Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest

Starling Resource produces a bi-weekly Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest email for circulation to a broader cohort of practitioners, funders, and experts. The purpose of the digest is to present readers with a brief, easily digestible summary of significant, recent news items, reports, and papers relevant to conservation, sustainable development, and the environment in Indonesia, compiled from domestic Indonesian and international media sources. The digest is produced once every two weeks throughout the year. If you are interested in receiving the digest, please let us know by email at or subscribe here

News Digest
2017 – 8: 11 April 2017

Marine & Fisheries

Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti eyes Japanese Radio Company radar systems
— Retno Sulistyowati Tempo 22 April 2017
Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti met with Kenji Ara, President of Japanese Radio Company (JRC) in Tokyo to discuss radar systems for detecting and preventing IUU fishing.  The system being considered can monitor nine locations out to a radius of 150 km at each location. Minister Susi said they are also exploring a grant assistance with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Priority locations for the new radar systems are Raja Ampat in West Papua, Morotai in Maluku Province, Sabang at the northern tip of Sumatra, and the Natuna archipelago in the South China Sea, and the Arafura Sea between southwest of Papua Province, Minister Susi said, noting that these were also locations where the ministry needs more sophisticated radar to support conservation programs.

Indonesian marine capture fisheries production set to rise 16.4% this year
— Reiny Dwinanda Republika 19 April 2017
Indonesia’s marine capture fishing production is predicted to reach 7.8 million tonnes this year, a 16.4% increase from 2016, according to Sjarief Widjaja, Director-General of Capture Fisheries at the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.  Director-General Sjarief said that Indonesia currently has about 2 million marine fishers and 625,000 fishing boats, of which 40,000 are larger than 30 gross tons (GT) in overall size, while 300,000 are smaller craft without engines.  Sjarief attributed the rapid growth in capture fisheries production to improved stocks and potential following the moratorium on operations by foreign fishing vessels, crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and prohibition of fishing gears that damage the environment. Sjarief added that the Ministry has allocated IDR 467 billion (US$346 million) to build 1,068 new fishing vessels this year, ranging in size from 3 to 120 GT, plus three 100 GT fish carriers. The ministry will also supply new fishing gear, including gill nets, trammel nets, drift long lines, bottom long lines, pole-and-line gear, and hand-line gear.

106 foreign fishing vessels seized in the 1st quarter of 2017
— Jessica Helena Wuysang Antara 22 April 2017-04-25
Over January to April 2017, 106 foreign fishing vessels have been captured through the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries’ Directorate-General of Fishery and Maritime Resources Monitoring (PSDKP-KKP), Task Force 115, National police’s Water Police (Polair), the Indonesian Navy and other authorities. PSDKP-KKP was responsible for the capture of 57 boats (4 Malaysian, 4 Philippines and 50 Vietnamese), while the Indonesian Navy arrested 37 vessels and the National Water Police captured 12 boats.  Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said the three-month figure was the highest ever.

Indonesia seeks ratification of maritime agreement on boundaries with the Philippines
— Marguerite Afra Sapiie The Jakarta Post 21 April 2017-04-25
The Indonesian government hopes to ratify a 2014 maritime agreement with the Philippines to combat illegal fishing and protect Indonesian fishers, according to Reza Shah Pahlevi, Director of Fisheries Resources at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.  Ratification of the agreement on boundaries between the two countries exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea would provide legal certainty for Indonesian fishers in determining areas where they can operate and make it easier for the Indonesian government to take strict action when Filipino fisherman operate in Indonesian waters.  Reza said that at least 107,182 Indonesian fishers and 152 vessels of 30 Gross Tons (GT) and above were operating in the waters off North Sulawesi, which have a large and diverse fisheries potential.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesia “strongly rejects” European Parliament allegations about Indonesian palm oil
— Antara 7 April 2017
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya rejected the European Parliament (EP) claims against Indonesian palm oil stating “The allegation linking palm oil industry to corruption, exploitation of children and abolition of rights of traditional communities is despicable and irrelevant." The Minister was responding to the EP’s recent "Report on Palm Oil and Deforestation of Rain Forests," which called for eliminating the use of vegetable oils that contribute to deforestation by 2020. Minister Siti highlighted oil palm’s role as a source of livelihood for smallholder farmers, who account for 41% of the total plantation area, and noted that the industry provides jobs for 16 million workers. The minister cited President Joko Widodo’s commitment to sustainability, adding that “The president has shown special attention protecting the rights of traditional communities over forests.” Minister Siti claimed that the studies of Indonesian oil palm were misleading, and part of an attempt to boycott the oil palm industry in favour of [European] sunflower and rapeseed oil industries.  Minister Siti said Indonesia would solve its own problems with respect to coping with forest fires, managing forest and peat lands, and protecting its fauna and flora as a contribution to the world.

