APRIL operation halted in small island, “mediation team” deployed

EoF News / 06 January 2012

EoF News (PEKANBARU) — The Indonesian Minister of Forestry suspended temporarily logging operation held by Asian Pacific Resources International Limited’s (APRIL’s) PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) Tuesday in a concession situated in outer island Pulau Padang, Riau province.

This decision was seen as an attempt to respond  to intense protest and rallies staged by the island’s residents starting from Meranti island district, Riau’s capital Pekanbaru to Jakarta where the villagers surprisingly held lips sewing action.

Meanwhile, an Indonesian NGO, Greenomics, disclosed that APRIL will get abundant of woods from natural forest clearcutting they were allowed by the government.

Pulau Padang residents rejected logging operation by APRIL’s PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) which granted a concession of 41,205 out of total island’s size 110,000 hectares.

Some riots broke out last year in the island claiming a live of contractor worker of the pulp company.  The rallies and protests by the residents have been taking place since last year as they insisted that APRIL’s tropical forest conversion sits inside their settlement, traditional plantation and clearcutting operation will cause severe impact ecologically to the tiny peatland island which is strategic to international waters and neigboring countries.

Reports said that the Minister of Forestry issued the decree number 5.3/VI-BUHT/2012 dated 3 January 2012, media reports said Wednesday. The suspension will take place for uncertain time where the ministry set up a mediator team to gain recommendations from multistakeholders.

The letter delivered to chairman of PT RAPP said that based on Minister of Forestry Decree Number SK.736/Menhut-II/2011 on Establishment of Mediation Team to Solve Local Community’s Demand to License of Industrial Timber Plantation Use in Pulau Padang of Kepulauan Meranti District, Riau Province, the company is ordered to stop temporarily all forest activities by the company in Pulau Padang until further notice.

Riau Pos daily reported that Masyhud, the Ministry’s spokesperson said the mediation team led by Presidium of National Forestry Board(DKN), Andiko, started their duty to mediate the conflict between Pulau Padang communities and PT RAPP, the APRIL’s subsidiary. “When the team work, the activity by PT RAPP in Pulau Padang is suspended temporarily,” Masyhud said.

The Mediation Team consists of DKN, the Ministry of Forestry, academicians and other government agencies. The team will gather information on Pulau Padang issue from multistakeholders, including government, community, company and NGOs.

Hariansyah Usman from Walhi Riau, urged APRIL’s PT RAPP to obey the order given by the Ministry of Forestry to stop its operation. He also urged the Government to review the Minister Decree number 327/2009 which a license of conversion expansion for APRIL’s PT RAPP in several concessions including in Pulau Padang.

“NGOs in Riau have filed demand of lawsuit to the Minister of Forestry who issued SK Number 327 year 2009 to PT RAPP to convert natural forest in several concessions amid questions of its environmental assessment and absence of consultation with communities,” Hariansyah said.

“Pulau Padang is a small island that needs much more protection from environmental destruction and it is peatland area, so we urge the Government to rectinct the license for APRIL  there as well as in other small islands in the province such as Pulau Rupat, Pulau Rangsang and Pulau Tebingtinggi,” he said.

Greenomics’ call

While, Greenomics Indonesia called on APRIL on Wednesday  to “refrain from pulping peatland forest” on Pulang Padang, the small island.  Greenomics revealed that PT RAPP’s micro-delineation document of July 2009, which provides legal and official data on PT RAPP’s operation.

The document of APRIL admitted that the “concession area consists of human settlements,ricelands, fields and smallholder plantations extending to 3,145 hectares,” Greenomics said in the report entitling “APRIL must refrain from pulping peatland forest on a small Indonesian island.”

The Indonesian NGO also said that APRIL’s PT RAPP is motivated to obtain a range of 1.43 to 2.15 million cubic meter mixed tropical hardwood by felling 23,914 hectares of peatland forest in Pulau Padang.

“PT RAPP itself has officially admitted a lack of raw materials for its pulp and paper plants in an official business operations document thatit submitted to the Ministry of Forestry,” Greenomics revealed. “It would clearly be a tragedy if the peatland forests of Pulau Padang have to be sacrificed in order to fulfill PT RAPP’s raw materials’ needs.”

Greenomics report on Pulau Padang