A senior Roman Catholic cardinal has aired support for oil palm as a resource for development and an instrument of economic and political stability as long as they were sustainably cultivated, an Indonesian diplomat said.
Indonesian Ambassador to the Holy See, Antonius Agus Sriyono said that Vatican’s Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter K. Turkson, has made statements that carried “a nuance of support for the development of oil palm plantation, as long this remained in balance with environmental sustainability.”
Speaking on the telephone to The Palm Scribe, Sriyono emphasized the importance of the conditionality, that there should be a balance between human needs and environmental sustainability. His comment came in the wake of a report that claimed the Vatican’s support for palm oil as a commodity which could help alleviate poverty and unemployment in developing countries. He said that to his knowledge, Pope Francis or the Vatican have not taken any stand on palm oil.
A report entitled “Pope Stands with Palm Oil,” released by FreeForChoice, and independent institution based in Rome that advocates freedom of choice for consumers, said that for Pope Francis, the poor and the citizens of developing countries have the right to undertake economic activities to prosper, but they must do so in a sustainable way.
The report also pointed out that Cardinal Turkson had last year declared in a conference organized by the Vatican that “palm oil is the tool to stop the migration of tens of thousands of Africans to Europe,” and its cultivation was also an activity that was capable of stimulating development and growth.
Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan last year met Pope Francis at the Vatican, to extend a letter from President Joko Widodo seeking Vatican’s support for palm oil in the wake of a decision by the European Union to phase out palm oil-based biofuels from the regional grouping’s energy program for the transportation sector. The coordinating minister also met with Cardinal Turkson during the same visit.
Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer, together with the second largest producer Malaysia, have criticized the European Union decision as discriminatory against palm oil and they have vowed to bring the case to the World Trade Organization.