EoF News (PEKANBARU) – At least four pulpwood suppliers and three palm oil plantations named suspects for allegations on Riau wildfires in June-July 2013. Some of these suspected companies are timber suppliers to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resource International Limited (APRIL), a newspaper report said this week.
Bisnis Indonesia newspaper reported Monday that eight companies named suspects in allegation to set the wildfires intentionally that stipulated in Protection and Management of the Environment (PPLH) Law number 32 year 2009.
WALHI chapter Riau, the Friend of Earth Indonesia, hailed the move by the government, but pressured the authority to take stern measure against perpetrators setting the forest and land fires that happened in Riau in June and July this year.
Investigation Division Head of Ministry of Environment (MoE), Shaifuddin Akbar, told Bisnis daily that the naming suspects on the companies as a legal entity has been done since August and based on Article 98, Article 108 and Article 116 on the Environmental Law.
“We found at least two evidences that can proceed the case’s status into investigation. The follow-ups of the investigation is also carried with the management of the company,” Akbar said on Thursday (19/9/2013).
Article 98 regulates the criminal of any person who intentionally commits a crime that results exceeded air quality standard. Article 108 revolves the criminal of land fire perpetrators.Then, Article 116 is about punishment sentenced to an institution or individual.
Bisnis cited five pulpwood suppliers named suspects namely PT BMS, PT BBHA, PT RUJ, PT SPM and PT SRL. Eyes on the Forest still verifies PT BMS on the list of HTI (industrial timber plantation) companies, but the coalition confirmed that PT Bukit Batu Hutani Alam, PT Sakato Pratama Makmur, and PT Ruas Utama Jaya are suppliers of APP/Sinar Mas. While, PT Sumatera Riang Lestari are supplier of APRIL.
Three palm oil concessions named suspects are PT AP, PT LIH, and PT JJP.
Meanwhile, APP’s Deputy Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Engagement,Aniela Maria, told that her side did not know about the status determination from the ministry yet and would look for further information, Bisnis reported.
Riko Kurniawan, director of WALHI Riau, said that the ministry could revoke licenses of companies proved to set the fires and caused terrible haze in Sumatra and neigboring countries.
In addition to punish the perpetrator companies to make deterrent effect to everybody, the ministry “can rescind licenses of companies who set the fires that it can be a lesson for other firms for seriously securing and protecting their own concessions from fires,” Kurniawan said.
“Walhi appreciates [the environmental ministry’s response] meaning targets we filed have been responded by KLH [the ministry] as there are 117 firms [as perpetrators] we have complained about, ” said Kurniawan as quoted as saying by gagasanriau.com on Monday (23/9/2013).
MoE carried out a field investigation in July-August related to the wildfire allegation in forested areas for land clearing. Throughout the fire, haze blanketed Pekanbaru, even to Malaysia and Singapura. Communities were also experienced health effects due to the smoke.
Coordinator of Jikalahari (Riau Forest Rescue Network Riau) Muslim Rasyid said that MoE’s determination in naming suspects of fires has confirmed the allegations on corporate’s role and involvement in Riau forest destruction.
"The next thing to do is oversee the process from the beginning to the court. Besides civil society, KPK [anti-corruption commission] can also monitor the process,” Rasyid added.
Sumatra’s Riau province is suffering Indonesia’s worst fire season in recent years with serious smoke choking the region and neighboring Singapore and southern Malaysia. Eyes on the Forest has been tracking forest and land cover change and those who drive it in Riau since the early 1990s. Today it published several new data layers on its Google Earth based interactive maps.
9.3 million hectares Riau province lost almost 3 million hectares of natural forests between 1990 and 2007 and an additional 880,000 hectares until 2012 (30% loss). Just over 2 million hectares (22%) of natural forest remained.
WWF Indonesia published a detailed analysis of deforestation between 1990 and 2007. New data published today on Riau’s deforestation until 2012 including historical data on the deforestation of Riau’s islands show that the pulp & paper industry remains the key deforestation driver. The industry is dominated by the Sinar Mas Group/Asia Pulp & Paper and Royal Golden Eagle/APRIL conglomerates and their respective wood suppliers. Second most important deforestation driver was the palm oil sector with its many corporate and other players, including the so-called “wild cutters” which do not even stop at national park boundaries to grow their oil palms.
Fires, smoke and haze -- EoF online database
Checking fires on the ground -- photos published in EoF online database