 17, 2008, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and forestry businessmen appealed to the two provinces' authorities to allow the wood of certain trees to reach the plywood industry in Java.

During the celebration, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu invited national investors to build processing plants in Papua and West Papua.

In the past, hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of logs were believed to have been stolen every month from the provinces, allegedly smuggled to Singapore and Malaysia with the help of local security authorities. Several local police and military officers have been jailed for their involvement in illegal logging and smuggling.

Alex said the provincial government was still discussing the presidential appeal with West Papua and its results would be discussed with the President.

"But despite the appeal, the policy will not be revised. And it is made not to kill the wood industry outside Papua but to require all forestry companies to buy logs from the people, with the logs processed by locals and exported with higher prices," he said.

He added the acceleration of the industry was also aimed at supporting the local government's initiative of using local wood as raw materials instead of expensive cements, steel and stones in the development of public infrastructure such as bridges, school buildings, churches and mosques.

He said the export of unprocessed logs had betrayed the Papuan people, leaving them in poverty and robbing their government of due revenue.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Cruel, cruel, cruel..............

14th March 2008. Caged in a mini zoo,
Central Java, Indonesia.

This orangutan is kept short of food by
the zoo owner to encourage it to beg for
food (sweets etc) from visitors.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Live and Let Die

Appeared in the Jakarta Post, 18th March 2008


Dear Sir,

In December 2007 a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forestry told the Jakarta Post that since the 1970’s about 3000 orangutans had been killed every year.

Government departments when dealing with issues like this are notoriously economical with the truth, so it’s fair to say their estimate is likely to be on the low side. That’s about 100,000 orangutans and countless millions of other animals and birds sacrificed in the name of progress, or to be more precise – to make a few people very, very rich.

This begs the question: just when will President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
exert some real authority and bring a stop to this carnage? With only about 60,000 orangutans left, there’s no more time left for talk or new reports to be filed away along with numerous others collecting dust on government shelves. Action is needed, and now.

A good start would be for the government itself to immediately stop selling licences to palm oil companies permitting them to cut down rainforests and in doing so, kill orangutans – a legally protected species. Mr President the world is watching you. Do you really want to be remembered as the President who could have taken action to stop orangutans, Indonesia’s most famous and revered species, from becoming extinct, but who chose not to?

Is it also not about time your government began to enforce the Kinshasha Declaration for Great Apes, an agreement you entered into in 2005 but have so far totally ignored?
If you cannot be trusted to implement that Agreement, why should anyone trust anything you said in Bali last December?

Yours sincerely.

Sean Whyte
Chief Executive

South Aceh Police Arrest Five Illegal Logging Suspects

South Aceh Police Arrest Five Illegal Logging Suspects

Source: Antara News - March 19, 2008 Tapaktuan, S Aceh Sumatra

South Aceh police arrested five people suspected of having engaged in illegal logging in Samadua sub district on Wednesday.

"Police and forest rangers arrested the suspects and seized a quantity of logs and chainsaws from them," South Aceh Police Chief Adj Sr Comm Cahyo Budisiswanto said.

The five men were arrested as they were unable to show the required permit to fell forest trees, Budisiswanto said.

The suspects, all residents of Samadua sub district, were identified as Yns (37), Ftd (34), Mrl (35), ML (35) dan Zkl (28), he said.Budisiswanto thanked members of the local community who had tipped off the police about the five men`s illegal logging activity.

Police On Course to Tackle Wildlife Crime

Police On Course to Tackle Wildlife Crime

TRAFFIC - March 20, 2008 Cambridge, UK

Indonesian National Police (INP) have undertaken special training in how to detect and arrest the organized criminal syndicates looting Indonesia’s forests.

Police officers joined Forestry and Customs officers on intensive Wildlife Crime Investigation and Wildlife Trade Regulation Courses to learn about topics including surveillance, criminal profiling and interviewing suspects, effective raid and arrest procedures, wildlife smuggling routes, and regulations relating to wildlife trade.

“Indonesia’s biodiversity and natural resources are under serious threat from wildlife smugglers and illegal loggers.“We are heartened by the receptiveness of the Indonesian enforcement authorities to the training courses, as part their effort to combat illegal wildlife crime under ASEAN-WEN” commented Azrina Abdullah, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

Second only to Brazil in richness of biodiversity, Indonesia is a global hotspot for trade in wild plants and animals, but its forests are under serious threat from illegal and unregulated logging.

The enforcement training programmes were developed by the ASEAN-WEN Support Program, in close consultation with the Indonesian enforcement authorities and supported by US government wildlife law enforcement officers, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and Wildlife Alliance.

Meanwhile this week in Bangkok, Thailand, police officers from 13 ASEAN and non-ASEAN countries and territories took part in a seminar on wildlife crime under the auspices of ASEAN-WEN, as part of a series of training programmes and seminars to increase wildlife law enforcement capacity throughout the region.

ASEAN-WEN is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network, comprising enforcement officers from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. The United States and China are also co-operating with ASEAN-WEN. TRAFFIC and Wildlife Alliance, via a cooperative partnership with USAID, provide technical assistance to government agencies implementing ASEAN-WEN

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Orangutan carnage in Indonesia

Extract from an article published in The Jakarta Post, 11th December 2007

"The Indonesian government has long come under pressure from the international community to protect orangutan species and prevent rampant trafficking of the primates.

To make it worse, forest fires and land clearing have been an added threat to the orangutan population.

The ministry says deforestation has directly and indirectly led to the death of 3,000 orangutans per year since the 1970s."

(Note from Nature Alert) In other words, the government admits to the killing/deaths of 90,000 + orangutans. Knowing the government's tendancy to be economical with the truth,
this figure is likely to be an underestimate.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Indonesia may allow more mining in forest areas

Indonesia may allow more mining in forest areas

JAKARTA, March 14 (Reuters) - Indonesia may relax rules to allow more mining companies to operate in forest areas, a government official said, in a move that will alarm green groups worried about rapid deforestation.

Dozens of mining companies could benefit from a decision to allow firms that previously held exploration permits in forest areas to develop mines, Simon Sembiring, director general of mineral resources at the energy and mines ministry, told Reuters.

The plan would still require a presidential decree and individual firms would also need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, he said late on Thursday.Indonesia's conflicting mining and forestry regulations have resulted in considerable confusion over which areas are protected and which may be opened for exploitation.

The government issued a decree in February, which allows mining firms, including open-pit miners, to pay between 1.8 million rupiah and 2.4 million rupiah ($195-$260) per hectare for forest land used for housing, roads, mine sites and waste dumps.

