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 – 9: 25 April 2017

The intersection of Indonesian politics and fisheries policy came to the fore last week after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reportedly “vetoed” a 2015 ban on use of trawling gear. Still feeling the political impacts of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, the President was said to have caved in to accommodate [fishers’] demands rather than risk losing support for the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections in April 2019,” according to the Jakarta Post. The reality seems less dramatic. After meeting with Jokowi on 3 May, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti announced that the deadline for compliance with the 2015 ban on the use of cantrang would be extended seven more months from June 2017 until the end of the year. But the political link was not imaginary. Jokowi’s meeting with Minister Susi came shortly after he met with Muhaimin “Cak Imin” Iskandar, Chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Indonesia’s largest Islamic party and part of Jokowi’s governing coalition. “The party and I really want to fight for the fate of fishermen since most members of the PKB are fishermen,” Iskandar explained during a dialog with fishers in his office. Muhammadiya, the nation’s second largest Muslim organization, and several fisher groups have apparently reported Minister Susi to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM),  citing the allegedlydetrimental effect of the trawl ban on fishers. Others, however, suggest the pushback represents larger business interests, while smaller-scale, local fishers have benefitted from the policy. Minister Susi defended the prohibition, pointing out that the weighted nets are dragged across the sea bed, causing damage to marine ecosystems. “Cantrang nets measure as long as a hundred km, are weighted at the lower edge, and pulled in using powered winches, Sjarief Widjaja, KKP Director-General of Capture Fisheries explained. “These trawl nets are generally used by large ships over 30 gross tons (GT). They are no longer environmentally friendly.” Some fishers’ complaints appeared to focus on the Ministry’s faiiure to fulfil its commitment to supply fishers with environment-friendly replacement gear. Director-General Sjarief expressed confidence that with the extension of the deadline the gear replacement process will now run smoothly.

Marine & Fisheries

Susi’s War
— Editorial The Jakarta Post 8 May 2017-05-09
Since taking office in October 2015, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti has ordered the sinking of 317 illegal fishing vessels, mostly originating from neighboring countries, including China. The war has yielded a rise in Indonesia’s fish resources after decades of overfishing, and garnered Susi domestic and international praise. However, Susi’s penchant for blowing up vessels and enforcing prohibitions has not been accompanied by serious attempts to raise the prosperity of fishermen either through fish cultivation or by providing them with environmentally-friendly fish-catching devices. Tens of thousands of fishermen and unskilled labourers have been left unemployed since the war commenced, according to Bank Indonesia. They can no longer fish, because their devices are not environmentally friendly, and the ministry has gone at a snail’s pace to equip them with sustainable fishing tools. Demands from fishermen, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, and fellow cabinet members to come up with alternatives to prevent unemployment have been left unheeded, and Susi has even accused them of dancing to the tune of the fishing mafia. Amid rising conservatism and the growing perception of Jokowi as a protector of unbelievers, the President has opted to accommodate the demands of the National Awakening Party (PKB) rather than risk losing support in the simultaneous presidential and legislative elections in April 2019.  It is about time for Susi, the Iron Lady, to listen.

Global demand for seafood tests Indonesia’s sovereignty
— Fika Fawzia The Jakarta Post 27 April 2017
Indonesia increased awareness of sustainability challenges in its maritime domain and the ways that rising global demand for seafood is impacting countries like Indonesia with relatively healthy fishing stocks, along with the country’s new zero tolerance of poaching by foreign fishers is reshaping policy debates in the regional and global trade in seafood. Thailand’s Thai Union Group, the world’s largest tuna exporter, imported 90% of its tuna from foreign sources, mainly Indonesia, previously illegally operated a large number of vessels in Maluku waters, employing workers in slavery-like conditions.  In Merauke, Papua Province, the Chinese fishing firm Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd., reported a decline in revenues after 156 of the company’s China-flagged vessels were forced to stop operating in rich Arafura Sea waters following Indonesia’s moratorium on foreign fishing vessels. Indonesia needs to realize that with 260 million mouths to feed, prioritizing domestic demand for seafood by making sure there will be enough fish for Indonesian fishers to catch for generations to come through property sustainability measures is the only way to ensure the President’s vision of making the “oceans the future of the nation” into reality.

Jokowi envisions aquaculture to boost fisheries industry
— Anton Hermansyah Jakarta Post 5 May 2017
Expressing apparent exhaustion over recurrent disagreements over the trawling ban, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urged Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries officials to consider develop a more far-reaching vision for the industry, suggesting offshore aquaculture as a way to boost fishing output while promoting sustainability. “Look at Norway, look at Taiwan, tell our fishers about this method,” the president said.  “The yield [from offshore aquaculture] can be ten times the method we’ve adopted for decades.

