The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said Tuesday (22/10) that its investigation has found no evidence of any intentional use of fire to clear land by its five members as had been alleged by a senior government official.
”Our investigation has led us to make the determination that no fires were intentionally set in the member boundaries implicated in earlier media reports. This includes member plantation areas and set-asides. However, fires were confirmed outside of member boundaries on community land,” RSPO Indonesia’s Director of Operations, Tiur Rumondang said in a press release sent to The Palm Scribe.
The RSPO Secretariat’s Investigation and Monitoring Unit began its investigation in September, after Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the government had sealed off 42 concessions for causing land and forest fires in Riau and West Kalimantan, including land owned by five RSPO member companies — four Malaysian and one Singaporean— which she named.
RSPO said that it will continue the audit exercise for all five members through accredited certification bodies (CBs), with the next audit set for December 2019. Concurrently, it is working with the members to identify the root cause of the fires detected both inside and outside members’ concession boundaries, as the organization takes the issue of fires – whether intentionally set for land clearing or accidental – very seriously and prohibit its use under their standard.
“Fires outside the boundary area of an RSPO member is still concerning, as there is a potential that it could be a supply base for our grower members and it risks entering the supply chain. Foreseeing this risk, we will communicate and work closely with our members and the Government of Indonesia to mitigate this risk, and we have informed our members to take immediate measures to ensure that any Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB) from these areas do not enter into the RSPO supply chain.” Rumondang added.
Global Forest Watch Fires, an online platform monitoring fires, including in Indonesia, showed that seven percent of the fires in Indonesia observed were in palm oil plantations compared to 30 percent in pulpwood plantation and one percent in logging areas. The majority of the fires were in non-concessions areas.