The decree applies to 13 mining firms that four years ago were allowed to resume mining operations including exploration, development and production in forest areas after proving that their projects were economically viable and had mining reserves.

The 13 firms include Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, which operates the massive Grasberg mine in Indonesia's remote Papua province that has been a frequent source of controversy over its environmental impact.But Sembiring said that other mining companies, which had mining permits before a forestry law was issued in 1999, could also be eligible for similar permits.

Indonesia's forestry law prohibited open-pit mining in protected forest areas. But in 2004, President Megawati Sukarnoputri issued a decree allowing 13 companies to resume mining activities in these areas.

"Many mining companies got permits to mine in the areas a long time ago before the forestry law was issued, so why should they be stopped?" said M. S. Marpaung, director of coal and minerals at the energy and mining ministry.

The government decree allowing mining firms to pay what is regarded as a pittance by some environmentalists to exploit protected forest areas has sparked anger among green groups.

Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, according to Greenpeace, with an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches destroyed every hour.

Last week, Siti Maemunah, an official at the Mining Advocacy Network, a conservation group, said the government should be ashamed of approving the decree and called for it to be revoked. She also noted the decree was issued only weeks after Indonesia hosted a U.N. climate change conference in Bali where curbing deforestation was a top issue. ($1=9,210 Rupiah) (Reporting by Mita Valina Liem, Writing by Fitri Wulandari, editing by Ed Davies and Sanjeev Miglani)

Indonesia's Sampoerna Agro plans palm oil investment

Indonesia's Sampoerna Agro plans palm oil investment

Fri Mar 14, 2008

JAKARTA, March 14 (Reuters) - Indonesian plantation company, PT Sampoerna Agro Tbk SGRO.JK, said on Friday it plans to spend 600 billion rupiah ($65.14 million) to acquire 15,000 hectares (37,070 acres) of plantation for palm oil this year.

Finance Director Eddy Kurniawan said the company planned to use its internal resources to fund the expansion although did not rule out seeking loans from banks.

"The expansion is likely to be in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi, although we have not decided the exact place," Kurniawan said.

Sampoerna Agro is owned by Indonesia's Sampoerna family, who founded the country's largest listed tobacco company, Handaya Mandala Sampoerna Tbk, before selling its stake to Philip Morris.

The company produced 1.18 million tonnes of crude palm oil last year and aims to increase this slightly to 1.2 million tonnes.

He said the company's budget assumed a crude palm oil price of $950 a tonne, far below the current market price of around $1,200 a tonne.

Indonesian plantation companies have gained from a sharp increase in CPO prices in recent years due to demand from both the food and energy sectors.

Indonesia has taken over from Malaysia as the biggest palm oil producer in the world. ($1=9,210 rupiah) (Reporting by Nury Sybli, writing by Harry Suhartono, editing by Ed Davies)

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Indonesian forests for sale

Indonesian forests for sale: How low can we go?

Opinion and Editorial - March 11, 2008 Stevie Emilia, Jakarta

Well-crafted words fail to hide the true meaningbehind the government's latest action that might soonallow more mining companies to operate withinprotected forest areas in return for cashcompensation: our forests are for sale. As if the idea is not bad enough, the "sale" price isgoing to be set very low, up to Rp 3 million (US$326)a year per hectare.

Currently, there are 13 mining companies that operate in protected forests. This special treatment islegitimized by a 2004 government regulation, despitethat the companies' operations are against a forestryregulation that completely bans all mining activities in protected forests.

Protected forests are supposed to be free of all commercial exploitation and exploration activities. However, at this pressing time, the government insists the 13 companies are allowed to continue operations, because they started operations in the forests before the regulation was introduced.

However, the passing of a new decree, announced Feb.29 by Energy and Mineral Resources minister PurnomoYusgiantoro, will surely cause the country's forests to bleed to death. A new presidential decree might soon be introduced allowing other mining companies to apply for similar treatment in return for cash.

The move clearly shows two things; first, the government's poor coordination and second, a lack of good will needed to protect the country's forests.

For one thing, the decree will make the National Rehabilitation Movement (Gerhan) project, launched in 2003 to restore 5 million hectares of forest by 2009, pointless.

The massive reforestation program was aimed at rehabilitating forests damaged by decades of deforestation, illegal mining and forest fires. Deforestation in Indonesia -- claimed to be the world's worst with an area the size of Switzerland being lost every year -- has already lead to the damage of some 59 million hectares of forest out of the country's 120.35 million hectares.

If the decree is issued, allowing more commercial activities to take over what remains of our pristine forest, home to rich biodiversity, including many near-extinct species, it will mark a huge setback of our reforestation program.

For ordinary people, it seems that each related ministry -- the Forestry Ministry, the Environment Ministry and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry-- have their own set of agendas and programs and are unwilling to work together for the sake of the people and the future.

It seems like President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has lost the will to deal with his own aides. He lets them do as they please, unaware that his ministers'wrongdoings will eventually make him suffer the consequences.

This critical year before the presidential election presents a prime time for Yudhoyono to start seriously embracing green issues in his bid to gain more popularity. He should take example from other world leaders, many of whom have embraced environmental issues in their campaigns to gain attention and to win hearts.

Even top celebrities have learned to educate about environmental issues and lend support to greencampaigns. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore might not have been elected as president but his efforts to raise awareness of climate change threats have made him popular across the world and have even earned him a shared Nobel Prize with an UN body also working on the issue, the UNFCCC.

If Al Gore's lectures and his success story fails to charm Yudhoyono, he can at least recall the sufferings experienced by thousands of mudflow victims in Sidoarjo, East Java. Many innocent residents have lost their homes and livelihoods due to the catastrophe that started out when hot mud started gushing out of a gas exploration site, and the mud continues to flow to this very day.

Or perhaps he can look at how bad our management of the environment has been, allowing constant suffering from floods during the rainy season and drought during the dry season.
It is undeniable that, as a developing country home to millions of poor people, we are in desperate need of cash for the sake of development and a better economy, but here are many other ways to raise cash without having to touch the pristine protected forests.

A government promise to conduct a "selection" processinside protected forests before any approval of commercial activities might not help smother the environment alarm. The promise to conduct studies before granting newpermits for the mining companies might have made the regulation sound more "serious", allowing us to believe that the government "will not compromise" on the country's protected forests and environment, but the problem is people have lost their faith in such promises.

The true meaning of the word "study" is not lost on the public. For members of the House of Representatives, "study" may imply an opportunity for travel. For investors, the words "study" and"selection process" might suggest the need to bribe their way in the face of complicated bureaucracy procedures, while for ordinary people those words might simply translate as "nothing will get in ourway".