Offshore aquaculture becoming an economic reality
— Nicki Holmyard SeafoodSource 14 April 2017-05-09
Offshore aquaculture:  Spatial planning principles for sustainable development
— Rebecca R. Gentry et al, Ecology and Evolution 2017 Jan; 7(2): 733-743
Participants in the 6th Offshore Mariculture Conference, held in Barcelona in April, expressed optimism about the prospects for offshore aquaculture as a path forward for feeding a growing global population called for continuing government support of the still fledgling industry.  The EU is seeking to develop new aquaculture opportunities further offshore in the Mediterranean Sea with larger, fast-growing species such as meagre, Atlantic halibut, greater amberjack and grey mullet.  Michael Rubino, director of aquaculture at NOAA Fisheries Services, said the US is struggling to take advantage of its potential due to a difficult and lengthy permitting process, but several large projects are on the horizon off the coast of California and off Hawaii. However, offshore aquaculture poses a number of potentially significant but still largely not fully understood ecological risks, some of which may be mitigated or minimized through spatial planning and careful risk assessment. |

Improving financial inclusion in Indonesia’s fisheries sector
— Moekti P. Soejachmoen Jakarta Post 3 May 2017
Indonesia’s fisheries sector has expanded rapidly under the leadership of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, rowing 8.37% year-on-year in the 3rd quarter of 2015, far above the country’s average overall economic growth rate of 4.7%.  However, the 7.9 million fishers who account for 92% of national fisheries output are struggling to survive due to limited access to markets, capital, and equipment as well as rising operational costs, according to the Financial Services Authority (OJK). Limited access to capital is partly due to perceptions of high risks and high costs as well as fishers’ dependence on asymmetrical information and lack of collateralized assets.  In 2014, banks disbursed only IDR 17.9 trillion (US$ 1.34 billion) in loans to the fishery sector, about 0.4% of total national bank financing.  OJK’s JARING program is intended to provide better fisheries sector information to financial industries and expand linkages between formal and informal financial institutions to expand credit provision to the sector.

EU praises Indonesia’s efforts to combat IUU fishing
— Reiny Dwinanda Republika 26 April 2017
European Union Commissioner for Marine and Environmental Affairs Karmenu Vella praised Indonesia’s efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, noting that Indonesia is an important partner of the EU in ensuring sustainable management of fisheries. Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, who was in Brussels for talks in fishery sector cooperation, expressed the hope that recognition of Indonesia’s efforts to eradicate IUU fishing and sustainably manage fisheries could be acknowledged through the removal of tariffs on Indonesian fishery products entering the EU market.  EU fishery imports in 2015 were estimated at € 24 billion.  Indonesia’s annual exports to the EU market are currently valued at US$404 million.

Moratorium increased Capture Fisheries Production
— Ismadi Amrin, Nusantara Maritime News  12 April 2017
Indonesia’s total capture fisheries production in 2016 was 6.83 million tons, , an increase of 4.75% over 2015, and reached a value of IDR 125.38 trillion (US$9.42 billion),  based on preliminary data, Director-General for Capture Fisheries Sjarief Widjaja said.  Sjarief said the 2014 moratorium on 30-GT foreign made vessels resulted in a reduction in the number of licensed vessels from 4,964 units to 3,160 at the end of 2015.  Following verification and reregistration, the number of vessels increased to 4,041 units. “The moratorium that the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries imposed generated a higher catch rate, significantly increased revenues, improved fishermen’s welfare, and saved 36% of fuel use, Sjarief said.

A sustainable marine economy:  Bureaucracy, infrastructure and pollution are making it difficult for Indonesia to develop its marine tourism to its full potential
— Amanda Siddharta  Tempo 7 May 2017
“Marine tourism can be a powerful driving force for growth and have a strong multiplier effect, as it generates cross-sectoral employment opportunities,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said at a conference on “Enhancing Marine Tourism and Empowering Coastal Communities in the Indian Ocean Rim” in April.  Agung Kuswandono, Deputy for Natural Resources and Services at the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, cited bureaucracy as a challenge for Indonesia’s marine tourism, though regulations on cruise ships and private yachts entering Indonesian ports have been eased.
Indroyono Soesilo, an advisor to the Ministry of Tourism, said the government was investing US$17.5 billion to develop ten new marine tourism sites to rival the already popular Bali. The Ministry of Tourism hopes to increase the number of marine-related tourists arriving in Indonesia to 4 million by 2019, with the country hosting 5,000 private yachts and 800 cruise ships by that same year, but strict regulations are needed to protect the marine environment and prevent catastrophes like the grounding of a British-owned cruise ship, the Caledonian Sky, in Raja Ampat in early March, which destroyed 1,600 m2 of coral reefs inside a protected area.