Indonesian women risk health to supply palm oil to the West
— Wudan Yan  Pulitzer Center 19 April 2017
The big companies that produce the oil for food giants like Kellog and Nestlé typically promise that it is harvested in a way that protects both the environment and workers.  However, veteran plantation workers and human rights organizations say women are often relegated to spraying young trees with a potent cocktail of pesticides and herbicides and are exposed to severe health hazards from handling these chemicals. In 2015, Sawit Watch interviewed female workers across three plantations and found that workers who spent hours each day spraying fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides suffered from respiratory and vision problems. Some did receive protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, but still came into direct contact with the chemicals and rarely, if ever, received medical check-ups. A Nestlé spokesperson said that the company has been talking about labor concerns with Amnesty International and is “now developing a road map on labor rights in agricultural supply chains.” Other companies that use Indonesian palm oil said they investigate any health or labor violations that come to light and demand corrective action. But labor activists say too many companies blindly trust RSPO certification as a seal of approval, without doing their own research.

Getting community forest reforms right
— Erik Meijaard, Sugent Budiharta and Truly Santika, Strategic Review January-March 2017  
Greater involvement of communities in decision-making on natural resource use does not necessarily lead to improved rural incomes and reduced deforestation. Therefore, caution is needed in implementing fundamental changes in forest rights in Indonesia, and this is of particular relevance amidst President Joko Widodo’s ambitious land reform agenda. Several factors may affect community decision making, including the value of lands under community management, and the strength of community level institutions. Ongoing research indicates that village forests characterized by old growth or mineral soil perform well in avoiding deforestation, while village forests consisting of degraded forest or peat soil often perform poorly.

Indonesia insists it does not dump biodiesel fuel; considers new palm oil certification scheme
— Winny Tang  Jakarta Post 18 April 2017
Trade Ministry Director-General for Foreign Trade Oke Nurwan said that the Indonesian government would prove local biodiesel producers neither dumped their products in the US nor enjoyed state subsidies.  The US National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition is seeking a 34% punitive duty on imports of Indonesian biodiesel, alleging improper subsidies and dumping. In response, Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto has lodged a complaint with the US at the WTO, and also hinted the government was planning to introduce a certification scheme for palm oil similar to Indonesia’s SVLK (Timber Legality Verification System), which has been accepted by the EU.

With haze contained, government attention is shifting to peatland restoration
— Yuli Ismartono  Tempo 23 April 2017
Thanks in part to better policies and a prolonged rainy season, the haze from Indonesian forest fires that caused serious problems in Indonesia and neighboring countries in 2015 was not repeated last year.  One factor was a five-year moratorium on new licenses to establish palm oil concessions.  More recently, the government announced plans to restore 2.5 million ha of degraded peatlands, of which 1.4 million ha are located in plantation and forestry concessions.  Studies have shown that peatland restoration has been successful in preventing fires.  Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientists met with experts from the Indonesian Ministry for the Environment and Forestry in April to assess the effectiveness of policies and implementation following the 2015 forest fires and haze crisis, to discuss plans for monitoring progress in peatland restoration, reconciling various maps and figures for peatlands, and assess the usefulness of existing regulations, such as Presidential Decree No. 57/2016 on sustainable peat management.

RSPO accused of letting palm oil firm proceed with dodgy audits in West Papua
— Alice Cuddy Mongabay 14 April 2017
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s leading palm oil certification body, has been accused of allowing PT Nabire Baru, a subsidiary of Singapore-based palm oil company Goodhope Asia, to proceed with new planting in West Papua province even though New Planting Procedure (NPP) documents submitted by the company are “incomplete, substandard, insufficient and in places factually untrue.”  Greenpeace, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Forest Peoples Programme, in a letter to the RSPO Board of Governors, alleged that NPP documents highlight extensive illegal development of oil palm areas and on-going non-compliance with NPP rules.  The RSPO confirmed that an independent review of the company’s NPP submission found that the High Conservation Value Assessment carried out by a team of Bogor Agricultural University lecturers was “unsatisfactory” and should be re-done, but said that the company still had the right to post the NPP documents on its website.