Besides, it is no secret that many of the projects requiring studies such as the investigation of environmental impact analysis, could start regardless of their outcome. Questions are likely to be raised only when such projects fail, suffer damages or, even worse, claim lives.

The latest survey, jointly conducted by the Indonesia Center for Environment Law and the State Ministry for the Environment, brought to public attention on March 2, confirmed these fears.

The survey found that the government and private firmsboth continued to block public access to information about environment problems. It also cited that many private companies failed to fully accommodate forpublic interest during the processing of the pre-development environmental impact analysis.

Another concern is the number of reports that place the country among the most corrupt in the world while,every day, we are entertained by news showing public officials stashing huge amounts of money for their owninterests.

Under the present situation, with poor coordination among ministries and a lack of commitment to protect the country's environment, how can we trust the government with the fate of our protected forests?

Millions of Indonesians still rely on the forests for their livelihoods and survival. Even renowned guitarist and Grammy winner Carlos Santana has raised doubt over the government's sincerity in protecting the forests with his refusal to perform here for a jazz festival. He simply stated that our countrymen loved to cut down trees.We might be poor and not have much money, but do we have to sell our souls and our dignity?

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia liquidates its forests for a few dollars

Indonesia liquidates its forests for a few dollars

by Mathias Hariyadi

Groups for the defence of the environment denounce the falsity of Jakarta's commitment to combating deforestation.

A recent presidential decree grants protected zones to mining companies for 200 dollars a hectare. Each year, the country loses 1.8 million hectares of forest.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The international commitment of Indonesia - repeated just recently in December, at the climate conference in Bali - to contain deforestation and reduce carbon emissions is not being translated into concrete actions.

On the contrary: the government is liquidating the patrimony of the archipelago's forests to mining companies for a few rupiah. The denunciation comes from a few groups for the protection of the environment. They accuse the recent presidential decree 2/2008, by which Jakarta concedes the exploitation of the forest areas for a ridiculous rental payment of about 200-265 dollars per hectare.

According to the Mining Advocacy Community Network (Jatam), the Yudhoyono administration forgets that, between 2000 and 2005, the rate of deforestation in Indonesia was the highest in the world. 145 million hectares of Indonesian forest area were quickly cleared.

According to a non-governmental report, every day 51 square kilometres of forest are destroyed, for a total of 1.8 million hectares each year. The role of the forests is fundamental for the absorption of carbon. But their destruction provokes a release of carbon that significantly increases emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.

The controversial decree concerns the 13 large mining companies that since 2004 have obtained permission to operate in the forest areas. It is calculated that their activities - concentrated in areas like Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, and Borneo - release between 125 and 251 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment.

The provisions also extend to energy resource companies. Indonesia is rich in coal, nickel, gold, tin, and copper, and the country intends to provide incentives for investment in the sector. Strong demand for these basic materials in India and China has helped cause a spike in their prices.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Charoen to invest US$280mil in palm oil plantations

The Star online, Malaysia
Wednesday March 12, 2008

Charoen to invest US$280mil in palm oil plantations

JAKARTA: A unit of agro and aquaculture firm Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk plans to invest US$280mil to develop palm oil plantations in West Kalimantan driven by demand for biofuel, a company official said yesterday.

Junaidi Sungkono, president director of PT Charindo Palma Plantation, said the funds would be spent on plantations and six palm oil fruit crushing mills in West Kalimantan. The project is due to be completed in 2015.

“Palm oil prospects are very good. Our domestic demand for crude palm oil-based biofuel has risen, so we would like to supply the needs,” Sungkono told Reuters, without elaborating on how much it intended to expand its plantations.

The company launched its palm oil business in 2006 by buying 67,500ha and began planting last year. From this initial investment, it expects to produce 239,200 tonnes of crude palm oil in 2016.

Crude palm oil prices have jumped more than 45% since the start of the year with Malaysia's benchmark May contract hitting an historic high of RM4,486 (US$1,402) a tonne on March 4 compared with RM3,082 on Jan 2.

Sungkono said the company planned to finance the project using US$20mil of its own funds and the balance through bank loans.

He also said the firm was looking at increasing its returns by developing palm oil byproducts.
“We are thinking of making oleochemical products in the future,” he said, adding that the plan would depend on government programmes and local infrastructure.

Indonesia is the world's top crude palm oil producer after surpassing Malaysia and expects its output of the commodity to reach 20 million tonnes in 2010. – Reuters

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.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Prevention 'crucial' to combat corruption

Sunday, March 9, 2008 12:01 AM Jakarta Post

Prevention 'crucial' to combat corruption

Erwida Maulia , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 03/06/2008 12:03 PM National

Prevention is the key to combating Indonesia's widespread corruption, as eradication efforts rely too heavily on repressive measures, law experts say.

Romli Atmasasmita, professor of law at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, told a seminar that despite more than 50 years of using repressive measures to fight corruption, law enforcers have succeeded in uncovering graft in lower state institutions only, proving those measures ineffective.

He said four revisions to the national corruption law and its "most complete definition of corruption compared with any other country in the world" had resulted in almost nothing.

"There's no use in persisting in repressive actions when corruption in upper levels remains unaffected," he said at Wednesday's "Finding Solutions against Corruption through Preventive Measures to Support Sustainable National Development" seminar, organized by the State Ministry for Administrative Reforms.

Romli said Indonesia was required to include preventive measures in its corruption eradication system under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which it ratified.

He recommended there be a specific law setting out the preventive measures and a special agency to execute them, adding law enforcement efforts should target not only public but also private institutions.

Deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Moch. Jasin, said preventive measures against corruption have been in place in Indonesia since 1999, when the government established the Public Servants Wealth Audit Commission (KPKPN), which was replaced by the KPK.

The preventive measures, however, were poorly implemented because of inadequate human resources and financial management support, Jasin said.

"Repressive and preventive measures must complement each other. So when prevention doesn't work, repressive measures are there to teach the perpetrators a lesson," he said.

Another seminar speaker, Subrata, president director of state publisher Perum Percetakan Negara, said preventive measures against corruption included wealth reporting, determining and reporting the status of grants, and including corruption in school curricula.

Bambang Widjojanto from the Partnership for Governance Reform said preventive measures were crucial in the fight against corruption because repressive activities were expensive and it was difficult to recoup corruption money.

Citing data from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Finance Ministry, Bambang said there were many potential graft cases in the country, with 6,113 "hidden" bank accounts holding about Rp 5 trillion (US$550 million).

In the first half of 2006, the BPK reported finding 17,142 possible instances of misappropriation in various currencies, worth Rp 101.76 trillion, $43.36 million, 2.36 million euros ($3.59 million) and 7 million yen ($67,879).

