The Palm Scribe

Environmental activists: Coordination and Leadership Sorely Lacking in Implementation of Palm Oil Moratorium

Photo: Sawit Watch

Lack of coordination and leadership, both at the national level and in the regions have been behind the very little progress that has been reached in the implementation of a moratorium on new palm oil concessions a year after it was decreed, a group of environmental activists said on Thursday (26/9).

“The Inpres time frame is set for only three years, to fix all problems haunting the palm oil industry, but after one year of implementation, efforts were only for preparation, such as consolidation and finalization on data between ministries and related institutions,” Hadi Saputra, from Sawit Watch told a discussion in Jakarta, adding that overlapping cases that came to public attention had also not been resolved by this Presidential Instruction.

Speaking at an evaluation of the the one-year implementation of Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018 on the moratorium, Hadi said that the priority provinces set by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs for the implementation also did not cover two areas which still had vast forest coverage and could be threatened by oil palm plantation development – Papua and West Papua.

The priority provinces were Jambi, Riau, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan, all provinces with extensive existing oil palm plantations.

The moratorium contains four important agenda: first, postponing the issuance of forest release forms during the moratorium’s three-year implementation period, including those submitted but yet to be completed, or which have been applications that have been submitted, but not yet completed or has been identified as being in productive forest areas. Second, the review all oil palm plantation permits so far issued, including Location Permit, Plantation Business Permit, Cultivation Right, Registration for Plantation Cultivation and forest release permits.

Thirdly is following up all permit reviews with two options — return the land as forest areas and/or enforce the law such as imposing fines for violations, and fourthly, ensuring a sufficient oil palm fruit supplies for the industry through land productivity improvement efforts, instead of land expansion.

The moratorium orders five ministries, the state investment coordinating body (BKPM) and regional governments to conduct a full review and evaluation of the palm oil sector.

Although several district and provincial governments had strong commitments to implement the moratorium, the lack of operational and technical guidelines or road map, as well as of budgets or any other assistance from the central government, posed serious obstacles in implementing the moratorium.

“We ask the president to issue instructions to the relevant ministries/agencies to immediately make a single road map for the implementation of this moratorium. This is necessary to streamline the process so that there are no overlapping bureaucratic rules and budgets. Other than that, this road map will also increase the productivity of the plasma scheme growers and smallholders,” Hadi said.

“We need President Jokowi to show his political leadership, to strengthen this moratorium, nothing else. All those ministries and agencies should have had submitted their reports regarding this matter, did he read those reports?” Teguh Surya, Executive Director of Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan (Sustainable Civil Society Foundation) said at the same occasion.

Teguh said that if Indonesia was successful in implementing the moratorium within three years, the palm oil market could avoid the bullying and criticism from the European Union that have been plaguing the industry for some times now.

“This implementation makes more sense compared to making silly threats like boycotting this and that. Because we will regain their trust and confidence, don’t we all want that?” he said, adding that President Jokowi should make this his priority because he can’t just rely on his ministries.

Agung Setiawan from Forest Watch said, that despite the moratorium on new concession on forest and peatlands, several new concessions had still been issued for forest areas, some of them for oil palm plantation.

The coalition also urged the Government to allocate a special budget for the implementation of the moratorium for regions that have shown serious commitment. It should also establish a team at the national level to prepare technical guidance that can be used as a reference for local governments.

It also said that besides building a communication platform to link the national work team and local government therefore facilitating coordination, the government should also come out with a mechanism to promote the principle of openness in terms of data, information and updates on the development of the implementation, so that it can be monitored and accessed by the public or civil society groups.

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