Sunday, 13 December 2009

Greenpeace Rebuffs Offer of Talks by Indonesia's Sinar Mas


December 13, 2009

Fidelis E. Satriastanti & Arti Ekawati The Jakarta Globe

Greenpeace Rebuffs Offer of Talks by Indonesia's Sinar Mas

The international environmental group Greenpeace has ruled out any discussion with PT Sinas Mas unless the crude palm oil company publicly declares a moratorium on its natural forests and peatland projects.

“We’ve actually been invited to their discussions several times, however, we conveyed a very strong message at our last meeting [with Sinar Mas], demanding the company show its commitment to stop damaging natural forests and peatlands. But, the destruction continues,” said Joko Arif, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner.

“They know our demands and there will be no discussions until a moratorium [is in place],” he said, without divulging when the last meeting took place.

On Saturday, Sinar Mas said in a press statement that it was ready to open discussions with Greenpeace on its findings concerning accusations of illegal land clearing in Kalimantan, Riau and Papua.

The company also said that it was disappointed with the Greenpeace report which they labeled as one-sided, inaccurate, exaggerated and misleading.

Greenpeace released a report on Thursday alleging that Sinar Mas companies had cleared forested areas in West Kalimantan without securing the necessary permits as required by the 1999 Forestry Law.

On Friday, however, the Ministry of Forestry came to the defense of Sinar Mas, insisting that the company had violated no law in its West Kalimantan project and that clarification was needed in regard to a continuing misunderstanding over existing regulations governing timber plantations.

The Greenpeace report also estimated that in Riau alone the Sinar Mas average annual emissions from peatland degradation due to palm oil concessions was 2.5 million tons of carbon.

Daud Darsono, president director of Sinar Mas subsidiary PT Smart Tbk, said that the company would be ready to discuss anything with Greenpeace, including a possible moratorium.

“We will be ready to discuss anything, including a moratorium, as long as it will be done with exact standards and [using a] fair method,” said Daud.

Following the Greenpeace report, Unilever, the world’s biggest user of palm oil, announced on Friday that it was suspending purchases from Sinar Mas Group until the company proved its plantations weren’t contributing to deforestation in Asia.

Sinar Mas, however, downplayed the impact of Unilever’s decision, saying that the company was one of its smaller buyers.

According to a PT Smart Tbk newsletter, the company had produced 462,356 tons of CPO from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 2009.

Daud said that Unilever bought “only three percent of our total crude palm oil production.”

However, Joko Supriyono, the secretary general of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), expressed concerns over Unilever’s decision to terminate the contract based on the Greenpeace report.

“They [buyers from the European Union] often threaten to stop buying crude palm oil from us over environmental concerns. Unilever terminating the buying contract from Smart is a serious matter to us,” Joko told the Jakarta Globe in a telephone interview in Jakarta on Sunday.

Joko said that both Smart and Unilever were members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a multi-stakeholder organization that sets standards and issues environmental certification for sustainable palm oil.

“I really would regret it if Unilever decided to determine its contracts based on standards set by Greenpeace, which is not an RSPO member,” Joko said.