However, only 6,197 of these -- worth Rp 18.63 trillion, $6.85 million, 1.46 million euros and 7 million yen -- were followed up.

Human rights body finds rights abuse in Riau land dispute

Sunday, March 9, 2008 12:39 AM Jakarta Post

Human rights body finds rights abuse in Riau land dispute

Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Pekanbaru Sat, 03/08/2008 12:11 PM The Archipelago

The National Commission of Human Rights has found human rights abuses in the prolonged land dispute between the Sakai tribe and forestry company PT Arara Abadi in Riau, Sumatra.
Chairman of the commission's fact-finding team, Jhony Simanjuntak, said the Sakai people had lost their right to live peacefully and safely because of the company's continual intimidation.

He said the company deployed security personnel and trained dogs to drive away farmers working on the disputed land and to intimidate children traveling to and from school.

The team, which visited the land early this week, found dual ownership of certain enclaves had triggered the dispute. The Sakai people have lived in the 10 villages and have farmed the surrounding areas in Bengkalis and Siak since 1830.

They were granted official ownership of the land in 1940 by the Sultan of Siak. PT Arara Abadi obtained the forest concession in 1996.

"When the company came in, it did not know the Sakai people were living and farming in the enclaves, which has caused a dispute," said Jhony at a press conference at the Governor's Office here Thursday.

According to the fact-finding team, the Sakai tribe should be recognized as the land's rightful owners under the 1999 Forestry Law. However, the tribe has not sought legal protection because of the complicated bureaucratic process involved. The law guarantees the Sakai people's right to the land but approval from the government is also required.

"Government approval has proven difficult to obtain because the criteria it sets is unrealistic," said Jhony.

"The conflict has become complicated because many farmers have claimed plots of land which were also included in the forest concession. Land claims have led to the arrest of many farmers and, in this case, Arara has no authority to make arrests. Instead, it should maintain its assets, including the land in the forest concession," he said.

The rights body carried out the preliminary inquiry after residents of 10 villages in the two regencies submitted a complaint over Arara's violence and intimidation. Farmers and security personnel have been involved in clashes, claiming lives from both sides.

"My team recommends the government review the forest concession given to Arara by resetting its borders to help settle the dispute immediately. If the borderlines are not reset, the conflict will continue and spread to other areas," Jhony warned.

He also criticized the provincial government, which he said had turned a blind eye to the prolonged conflict.

Arara spokesman Nurul Huda denied security personnel were trying to intimidate local people, saying the company was merely maintaining its concession area in accordance with the Forestry Law.

Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said Arara should return the land which the people occupied before 1996, "as long as they have their own legacy over the land."

Arara also denied it had burned down its forest to make way for a palm oil plantation.
Various non-government organizations accused the company of land clearing after afire in its forest concession burned thousands of hectares. Arara says it has no palm oil plants in the province.

Five Indonesians on 'Forbes' rich list

Jakarta Post Saturday, March 8, 2008 3:59 AM

Five Indonesians on 'Forbes' rich list

Agustina Wayansari , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sat, 03/08/2008 12:41 AM Headlines
Five Indonesian businessmen, including pulp and paper tycoon Sukanto Tanoto, are among the 1,125 wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

The 58-year-old Sukanto Tanoto, owner of the Raja Garuda Mas (RGM) group, was ranked 284th on the list with estimated assets of some US$3.8 billion, the magazine reported in its Wednesday issue.

RGM and its subsidiaries operate in a range of industries, including pulp and paper, palm oil plantations and construction. RGM subsidiary Asian Agri is currently being probed by the tax office for alleged tax evasion.

Also on the Forbes list are the owners of tobacco company PT Djarum, Michael Hartono and Budi Hartono. Their fortunes were estimated at $2 billion each.

Other Indonesians to make the list were palm oil producer Wilmar International Holding owner Martua Sitorus at 652nd with $1.9 billion, and Peter Sondakh, the owner of Rajawali Group, with $1.2 billion at 962nd.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Wood industry in Riau on brink of collapse

Wood industry in Riau on brink of collapse

Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Pekanbaru Thu, 02/28/2008 11:29 AM

The wood processing industry in Riau, including sawmills and molding firms, is on the brink of collapse due to a scarcity of raw material supplies, said the head of Riau's Indonesian Wood Community (MPI), Hotman Butar-Butar.

Hotman said on Wednesday that wood supplies were falling because many forest concession holders were involved in rampant illegal logging practices in the province.

"The (illegal logging) cases involving a number of forest concession holders are being investigated by the Riau Police," he said.

"There is no clear information as to when the investigation will be completed. The problem is that we depend heavily on them."

Hotman said nearly half of the 150 sawmills registered at MPI had stopped operations and "similar hardships" were affecting 35 registered molding firms in the province.

Nearly 30 percent of 35,000 workers employed at the wood processing industry had been laid off, he said.

"If the log scarcity prevails until next month, more companies will go bankrupt and thousands of other workers will be jobless."

Hotman further said since January 2007 the Riau Police had frozen some 175,000 hectares of forests owned by 18 forest concessionaires.

He said the "problematic causes" that led to the forests being frozen included the extension of logging licenses, annual working plans and unlicensed machinery.

Jhony Setiawan Mundung, head of the Riau office of the Forum for the Indonesian Environment (Walhi), said he deplored the slow pace at which police investigations took place around illegal logging cases.

He rejected an opinion which said freezing forest concessions would cause an increase in unemployment in the sector.

"It was just disclosed by a man who is in need of wood in a large quantity," Mundung said.
A report by WWF conservation group released Wednesday said that Riau province had lost 65 percent of its forests in the past 25 years as companies used the land for pulpwood and palm oil plantation.

Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, driven by voracious demand for commodities and weak law enforcement.

Emissions from deforestation, and in particular peatland -- which is made up of deep layers of semi-decomposed vegetation -- have made Indonesia the world's third-largest carbon emitter, behind the United States and China.

Vested interests rule as SBY condones forest plundering

The Jakarta Post , March 6, 2008 7:51 PM

Vested interests rule as SBY condones forest plundering

Rendi Akhmad Witular , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 03/06/2008 1:22 AM

The "only" courageous move taken by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his 3.5 years in office was his recent policy to broadly accommodate corporate greed, camouflaging itself as a policy of protection for the country's forests.

The recent issue of Government Regulation No. 2/2008, which governs the types of state income from non-tax revenue in the use of forest areas for non-forestry related businesses, has provided a glimpse of the real faces of the devils among the President's men.

