APRIL rules out President Jokowi’s commitment to protect peatland and mitigation of forest fires

EoF Press Release / 18 October 2017
An APRIL's concession after peat burning. (C)Eyes on the Forest

Because compliance on paper is merely artificial

PEKANBARU  – Joko Widodo’s Administration have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emission by --one among efforts-- protecting peatlands as a preventive action to avoid repetitive massive forest and land fires. However, this effort is snubbed by Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) through its main supplier and subsidiary, PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), as the company disregarded the second Warning Letter issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry number  S.1254/MENLHK-SETJEN/ROUM/HPL.1/10/2017 dated 6 October 2017.  

The Ministry affirmed the company had no legal basis to operate due to the resistance. Eyes on the Forest (EoF) coalition reckon the defiance that conducted by the Singaporean-based corporate as tainted thing and public should pay attention to this havoc. The disobedience has shown the company has no good willing to improve its practice and pattern of business toward responsible and sustainable direction.   

The disobedience to comply with regulation to revise General Work Plan (Rencana Kerja Umum, RKU) for peatland protection is against its Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0[i], that launched in 2015. The policy said APRIL had promised to comply with the existing Law and specifically committed to peat protection as well as sustainable peat management.  

“This is constant resistance, which is conducted by awareness and designation,”says  Woro Supartinah from Jikalahari. “Obviously this betrays SMFP commitment, particularly to peat protection in Indonesia.”

APRIL publicly claimed has reduced fires occurrence by developing scheme of Free Fire Villages, in another side, the company is consistent to refute any efforts to improve peat management and protection as stipulated by Government Regulation number 71 year 2014 (Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 71 Tahun 2014)[ii] [iii]- to Peraturan Pemerintah number 57 year 2016[iv] on Protection and Management of Peat Ecosystem. EoF also reckons that APRIL reluctant to implement Regulation number P.17/Menlhk/Setjen/Kum.1/2/2017[v].

 “APRIL disregards peat protection efforts initiated by the Government, starting from the finding of land clearing on peat by Peat Restoration Agency (BRG)[vi] to ruling out warnings by the Ministry. Their moves obviously jeopardize and harm safety of many people which allow reoccurrence of severe burnings again,” Nursamsu from WWF-Indonesia.

Commenting on wave of protests each time APRIL/RAPP get troubles, EoF also call on workers and contractors of PT RAPP to be smart in avoiding alleged evil exploitation by APRIL who are noticeably against the law. Programs to improve forest governance by schemes of Agrarian Reform on Land (Tanah Obyek Reforma Agraria/Tora) and Social Forestry should open eyes of people that these will help them better and they can support the programs.

Riko Kurniawan from WALHI-Riau says, “License withdrawal to an APRIL’s supplier, PT Lestari Unggul Makmur (LUM), in Meranti Islands in 2015, as the concession utilization is handed to local community in form of Social Forestry could inspire us in finding solution.” Over two years after severe burnings in 2015, locals can take a breath better thank to decreasing burnings and haze occurrence, while apparatus and people are more well-prepared than before.[vii]

Therefore, EoF urges:

1. Partners and customers of APRIL to consider seriously any business decision thoroughly and carefully to avoid becoming part of sides encouraging poor management on peatland and environment which will drive rampantly more severe burnings.

2. The Government should rescind SVLK certificate held by PT. RAPP due to disobedience against compliance with peat protection is serious violation on principles of sustainable business management.

3. APRIL should halt any protest conducted by its workers as they are always used as shield of any trouble made by the company. The authority should review whether this exploitation is a serious breach against Manpower laws as well as Human Rights principles.

4. The Government and law enforcers to take stern action against any corporate who found deliberately burning the land and forest in 2013-2016, as well as any company who still plants acacia on burned peat or situated on area of Protection Function of Peat Ecosystem (Fungsi Lindung Ekosistem Gambut) indiscriminately. 

5. The Government –either at state or provincial level— to implement rights to manage land to communities who deserved in the scheme of Social Forestry and Agrarian Reforms. The authorities should also open broader opportunity to people who deserved as implementation of principles on social justice to all Indonesian people.