Forestry & Land Use

Digital Peatland Governance: Surveillance technology for a haze-free region
— Rini Astuti  RSIS Commentaries 13 April 2017
In order to help prevent annual transboundary haze crises from peatland forest fires. Indonesia is aiming to restore 2.5 million ha of degraded peatland, of which 1.4 million ha are located in plantation and forest companies’ concessions. In March 2017, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry issued new regulations requiring plantations to install water logger systems to monitor peatland water table levels and maintain the water level at 0.4 meters below the surface.  A collaboration between the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) and the Government of Japan is working to develop a water logger that can generate automatic reports via satellite to government agencies in real time. This will reduce fire hotspots by making it impossible for oil palm and pulp companies to illegally dry out peatlands.
However, successful implementation of the new digital reporting system will require improvements in peatland governance and solutions to the entrenched political problems around corruption, ambiguity and rent-seeking practices within the peatland agribusiness sector.

RSPO freezes palm oil company’s operations in Papua Province
— Alice Cuddy  Mongabay 7 May 2017
The Complaints Panel of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) issued a stop-work order for seven subsidiaries of Goodhope Asia Holdings for “poor quality” audits and insufficient documentation required under New Planting Procedure (NPP) rules.  High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments for all seven concessions were conducted by a team from Bogor Agricultural University lecturers led by Nyoto Santoso which are being treated as “suspect” by the RSPO after an independent review. RSPO members are required to submit HCV assessments prior to establishing or expanding a plantation to identify areas (such as virgin forests or peatlands)  that cannot be cleared without violating standards for ethical palm oil production.  The Singapore-based palm oil company, a subsidiary of Sri Lanka’s Carson Cumberbatch, has been previously linked to other cases of environmental and human rights abuses in Papua Province, including allegations of grabbing land from an indigenous community.  The company is contesting the allegations and the RSPO action.

Oil Palm replanting program for smallholder farmers to start in May
— Viriya P. Singgih  Jakarta Post 2 May 2017
The Indonesian Oil Palm Estate Fund (BPDP-KS) replanting program for smallholder farmers will begin in May with an allocated budget of IDR 500 billion (US$37.2 million).  The fund aims to replant a total of 22,000 ha this year, at a cost of IDR 25 million per ha.  Under the program, smallholder farmers must first join a village cooperative (KUD).  The replanting funds will be distributed through partner banks, including Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) and Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), which will onpass the funds to cooperatives, which will disburse the funds to members in phases. Yields are declining at many smallholder farms that were originally planted 20-25 years ago, so the replanting program is crucial to meeting the government’s objective of boosting crude palm oil (CPO)  production from 35.53 million tons in 2016 to 40 million tons by 2020.

President Widodo wants to expedite agrarian reforms, but not enough land is available
— Ayu Primasandi et al, Tempo 7 May 2017
President Joko Widodo recently reiterated his commitment to realize fair and just agrarian reform in the face of a rising incidence of agrarian conflicts which reached 450 cases 2016, up from 252 the previous year.  One day earlier, the president gave out 10,055 National Agrarian Operations Project (PRONA) land certificates, which can protect landowners from becoming embroiled in land disputes with other parties.  “But I don’t want to give away land only to have it resold to the wealthy,” Widodo said.  In February, the government distributed about 1.7 million ha of land through the agrarian reform program, in addition to 700,000 ha distributed in 2015 and another million ha distributed last hear. There is still 21.7 million ha of land ready to be disbursed, including 12.7 million ha of forest management rights provided by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry’s social forestry program to be granted to communities. However, the total amount of land is still insufficient to be distributed among the 13.57 million farmers who have no land of their own, according to Montty Girianna, Deputy Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Natural Resources and Environment Division.  There is a need to recover additional community land management rights from plantations in forest areas currently managed by companies.

Climate Change & Pollution

Air pollution in Greater Jakarta exceeds WHO guidelines
— Hindun Mulaika, Jakarta Post 2 May 2017
Air quality measurements taken in February 2917 by staff and volunteers from Greenpeace Indonesia revealed that all areas in Greater Jakarta exceed the maximum daily guidelines for PM2.5 set by World Health Organization (WHO).  PM2.5 refers to suspended particulate matter composed of fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less, which is considered to be the air pollution component most dangerous to human health  In Cibubur, PM2.5 readings reached 225 μg/m3, nine times higher than the WHO limit.  Indonesia does not adhere to WHO standards for air quality, allowing PM2.5 levels of 65 μg/m3 over a 24 hour period, but even this was only achieved in 3 of 19 locations monitored. Coal-fired power stations, automobiles and diesel powered vehicles are the most important sources of PM2.5  pollution in Indonesian cities.  Indonesia allows coal-fired power plants to emit 20 times more pollutants than are allowed in China and near 4 times more than the limits imposed by India.  Controls for nitrous oxide and sulphur oxides are similarly weak compared to other countries in the Asian region. According to Energy and Air Pollution, a 2016 report by the International Energy Agency, Indonesia ranks third globally after China and India in the average number of premature deaths caused by air pollution from the energy sector. |