The decree, signed Feb. 4, provides a broad license for companies to exploit protected forests as long as they are willing to pay annual rental fees ranging from Rp 1.2 million (US$125) to Rp 3 million per hectare.

Yudhoyono has defended the decree as being merely a follow-up to previous decrees that endorsed 13 mining firms to operate in protected forests, as well as to encourage the mining firms to immediately contribute to state revenue.

By this time his argument is clear -- the 13 firms are the primary target of the decree, no less, no more.

However, the decree has not actually been specifically designed for the 13 mining firms, because there are no clauses specifically referring to any arrangement for the firms, with instead just general mentions of the entire mining sector.

The decree will open up access to the forest for the exploitation of oil and gas, the building of electricity transmission towers and the construction of turnpikes.

With all these serious inconsistencies, one may assume Yudhoyono has deceived the public to protect the interests of businesspeople and people close to him.

Should this turn out to be true, it would lead to a serious political and legal imbroglio for the President, especially as he gears up to run for a second term next year.

Another assumption is that the President's disputatious argument may result from his lack of understanding of the decree's contents, getting only a one-sided version of the story whispered into his ear by aides who may have a personal interest in the decree.

High-ranking officials at the Forestry Ministry said unlike previous decrees, which involved various stakeholders including environmentalists, the recent decree was treated confidentially and was drafted hastily.

Agencies primarily involved in drafting the decree included the Forestry Ministry's planning agency and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's directorate general for mining.
Officials reported coming under intense pressure during the drafting of the decree, especially from vested interests related to mining and energy companies, tollway moguls and independent power-generation companies.

On the other side, as chairman of the Star and Crescent Party (PBB), Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban wants to bring in as many supporters as possible because his party failed to meet the minimum electoral threshold in the last elections.

PBB had to change its name and also had to re-register with the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.

Given his political position, Kaban is unlikely to stand up to much pressure, especially when it comes from his ministerial colleagues and superiors.

In Yudhoyono's Cabinet, coincidentally, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has a family business engaged in the construction of tollways and power generation, while the coordinating minister for people's welfare has a family business in the mining and energy sector, as well as telecommunications.

Illegal logging has remained common throughout the country, despite numerous laws and regulations enacted to enforce the sustainable management of our forest resources, and this recent decree seems to undermine whatever progress has been made in this area.

There also are questions about the urgency of the decree, considering the 13 mining companies already granted forest concessions have not demanded the government immediately allow them to operate.

The government is also not cash-strapped and in need of immediately filling its coffers with any available revenue.

Despite the country's lack of infrastructure for supervising forests, the enactment of the decree will only exacerbate illegal logging, especially with the government providing legal leeway for the crime to occur.

The decree will only profit vested interests, not the general public.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

A new hope

Tuesday March 4, 2008

A new hope


A new piece of legislation promises to stem illicit trade of endangered wildlife.

THINKING about buying the pretty star tortoise for a pet? Think again. Under newly passed laws, you face a fine of up to RM100,000 for having one of those reptiles. Same goes for other exotic pets such as the Madagascar radiated tortoise, African leopard tortoise, pig-nosed turtle, Madagascar tomato frog, South American poison arrow frog and Indonesian yellow-crested cockatoo.

Trade in these animals are either barred or regulated by range countries and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites, an international treaty to stop illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade) but they still end up in local pet stores and zoos – reason being, wildlife authority Perhilitan cannot act against traders because these species are not protected under local laws, namely the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 (PWA).

This has now changed with Parliament passing the International Trade in Endangered Species Bill 2007 last December. The long-awaited Bill promises to stem unbridled sale of wildlife as it specifies the wildlife allowed for trade and imposes licensing requirements. It essentially enables Malaysia to fulfil Cites obligations and enforce Cites wildlife trade rules.

The Cites secretariat had threatened to suspend commerce of all Cites species in Malaysia if it did not improve its national wildlife laws to curb illicit and uncontrolled trade in wildlife. Many species of amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, insects, invertebrates and plants suffer a fate similar to that of the star tortoise because they have been left out of the PWA.

India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have banned the export of star tortoises, so these creatures are smuggled in suitcases into Malaysia.In the Bill, the list of wildlife runs over 60 pages and covers terrestrial and marine mammals, birds, lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, iguanas, spiders, butterflies, snails, conches, clams, mussels, sea cucumbers, corals, freshwater and marine fish, plants (including orchids, cycads, ferns and pitcher plants) and timber species.

It bodes well for species heavily traded for pets, medicine, private collections, zoos, theme parks, curios and ornaments, but which are not shielded by the PWA – species such as the moon bear, bumphead wrasse, sharks, marine turtles, tortoises, tarantulas, macaws, parrots and cycads, among others.

A strong feature of the Bill is its coverage for “derivatives” of protected plants or animals – so products ranging from ivory carvings to snake skin shoes, stuffed animals, dried medicinal roots, eggs, claws, chemical compounds and potions will need approvals and permits before they can be traded.

The PWA is silent on “derivatives”, thus hindering Perhilitan from restraining sale of curios, ornaments, accessories, jewelleries and medicines made from Cites-controlled wildlife.
The Bill not only covers importers and exporters but also retailers and the general public as it is an offence for anyone to possess, sell, offer or advertise for sale, or put on display any wildlife and derivatives that have been imported without a permit.

So, pet owners would be wise to vet their purchases for legality or risk running foul of the law. It is also an offence to breed wild animals or artificially propagate plants without approval.

Wildlife conservationists are optimistic that the legislation, expected to be gazetted and enforced by mid-year, will help curb wanton exploitation of many endangered species.

“The strong part of this Bill is that it’s a Cites-specific legislation which will meet the overall goal of the convention, which is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild fauna and flora does not threaten the survival of the species traded. The Bill fills huge gaps in the current law, such as on derivatives,” says Preetha Sankar, policy co-ordinator of World Wide Fund for Nature.

Preetha says provisions in the Bill on protection of informers will help curb illegal trade of wildlife. “When some form of protection and reward is offered to informers, they would be more willing to step forward with information.”

Since protection of wildlife is now split among several government bodies, the Bill rightly parcels the job of overseeing wildlife trade to different management authorities: Perhilitan (terrestrial fauna in the peninsular), Fisheries Department (fish, marine animals and marine plants), Malaysian Timber Industry Board (timber), Agriculture Department (terrestrial and freshwater plants), Sabah Wildlife Department (animals and plants), Sabah Fisheries Department (fish, corals and marine plants) and lastly, Sarawak Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (animals and plants).

