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Minister of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) commanded legal process for the burned 2,000 hectares land of APSL in the district Rokan Hulu / photo twitter.com/sutopo_bnpb-KLHK

Indon government reject Asia Pulp and Paper conservation plans

By Chris Soh
Pulp giants Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) have been dealt a blow by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry.
On 11 November, the Foresthints portal reported that the Ministry had finally made an official announcement on the findings of its assessment concerning APP's landscape conservation. 

“Our ministry has made an official determination that APP’s landscape conservation is inconsistent with the country’s forestry and environmental laws and regulations. As such, we would never approve it,” Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the ministry, told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Nov 7) at the ministry’s complex.

The Director General added that the ministry would soon be sending a letter to APP to convey the official decision of the ministry.

What was also revealed by the Gadjah Mada University professor was that APP had never been granted any authority by the ministry for managing protection forests and conservation areas claimed as part of its landscape conservation.

“They (APP) have cleared swathes of natural forest and dried out peatlands for years, enabling them to become the giant company they are today. Now, after doing this, they are trying to claim protection forests and conservation areas in a bid to rebrand their reputation. Of course this is unacceptable, especially in a legal sense.”

He further added that “APP must focus on dealing with the hundreds of thousands of hectares of burned peatlands caused by last year’s peat fires which took place in their pulpwood concessions," which he said constituted a legal obligation on their part.

“They haven’t even managed to sort out their own pulpwood concessions, and you can add to that the number of violations they’ve committed. And now they want to take care of landscapes that don’t even form part of their concessions,” he said.

Professor San Afri further alleged that APP was only using a landscape conservation approach to continue its regular operations which have been previously condemned. The proof of this, he explained, was that none of the vast burned peatlands in their concessions have been included as areas for restoration.

“APP just wants to proceed with its business-as-usual practices in the burned peatlands in their pulpwood concessions, particularly those located in South Sumatra province. They also want to continue their business-as-usual practices in the extensive drained peat domes in their concessions in the guise of best practices. This is undeniable. It’s a valid assertion," he said.

APP's products have been off the shelves since October 2015 in Singapore when the Singapore Environment Council stripped the company's products of the Singapore Green Label certification. This came soon after Singapore's National Environment Agency issued notices to the company under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the haze episode of 2015 which blanketed Singapore and the region for weeks.

In response to queries by Foresthints, CEO Of APP-founded and funded Belantara Foundation Agus Sari said “If we don’t get permission from the government then of course we’ll withdraw. At the moment, we’re still in a consultation process with many other stakeholders.” 

Agus also stated that the government was the key stakeholder in the issue, and thus it must be listened to and its directives complied with. 

“As to those directive maps, that was simply an ‘idea’ and was not yet anything final. We are still facilitating this process by consulting with all relevant parties.” 

However, this was roundly rejected by Professor San Afri, who asked: "“To what end is the Belantara Foundation creating legally misleading directive maps. What are their interests? Who are they? Who needs them? We, as the authority in the field of environment and forestry, have no need at all for such directive maps. Neither APP nor the Belantara Foundation has ever received permission from us, as the authority in the matter, to create directive maps for APP’s landscape conservation, in particular where state forest areas are involved, in this case protection forests, conservation areas and production forests.”