The Palm Scribe

Govt Must Not Hesitate Regarding Transparency, Sustainability of Palm Oil Sector: RSPO

Amid the waves of attacks against palm oil and its industry, as the world’s top producer of the commodity, Indonesia should not hesitate in striving for sustainability and transparency in this sector, including in opening up data and information on plantation concession rights, an industry expert said.

Based on a 2019 decision of the Supreme Court the Indonesian government declared that data and information on oil palm concessions and their digital data, or shapefiles, were not open to the public, even though they were important in efforts to monitor corporate commitment to sustainability and help bring clarity and certainty on land rights, Director of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Indonesia, Tiur Rumondang said.

“Transparency will really depend on the quality of the government itself, whether they are pro that issue or are still hesitating. I am convinced that there are no government which are not pro transparency, but I would rather say they are hesitant,” Rumondang told a webinar on transparency regarding concessions right held by Sawit Watch Wednesday (25/11.)

He said that RSPO itself was highly concerned that transparency become common practice but in Indonesia, this institution was among those which were facing difficulties in transparency applied because of the condition of legal practices in Indonesia.

She pointed to the legal ambiguity regarding transparency on concession rights, saying that while in 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that data concession rights should be open to the public, two years later, the same institution ruled the contrary.

“The sustainable practice desired by all, be that companies or us as the manager of standards or our CSO friends or the public in general, would never take place if the state could not decide on its choice, whether they want to go sustainable or not,” Rumondang said.

She said that because of this lack in transparency, Indonesia must be prepared to look at global palm oil issues taken up by many countries beyond Indonesia in a comprehensive manner.

“On one hand, we want to say that we are sustainable, that this is a trade war, that this is an injustice against one single commodity, but on the other hand we also want to show that this is my authority to make it open or not, not yours,” she said.

Rumondang continued by saying that this showed an imbalance with Indonesia’s own efforts to fight for a good palm oil and this, she added could be seen by the market as something that was not only confusing but also not good.

RSPO, according to her, was in possession of data and information on most of its members’ concessions but because of the legal conditions in Indonesia could not divulge them to the public. Specifically regarding Indonesia, data and information on Indonesian members’ concessions could not be accessed in the organization’s website unlike those for concessions in other countries.

She also said that the matter of transparency was not something that anyone could fight for on their own.

“Transparency is indeed something that should be fought for together,” she reaffirmed.

Agung Ady Setyawan, Forest Campaigner for Forest Watch Indonesia, also echoed the statement saying that the current weakness in efforts to obtain transparency was that everyone was working separately on their own, and not as a consistent and comprehensive movement.

“It would be hard to fight if there is no public control and only they know about it,” Setyawan said referring to the secrecy surround data and information on concessions, whether in palm oil or other commodities or other sectors such as mining and timber estates.

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