This dwarf caiman from South America has no business being in a pet store in Malaysia. It is a Cites Appendix II species.“We now have one harmonised law involving different departments. Previously, the Protection of Wildlife Act involved only Perhilitan and applied only to Peninsular Malaysia. Furthermore, it excluded many species such as plants and fish,” says Noorainie Awang Anak, programme officer of wildlife trade monitoring body, Traffic.

The proffered punishment is another boon – a fine of up to RM100,000 for each animal, plant, part or derivative smuggled by an individual, and up to RM200,000 if a company is involved.
“It is great that the penalty is higher for corporate buyers, and individuals in a company can be held liable too, and that an ‘offer for sale’ is considered an infringement of the law,” says Dr Melvin Gumal, director of Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme (WCS).

And by imposing a blanket coverage based on genus (a group of closely related species) for many animals and plants, the Bill plugs a loophole that allows wildlife species, if not listed, to escape legal scrutiny. This ambiguity was exploited in the 2005 discovery of seven smuggled Sumatran orang utans. Perhilitan had said that it could not punish operators of the zoo and theme park where the primates were seized from as the PWA only lists Pongo pygmaeus (Borneon orang utan) as totally protected and not Pongo abelii (Sumatran orang utan).

Wildlife conservationists, while generally pleased with the Bill, do have niggling fears. Differences between the new legislation and state laws is one. For instance, some species are allowed for trade under Cites, but are totally protected under state laws.

“Sarawak does not allow export of any wildlife. But with the Cites Bill, it appears that one can export, with permits. There is a need to see if any provisions in the new Bill contradict state laws,” says Traffic director Azrina Abdullah.

There is also a danger of relying too much on the Cites Bill because in some instances, it is weaker than state laws. For instance, Cites allows controlled trade of many species of orchids but these floras are totally protected only in Sabah and Sarawak, not in Peninsular Malaysia. Thus trade might prove detrimental to the orchids. Likewise, ramin trees are protected in both eastern states but not in the peninsula.

“Some local species deemed as very rare are not within the Cites law and yet, gets little protection under national laws. The naked bat, for example, is protected in Sarawak but not in Peninsular Malaysia,” says Gumal of WCS.

“And how does one deal with the disparity in fines between this supranational law (new Bill) and the state laws? For example, if one were to illegally export a proboscis monkey out of Sarawak, the fines would be substantially lower in Sarawak’s Wildlife Protection Ordinance as opposed to the Cites law.

A way out is for the management authority to check with Sabah and Sarawak.”
The new Bill regulates captive breeding for trade but Gumal is troubled by the silence over what constitutes “captive-bred”. Cites, like Sarawak, allows trade only of second-generation offspring but this is not spelt out in the Bill. Gumal fears that traders might exploit the lack of specifics, especially for animals notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, by claiming wild-caught animals as captive-breds. Similarly, it would be difficult to differentiate a cultivated orchid plant from a wild one.

And what of protected animals illegally brought in prior to the Bill? One possibility is amnesty to register such animals but this has its ills; traders might claim newly imported plants and animals as old stocks. Azrina is also wary of Section 36 of the Bill which allows for the return of seized animals. “What are the criteria for the release? What if there is abuse?” she queries.
And with the Bill being silent on minimum penalties, there is a fear of the courts meting out light sentences. “In past seizures of highly prized species, offenders have been fined only RM1,000. The judiciary must be made aware of the seriousness of wildlife crime and impose the appropriate fine,” says Azrina.

Lam Hoi Chean, general manager of pet store chain Pet Family, agrees that offenders should be duly punished with the maximum fine: “Anything below RM10,000 will not be a deterrent.” He believes restrictions imposed under the Bill will drive the trade underground and cause price hikes; hence there is a need for stricter policing. Such checks, he adds, should not overlook trade conducted by hobbyists.

Indeed, several pet store operators claim that while they conduct their business by the book, such is not the case with hobbyists and collectors, who buy and sell protected species among themselves and even to foreigners. The trade, usually done through the Internet, is hard to detect.

WWF’s Preetha highlights training needs. She says enforcement staff must be taught how to identify goods made from protected wildlife, while agencies tasked with setting quotas for exported species and advising on the impact of trade must have such capabilities.
Meanwhile, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry should also start a road show to inform businesses involved in wildlife trade about the new legal requirements. Most are still ignorant of the Bill.

The ministry recently held a workshop for traditional medicine practitioners. Thong Choong Khat of Tradimedi Enterprise in Segamat, Johor, insisted that the new Bill was pointless for folk medicine specialists, and claimed that they no longer use protected wildlife in their remedies since such products would not be approved or registered by the Health Ministry.

And while the Bill holds much promise in checking international commerce in wildlife, it does nothing for native wildlife traded domestically. Stemming the flourishing sale of endangered plants and animals within the country calls for an overhaul of the PWA, which is grossly deficient in protecting the country’s wildlife.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Hands off palm

Hands off palm

The cosmetics producer Lush is setting up a forum to find alternatives to palm oil, a crop regarded as unsustainable but that is still found in many everyday products such as soap and moisturiser

Claudia Cahalane,
Monday March 3 2008

This article was first published on on Monday March 03 2008. It was last updated at 16:02 on March 03 2008.

Cosmetics account for 7-8% of palm oil usage. A traditionally cheap, versatile and plentiful oil, it is used in everyday items such as soap and moisturiser.

But palm oil production has often involved highly destructive practices in places such Malaysia and Indonesia, where forest is cleared to make way for land to grow the profitable crop.
So the cosmetics industry is being urged to find alternatives.

Cosmetics producer Lush says it believes manufacturers of soap and other toiletries need to start acting fast. It has set up a forum for beauty companies that are seeking alternatives to palm oil.

And last November, Lush introduced "Greenwash", its first soap without a palm oil base. Within the next few months, all soaps at Lush's 500 stores worldwide will use a mixture of coconut, rapeseed and sunflower oils in their base instead of palm.

Lush says the forum will be called Actively Seeking Alternatives to Palm (ASAP), and has already attracted interest from a handful of small soap and food businesses. It is hoped that major retailers will engage with the forum too.

To date the big manufacturers appear to have no intention to drop palm oil. Instead, the likes of Unilever, Tesco, Boots, Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer want to continue working with the industry-led Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to gain access to less destructive sources of the oil.

The roundtable, set up in 2005, is due to start stamping products with a sustainable mark of approval at the end of the year. The stamp was due out at the beginning of 2008, but has been delayed.

Joanna Keohan, a spokewoman for Tesco, says the company attended the last two RSPO general meetings in Singapore and Kuala Lumpar and will be working on introducing the sustainable mark into its products as soon as possible.

However, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Lush do not believe the measures offered by the RSPO are sufficiently "aggressive", primarily because they will still allow the clearing of aged forests, and will be difficult to enforce.