Local NGOs in the Baliem Valley of Papua Province are working with indigenous peoples to map their customary territories
— Wahyu Mulyono and Melati Kaye Mongabay 21 April 2017
The Foundation for the Customary Development of Walesi (YBAW), a local NGO, has been working since 1996 to help indigenous peoples map their customary lands, completing 19 of 27 customary territories in the Jayawijaya District, including key features located in Lorenz National Park, the largest national part in southeast Asia.  Local and national government agencies are supporting the mapping effort, which is seen as a way to reduce conflicts.  After mapping, the hope is to gather demographic, economic and cultural data, as well as natural and agricultural features.  “After this process, we will register our maps with the national Ancestral Domain Registration Agency (BRWA),” said Cornelis Oagay, from the Center for the Study of Community Empowerment, which is supporting the mapping effort.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Climate funds for world’s poorest slow to materialise
— Lyndal Rowlands, Inter Press Service 25 April 2015
Climate change is making poor countries poorer, but funding to address this problem has been slow to materialise. In 2009, governments committed to provide US$100 billion a year in climate change financing for developing countries by 2020. Instead, funding bodies are mainly investing in green energy projects in middle-income countries.  The Green Climate Fund (GCF), a multilateral financing body set up to fund climate projects in developing countries, recently rejected a proposal to help farmers in Ethiopia cope with droughts.  Only two of the other eight projects approved by the GCF were in developing countries.  Funding bodies tend to prefer green energy projects such as wind, solar, or even mega hydro, which are more likely to provide a return on investment and help reduce carbon emissions. The GCF board maintained that the proposed project in Ethiopia was overly focused on addressing poverty and not enough on the impacts of climate change.  But Raju Pandit Chhetri, Director of the Prakriti Resources Center in Nepal, points out that separating poverty from climate change isn’t so straightforward.

Dilemma of energy used for cooking in Indonesia
— Ibnu Budiman, Pt. Sustainability and Resilience, The Jakarta Post 6 April 2017-04-25
Indonesia increasingly relies on imports to cope with a growing shortage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  LPG consumption rose 1.5% to 6.67 million tons last year, but domestic production dropped from 2.27 to 2.24 million tons. A large-scale program launched in 2007 to switch households from kerosene to LPG as cooking fuel has mainly benefitted higher and medium-income households in urban and suburban areas.  Approximately 24.8 million households, mostly in rural areas, still rely on firewood for cooking which can cause indoor air pollution and related health problems, and contribute to deforestation.  To respond to the problem, government agencies hope to expand farm manure and slurry based biogas programs such as the Biogas for Households program (BIRU), a cooperation between Hivos International, the Netherlands Development Organization (HRV) and YRE, an Indonesian NGO.  However, growth of the program has been limited by funding, technical issues, and inadequate training for users.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Orangutans can coexist in some human-disturbed croplands, including oil palm plantations 
— Linda Lombardi Mongabay 13 April 2017
Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss.  Researchers have found that orangutans can make use of croplands, including oil palm plantations, provided humans work to prevent conflicts and there remains connectivity to facilitate the animals’ movements among remaining patches of intact forest.   “What we see is that when orangutans are going into the adult palms, they are not impacting the production at all,” researcher Marc Ancrenaz says. “Orangutans can use [mature] oil palm plantation for dispersal and a supplemental source of food as well, [so long as] people are not harassing them, and killing them, and as long as there is enough [adjoining] natural forest maintained in this [human-altered] landscape.”  Gail Campbell-Smith at International Animal Rescue (IAR) is helping oil palm companies develop wildlife response plans using noise deterrents “to steer the orangutans back into the forest, so there’s no [crop] damage and no negative repercussions for the orangutans.

Hunting is driving declines in bird and mammal populations across the tropics
— Mike Gaworecki Mongabay 14 April 2017
    A. Benitez-Lopez et al, Science 14 April 2017
Inexpensive outboard motors, motorbikes, and hunting technologies have helped over-hunting to become a major threat to wildlife, particularly large mammals.  A 2016 study in Conservation Biology concluded that “hunting is by far the greatest immediate threat to most of the endangered vertebrates [in Southeast Asia].”  The new pantropical study of published in Science found that bird and mammal abundances declined by 58% and by 83% in hunted compared with unhunted areas.  The study concluded that “strategies to sustainably manage hunting in both protected and unprotected tropical ecosystems are urgently needed to avoid further defaunation. |

Thousands face relocation as a result of steps to protect Tesso Nilo National Park
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post 22 April 2017
The Indonesian government plans to evict 3,500 farming families currently residing inside Tesso Nilo National Park, Chalid Muhammad, a senior advisor to Minister for Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar said. “What is happening inside the national park is the result of illegal palm oil production ... by people who are not natives of the area,” Chalid said, adding that the farmers have been involved in clashes with traditional owners of land near the park.  The evicted farmers will be relocated to areas which once functioned as production forests (HPH) and provided with land and financial assistance.  Since Tesso Nilo National Park was established in 2004, it is estimated that 54% of the park’s total area of 81,793 ha has been converted to oil palm plantations by plantation companies and small-scale farmers.

Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences
— Lile Rambe Mongabay 20 April 2017-04-25
A pair of wildlife traffickers were sentenced to eight months imprisonment after they were caught with a collection of illegal animal parts, including several Sumatran Tiger (Panthera Tigris sumatrae) skins.  The Sumatran tiger is listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered” with only a few hundred left in the wild.  The two men were said to be long-time players in an illegal trading network spanning several provinces in Sumatra.  “Unfortunately, this is a very light sentence,” said Irma Hermawati, legal advisor to the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia program.  In three similar cases in Sumatra last year, smugglers received sentences to three years imprisonment and fines of IDR 50 million (US$3,8750).  The maximum allowable sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years in prison.


US Vice President Pence yields deals, movement on mine exports 
— Jakarta Globe 20 and 24 April 2017 
The visit by US Vice President Pence resulted in more than 11 agreements covering $10 billion in deals between Indonesian and US Companies, including sale of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by Exxon Mobil to Pertamina, Indonesia’s state energy company, and upgrades to the Indonesian Air Force’s aging F-16 fighters by Lockheed Martin.  In addition, there was progress on the dispute between the Indonesian government and US mining company Freeport McMoran, whose giant Grasberg gold and copper mine in Papua Province, has faced disruptions since December following a ban on raw exports related to a dispute over the company’s Contract of Work (COW).  On 21 April, Reuters reported that Freeport had been granted a permit to resume exports of 1.1 million tons of copper ore concentrate through February 2018.  Pence thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the interim solution, but said more steps were needed.  There was no sign of progress on the trade dispute between Indonesia and the US over Indonesia’s alleged illegal subsidies to palm oil biodiesel exports to the US. |

Commentary by Tempo founder Goenawan Mohamad on the defeat of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama by Anies Baswedan in the Jakarta governor election
— Goenawan Mohamad (on his Facebook Page), 20 April 2017
[Condensed] Ahok kalah; pilkada DKI 2017 sudah menentukan itu. Segera, apa yang terjadi dengan hiruk pikuk selama ini, akan jadi sejarah. Tapi saya harap satu hal tak dilupakan.Ahok maju ke dalam arena dengan belenggu di tubuhnya: belenggu sebagai "penista agama". Ia bisa bergerak dan bisa bicara, tapi ia tak sepenuhnya bebas. Prestasinya sebagai kepala daerah, yang diakui sebagian besar warga—yang membuat ia sebenarnya tak tertandingi—nyaris tak tampak dan terdengar lagi. Stigma itu bermula dari fitnah. Ia tak menghina agama Islam, tapi tuduhan itu tiap hari diulang-ulang; seperti kata ahli propaganda Nazi Jerman, dusta yang terus menerus diulang akan jadi "kebenaran". Kita mendengarnya di masjid-masjid, di media sosial, di percakapan sehari-hari, sangkaan itu menjadi bukan sangkaan, tapi sudah kepastian. Walhasil, Ahok diperlakukan tidak adil dalam tiga hal: (1) difitnah, (2) dinyatakan bersalah sebelum pengadilan, (3) diadili dengan hukum yang meragukan. Mengakui adanya ketidak-adilan di dalam kasus ini tapi bertepuk tangan untuk kekalahan politik Ahok -- yang tak bisa diubah -- adalah sebuah ketidak-jujuran. Ahok kalah, ia bahkan masih bisa di jatuhi hukuman dalam proses pengadilan yang di bawah tekanan aksi massa itu. Jangan-jangan kebenaran juga kalah -- di masa yang merayakan "pasca-kebenaran" kini.

Translation:  Ahok lost, the 2017 Jakarta Governor Election has been decided.  Soon this will all be history.  But I hope one thing is not forgotten.  Ahok advanced into this arena with fetters on his body, accused of blasphemy [against Islam].  He could move and talk, but he was not free. His achievements as head of the region, which most citizens acknowledged and which should have made him the unrivalled favorite, became almost unseen and unheard. This stigmatization of Ahok by label began with slander.  Ahok did not insult Islamic, but the charge was ceaselessly repeated.  As the German propaganda expert said, if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes “the truth”.  We heard it in mosques, in social media, and in everyday conversations.  The allegation becomes something certain. Ahok was treated unfairly in three ways: (1) He was slandered; (2) He was presumed to be guilty before he court’s verdict; and (3) he was tried under a highly dubious law.  It is hypocritical to pretend to acknowledge this injustice but still applaud Ahok’s irreversible political defeat.  Ahok has lost, and may even be sentenced in a court process informed by mass pressure.  Don’t let the truth be lost as well, in this age that celebrates “post-truth”.


Post Archives

2024 (10)
2023 (25)
2022 (26)
2021 (24)
2020 (24)
2019 (24)
2018 (23)
2017 (24)