Conservation & Protected Areas

Indonesia files US$2 billion suit over Montara oil spill
— Djemni Amnifu Jakarta Post 8 May 2017
The Indonesian government has filed a Rp 27.5 trillion (US$2 billion) lawsuit against a Thai company over an oil spill in the Montara oil and gas field in the Timor Sea in 2009.  The suit argues that the Thailand-based oil company PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) was responsible for the sea pollution which damaged 1,232 ha of mangroves, 1,429 ha of seagrass, 714 ha of coral reefs in Kupang and Rote Ndao regencies. This lawsuit, filed at Central Jakarta District Court, is separate from the class action suit against PPTEP being processed in Sydney’s federal court, which was filed by more than 13,000 seaweed farmers who are seeking more than A$200 million in damages.

Storm Stork in West Kalimantan at risk of extinction
— Severianus Endi Jakarta Post 27 April 2017
The population of the endangered Storm’s Stork (Ciconia stormi) in coastal areas of Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan is declining at an alarming rate. A survey conducted by World Wildlife Fund Indonesia (WWF Indonesia) from 2011 to 2017 found that there may be only 10 individuals surviving in Kubu Raya.  Most of the world’s surviving population of only 400-500 Storm’s Storks are located in Sumatra and Borneo (Kalimantan and Brunei), with the rapid decline of the species suspected to be related to forest loss and fragmentation, primarily the result of logging and conversion of forest to oil palm plantations, according to the IUCN Red List.  The development of lowland rivers as transport routes and hunting are also threats.  |


Coal miners owe the Indonesian government hundreds of millions of dollars 
—Mongabay 8 May 2017
Indonesia’s decentralization came at a time of booming commoditiy prices and was accompanied by an explosive growth in permits for mining operations, many of which are in violation of permitting laws, according to an investigation by the National Human Rights Commission and NGO groups in East Kalimantan, where most of Indonesia’s coal is sourced.  Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, and mining accounts for about 10% of state revenues.  But as much as 74 million tons of coal was extracted illegally from small mining operations in 2013, according to the IEA, and 6.3 million ha of mining concessions have been allocated illegally inside forests zoned for protection.  Mineral and coal mining companies owe the Indonesian government a total of IDR 5.07 trillion (US$380 million) in unpaid fees, royalties, land rent and taxes, a government official said. The Directorate General of Mineral and Coal Mining already has detailed data that includes the names of the thousands of companies that are in arrears. However, one of the biggest challenges has been that after tracing the names of the companies in arrears, it emerges that their existence is unknown. The addresses used when applying for a permit were not provided correctly,” an NGO manager told Mongabay.

Court revokes environmental license for the Cirebon coal plant expansion
— Mongabay 25 April 2017
An administrative court has ruled that expansion plans for the Cirebon coal-fired power plant in West Java violate local spatial planning laws and ordered the project’s environmental license to be revoked. The verdict came one day after a consortium of lenders, led by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) committed to providing $1.74 billion in project financing. The project has been the subject of demonstrations and protests since completion of the existing 660 MW power plant in 2012.  Plans for the 1000 MW expansion project aat Cerebon are also the subject of a civil case, which claims that local officials did not satisfy all legal and procedural requirements before clearing the project’s Environmental Impacat Assessment, known in Indonesia as an AMDAL including legally-required consultations with local communities.

Philippines Acting Environment Secretary forced out of office after ban on open-pit nickel mines
— Aurora Almendral New York Times 3 May 2017
Acting Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was forced from her job when the Philippine Congresss denied her confirmation to the post.  Lopez made waves with aggressive moves to close mining operations accused of violating environmental laws and canceling mining contracts in watershed areas, shutting down production of 28 of the country’s 41 mining companies which accounted for about half of the country’s nickel production.  Prior to the vote, Lopez rushed to finalize a new ban on open-pit nickel mines before her confirmation hearing.  The Philippines has been the world’s largest producer of nickel ore.

Indonesian state-owned mining conglomerate plans to quintuple nickel output
— Viriya P. Singgih Jakarta Post 3 May 2017
State-owned mining company PT Aneka Tambang (Antam) plans to quintuple its production of nickel ore to 9 million wet metric tons (wmt).  The increases will come from Antam’s three ferro-nickel plants in Pomalaa, Southeast Sulawesi.  Antam also conducted the piling ceremony for a new ferronickel smelter in East Halmahera, North Maluku, slated for completion in late 2018.



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