Andrew Butler, campaigns manager at Lush says: "We looked at joining the RSPO, but it is not being aggressive enough in dealing with the problems. We could have taken the Body Shop route and moved to Colombia, where palm oil production is less intensive and more ethical at the moment, but we saw that this might just be shifting the problem.

"If everyone reduced their use of palm oil by 50% and boycotted any biofuels using it, then it could be a sustainable oil. There's not enough time to sit and pontificate - the public need to put pressure on manufacturers now," urges Butler.

The company's soap base supplier, Cay's, already works with other multinational companies and is willing to provide those with alternatives to palm oil for toiletries.

Andrew Jenkins, sustainable products development manager at Boots, says: "We were one of the first to join the RSPO in 2005, ahead of the Body Shop and the Co-op. We don't use vast quantities of neat palm oil, but it is in the palmates and glycerine we use. Boots wants the whole industry to be more sustainable, and we do take the point from Friends of the Eearth and Greenpeace on the deforestation."

Jenkins says that some palmates – a binding ingredient in soap - can be made from vegetable oil, but in other instances, palm oil is the only ingredient it can use.

Alternatives in some cases, he explains, could include soya oil, but he is wary of "jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire" by choosing another oil that becomes unsustainable.

Trevor Gorin, a spokesman for Unilever – which helped establish the RSPO – says the company has been looking at the sustainable palm oil issue for many years. Unilever has reduced the amount of palm oil it uses, and does source some sustainable palm oil, he says. "Six years ago, we used 1.7m tonnes of palm oil a year. Now it's 800,000 tonnes." Gorin attributes this reduction to using different oils, changing product lines, and new production methods.
But Ed Matthews, a Friends of the Earth campaigner who's worked on palm oil issues for a number of years, says that because there is a danger of shifting the problem to other oils, the best solution to this problem, as with many

Monday, 3 March 2008

Into the woods

Opinion and Editorial: Into the woods

Source: The Jakarta Post - February 26, 2008

Even with so many laws and regulations already enacted to enforce the sustainable management of our forest resources, illegal logging has remained common throughout the country.

So, we can only imagine what will happen with the broad license for the plundering of our protected forests as provided by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono through Government Regulation No. 2/2008.Yet, both the President and Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban last week stubbornly defended the regulation as an additional measure to protect forests, and blamed environmentalists and analysts for misreading the regulation.

We cannot help but wonder how the government could have issued such a bad regulation that virtually allows companies to exploit protected forests as long as they are willing to pay annual rental fees ranging from Rp 1.2 million (US$125) to Rp 3 million per hectare.

Is the government so strapped for additional revenue that it is willing to trample upon the principle of sustainable forest management?

The presidential decree does take into account a previous regulation issued by then president Megawati Soekarnoputri in 2004 (Government Regulation No. 41/2004) that allowed 13 mining companies to conduct mining operations in designated protected forests under certain conditions.

However, this newest regulation was not issued specifically to collect additional levies (rents) from the 13 mining companies, as the government claims. Nor does the regulation specifically name the 13 mining firms as the targets of the rental fees.

Yet potentially more devastating to our forests is that Government Regulation No. 2/2008 further broadens the categories of business operations that can encroach on protected forests, to include the building of electricity transmission and distribution networks and turnpikes.

We find it difficult to understand why Forestry Minister Kaban defended Yudhoyono's decree merely as a follow-up to the 2004 regulation.Megawati issued Government Regulation No. 41/2004 to implement Law No. 19/2004, which was enacted to resolve once and for all the imbroglio surrounding 150 mining concessions that were awarded in protected forests before Law No. 41/1999 was enacted.

This 1999 forestry law banned open-pit mining in protected forests.However, the law could not be enforced retroactively on the 150 mining concessions that were awarded before 1999, otherwise the government would have been plunged into messy international litigation that could have cost tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

The House of Representatives and the government eventually worked out a political consensus in 2004 (Law No. 19/2004) that allowed open-pit mining operations in protected forests only for several of the 150 mining concessions.

The 13 mining firms were selected by a joint government-House team under stringent criteria: the amount of investment already made, the commercial volume of mineral deposits already found and the potential benefits of their operations to the national economy.

Environmental NGOs asked for a judicial review of Law No. 19/2004 but the Constitutional Court upheld the law in July 2005, ruling the 1999 law on forestry could not be applied retroactively to mining concessions awarded before 1999.Law No. 19/2004 seemed at the time the best compromise between the objectives of protecting our forests and of maintaining legal certainty for investors in the mining sector.

Regulation No. 2/2008 would not have caused such a controversy had it specifically been designed to collect additional fees from the 13 mining companies operating in protected forests. Judging from the arguments both Yudhoyono and Kaban have used to defend the regulation, the 13 mining concessions might have been the primary target of the regulation, but the final decree the President signed on Feb. 4 was not specifically designed for the 13 mining firms.

We find it difficult to understand how Forestry Minister Kaban could have drafted such a controversial regulation and why President Yudhoyono would have signed such a poorly written decree without ordering a comprehensive regulatory-impact analysis.

It is not environmentalists or the general public who have misunderstood the regulation, as Yudhoyono alleged last Friday. Rather, it is the President, who hurriedly signed a poorly drafted regulation.The only thing to do now is annul Regulation No. 2/2008.

Illegal logging

Illegal Logging In Indonesia - Causes, Progress To Date And Further Steps

CIFOR ( - March, 2008 By Krystof Obidzinski, CIFOR Forests & Governance Programme

Indonesia's forestry sector is in deepening crisis.

Once among the world's leaders in round wood and plywood production, today the country's logging and woodworking sectors are in steep decline. During the last three years, the export of plywood decreased by nearly 75% while the export of sawn timber products fell by nearly 50%.

Production and export reductions of such magnitude have had significant economic and social impacts in terms of shrinking foreign earnings and employment loss.The reasons for this situation are many, but they start with the uncontrolled expansion of timber processing industries in Indonesia in the 1980s and the subsidized promotion of pulp and paper mills in the 1990s - all without ensuring a sustainable supply of timber.

The resultant supply - demand imbalance has continuously been dogging Indonesia's forestry sector and is the key underlying structural problem that drives illegal logging and the movement of illegal timber within and out of Indonesia.Over the years, the excessive demand has taken its toll on Indonesia's forest resources, resulting in increasing deforestation that has hovered around 2-3 million hectares annually for the last seven years.

The increasing timber scarcity, rising production costs, log smuggling, stiffening competition from other countries producing tropical timber, intensifying international scrutiny of forestry practices in Indonesia and the subsequent forest law enforcement (FLE) actions by the Indonesian government (e.g. Wanalaga I-III, OHL I-III) have all placed the forestry sector under pressure.

