EoF Coalition appreciates Minister of EF for rejecting idea of oil palm to be registered as forest plant

EoF Press Release / 10 February 2022
palm oil plantation in Tesso Nilo complex

PEKANBARU, Sumatra - 9 February 2022 –  Eyes on the Forest coalition warmly hailed Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar for her policy rejecting idea to register oil palm commodity as forest plant. ''The [Indonesian] Government’s Rule is strict, that oil palm is not included in forest plant and there is no plan to do so [revise regulation],” said the Minister in her twitter update, Monday (07/02/2022).

Director General Sustainable Forest Management of the MoEF, Agus Justianto, added in the press release: “From several regulations, historical values, academic study, public discourse and in practice, obviously that oil palm is not forest plant and the Government has yet to plan revising such a regulations.”   

EoF appreciated the policy by the Minister of EF as a synergized step to accomplish probelm of oil palm plantation inside Forest Estate. Agus Justianto said MoEF Regulation number 8 and 9  year 2021 have stipulated regulation of jangka benah (transitional forestry), namely activity of planting forest tree as alternate crop to oil palm tree. Meanwhile, forest’s main crop for Protected Forest and Conservation Forest must be trees of non-timber forest production and that is wooden tree and unfelled one.

Last month the Indonesian Government revoked HGU (plantation’s enterprise land right) in size of  34,448 hectares from dozens of firm, as an effort to “upgrade natural resources goood governance. It is also part of 3,126,439 hectares of abandoned land from 192 forestry license rescinded by the Government due inactive, not create workplan, and abandoned. Among the revoked licenses, 17 companies located in Riau with 253,745,24 Hectares. Licenses that evaluated by the Government in the province are 11 documents in size of 94,106.98 hectares.

“In Riau province, oil palm lobby’s manouever to register it as forest plant is a game played by financial backer and the industry’s mafia who for years have been taking benefit by breaching the law,” says  Made Ali, Jikalahari coordinator. “They also include palm oil corporate who sources illegal products from the financial backers.”  

Prof Hariadi Kartodihardjo, an academician and forestry policy expert – in his article on Forest Digest magazine—says : “[Given] Rules explicitly register oil palm tree as forest plant will not be retroactive. In other words, this [rule] will be effective for plantation planted after the regulation is stipulated. Hence, status of developed oil palm plantation inside forest estate will not change. It means, the license matter should be accomplished first. Therefore, oil palm plantation in the past cannot be automatically legalized by only change it [status] to forest plant.”   

A joint 2019 report by Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture, National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, Geospatial Information Agency and Presidential Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) concludes that 20% (3.5 million hectares) of the nation’s total oil palm plantation cover (16.8 million hectares) in 2016 was located in forest estates.

EoF investigations on the ground in 2019 found that the illegal FFB from 43 units of oil palm plantation were bought by 15 CPO mills including big producers. EoF also tracked CPO trucks from 9 out of the 15 CPO mills above and found that the CPO tainted with illegal FFB were bought by 6 famous refineries.

EoF analysis said that in total, between 47% and 86% of Riau’s oil palm areas could be illegal. In addition, 39% (2,099,724 ha) of Riau’s oil palm areas in 2020 had been planted outside Forest Estates but without HGU.  

The MoEF press release on Monday said that “The Government nowadays focus on solving some problems that have been occurring since some decades ago, which cause massively expansion of palm oil plantation inside forest estate which is not procedural and unlawful. Practice of expansive, monocultural, unprocedural palm oil plantation inside forest estate have created problems of legality, ecology, hydrology and social that should be solved.”

Nursamsu of WWF-Indonesia says, “Any positive efforts to recover natural resources governance by the Government, including forest and environmental restoration in disaster-prone areas, obviously we hail positively. “

Boy Even Sembiring of WALHI chapter Riau says the interest of palm oil smallholders should be prioritised amid ambition by big palm oil producers to dominate the national palm oil plantation management. 

Eyes on the Forest lodged online petition since two months ago in change.org entitling Pak Jokowi, Jangan Jadikan Sawit sebagai Tanaman Hutan [Pak Jokowi Don’t Change Oil Palm [status] as Forest Plant] as the organizer decides the petition by EoF has won following policy expressed by Minister of EF to reject idea of oil palm as forest plant.  

"Beside appreciating the policy of Minister of EF, EoF are also grateful to fellows who have voiced altogether with us. Obviously, our step will not stop here , we will keep fighting the justice and sustainability,” says Tantia Shecilia, of EoF communications team.