In the early 1990s, there were nearly 600 forest logging concessions in Indonesia. Today, there are less than 300. In the province of East Kalimantan, the leading log and plywood producing province in Indonesia, the number of HPH forest concessions dropped from the all time high of 200 in 1993 to 56 in 2006.

Tackling timber smuggling - is it enough?Timber smuggling, seen as one of the main factors undermining Indonesia's competitiveness on the international market by supplying the competitors with under-priced logs, has been one of the main targets of FLE operations in Indonesia.

For instance, the Ministry of Forestry estimates that in 2006 alone about 10 million m3 of timber left Indonesia without any documentation. As a result, since 2001, government security agencies have undertaken regular FLE operations in key timber producing parts of the country.

By all accounts, these operations have had a significant impact. According to CIFOR research, in 2006 cross-border timber trade in Kalimantan decreased by as much as 70%.Despite this decline, the Ministry of Forestry reported that in the same year the illegal logging caused by the supply-demand gap, driven mostly by the pulp and paper industry, stood at 52 million m3.
What next?

This demonstrates that real progress against illegal logging in Indonesia is possible. In addition to continued FLE operations to keep timber smuggling in check, a number of parallel steps are necessary.

One important first step is to implement existing bilateral agreements aimed at reducing timber trade discrepancies associated with illegal logging. Indonesia has signed a number of such agreements, including with China, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea. But their actual implementation has been limited.

The recent establishment of a China-Indonesia government working group on illegal logging is an encouraging sign.Ratifying and implementing the recently negotiated FLEGT-VPA agreement with the EU for timber trade would also be a positive measure.

VPA is expected to provide the access for Indonesian producers to premium timber markets in Europe and will also provide extensive capacity building opportunities for the producer countries.Coordination between FLE enforcement agencies on the common understanding of the recently revised timber legality standard - in line with the VPA process - should also be a priority.

But the standard must be applied consistently in evaluating the activities of timber concession holders. This will help prevent the kinds of misunderstanding seen in the Adelin Lis illegal logging case in Sumatra.Indonesia's anti money laundering laws with their inclusion of forest related crimes are unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

But, along with anti-corruption legislation, greater use needs to be made of the anti-money laundering legislation in prosecuting illegal logging cases and increasing the probability of convictions.

Enforcing a greater degree of public transparency and accountability for new investment in the forestry sector would also help by curbing excessive and potentially unsound development of timber production and processing capacity.Of course, all of these measures need a solid foundation from which to operate.

It's therefore important that a feasible and sustainable timber plantation development policy be developed. In late 2006, the Indonesia government announced a target of nine million hectares of new timber plantation to be developed by 2016. This is expected to solve the current supply-demand imbalance and allow for further expansion, particularly in the strategic pulp and paper industry.

The timber plantations are a crucial part of the solution to the illegal logging problem in Indonesia and hold the key to the future of Indonesia's forestry. However, the challenge is to do it in an economically feasible and environmentally sustainable manner.

Finally, over the coming years it will be important to explore through policy framework analyses and pilot projects how best can REED (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) schemes become a catalyst for SFM (Sustainable Forest Management) in Indonesia and how they can provide a viable incentive to reduce illegal logging in Indonesia.

News about Orangutans and palm oil

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Sunday, 2 March 2008

More protected forests up for grabs

More licences to kill wildlife and destroy forests.
Don't forget this is what was said in December.

"Speaking at the launch of the Orangutan Habitat Conservation Strategy and Action Plan with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Ambassador Hume praised the Indonesian government’s firm commitment to preserve Indonesia’s valuable forest and biodiversity.

“To protect the forest resources is to protect the Indonesian people,” said Ambassador Hume, “Indonesia’s Action Plan for Orangutan Habitat Conservation is a ‘triple win’, since it preserves an endangered species of great ape, protects forest biodiversity, and sequesters large amounts of carbon to combat climate change.”

This additional $2.8 million supports Indonesia’s Orangutan Habitat Conservation Action Plan and complements the Orangutan Conservation Services Program (OSCP), already operational in Kalimantan and Sumatra.


As many as 50,000 orangutans have been lost over the past 35 years due to shrinking habitat, and "if this continues, these majestic creatures will likely face extinction by 2050," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said. He added "To save orangutans, we must save the forests.,"

Basically, as we can see, the government of Indonesia will tell whoever, whatever they want to hear, in return for money. Hopefully we will hear strong protests from the very large conservation groups about the following announcement; if we do, I'll post them here, but don't hold your breath.

please read on..........................................

The Jakarta Post online 1st March

More protected forests up for grabs
Ika Krismantari

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told hundreds of mining investors on Friday they would soon be able to apply to operate in productive as well as protected forests.

Purnomo cited a newly issued forestry regulation and said, "Under the new government regulation, we will allow you to mine in productive and protected forests, subject to you giving us compensation".

At present, there are 13 mining companies operating in protected forests.

The companies were granted an exception by the government in 2004 via a presidential decree, despite the fact their operations would violate a forestry regulation completely banning all mining activities in protected forest areas.

The exemption was allowed despite intense public opposition that said the mining operations jeopardized the nation's already depleted forests.

Those 13 companies include PT Aneka Tambang (Antam), PT Inco, PT Freeport McMoran Indonesia, PT Nusa Halmahera, PT Nataran Mining and PT Indominco Mandiri.

Beyond the 13, Purnomo said there would soon be another presidential decree indicating other mining firms could join the group.

Mining companies allowed to operate would be required to pay at most Rp 3 million per hectare per year for operating in a protected forest.

"We need a presidential decree to include all mining firms (not just the 13)," Purnomo said.
"They should pay compensation if they want to mine in protected and productive forestry."

Simon Sembiring, the ministry's director general for coal, mineral and geothermal, confirmed the presidential decree would soon be introduced.

But he said before the issuance of the decree, the government would coordinate with the Forestry Ministry and various research agencies to ensure a level of sustainability in the firms' mining operations.

"We will be very selective, however, all mining companies can submit their request for permits and we will decide which ones are selected," Simon said.
He said the 13 firms currently operating in protected forests had been selected from 150 submitted proposals.

He said the selection process applied only for applications to mine in protected forests and not in productive forests.

The Indonesian Mining Association (IMA) said the plan was a good arrangement and would improve the country's investments in the mining sector.

"What we need is certainty," IMA chairman Arif S. Siregar said.
"He hope that with this, things will be clearer and the energy and mineral resources ministry can finally resolve its endless dispute with the forestry ministry," he said.