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 – 11: 24 May 2017

Highlights of the past two weeks include the May 22-28 issue of Tempo English cover feature on the “Peatland Predicament”. The various pieces within (see below) frame an internal government conflict between the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry Environment and Forestry. The ministry of Industry is advocating for the loosening of recent regulations regarding water table depth (currently 0.4 meters) and conservation set aside (currently 30%) on peatlands. These standards which appear to be based on the “eko-hidro” approach first developed in a 2010 study of the Kampar Peninsula in Riau, Sumatra. Wetlands International, however, has previously concluded that these standards “do not provide an option for sustainable peatland management but ultimately lead to significant loss of peat in line with studies of peatlands globally.” Indonesia’s National Commission on Fish Stock Assessment has raised Indonesia’s potential MSY to 12.5 million tons, from 9.9 million tons. The increase caps a near 100% increase during the three years of the President Joko Widodo’s administration. The cover feature of the May 27 – June 2, 2017 issues of the Economist, meanwhile, focuses on the perilous state of the oceans. 
**The Jakarta Post has now paywalled the majority of their articles. We will continue to cite the Post as a critical English language Indonesian paper.  Please feel free to inquire further on pieces of interest for which access is restricted. 

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia’s MSY reaches 12.5 million tons; TAC to reach 10 million tons 
— Tempo Bisnis, 1 June 2017
Indonesian maximum sustainable yield (MSY) rose almost 100% in the three years of Jokowi’s administration, stated the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjianti. According to The National Commission on Fish Stocks Assessment (Komnas Kajiskan) MSY for Indonesia’s fisheries rose from 6.5 million tonnes in 2011 to 12.54 million tons 2016.  The Ministry will maintain its total allowable catch (TAC) at 80% of MSY for the year, totalling 10 million tons. The production target for capture fisheries will remain unchanged at 7.8 million tonnes for the year, with value of 157.7 trillion IDR.  “Our target is no longer the volume, but quality. Good quality, good prices, and good handling. We don’t need volume, but prosperity," stated the Ministry’s Director General of Capture Fisheries, Sjarief Widjaja. The increase in MSY resulted from the continuing effort to combat illegal fishing, according to the Ministry.

Ocean Warning
- The Economist Cover Story and Leader, May 27 – June 2, 2017
Scientists expect almost all corals to be gone, and the ocean to have more trash than fish, by 2050; almost 90% of fish stocks are currently fished either at or beyond sustainable limits. If global fish stocks were to recover sufficiently to achieve maximum sustainable yields, production would increase by 20%, or 16.5 million tons, yielding an additional $32 billion per year.  A lack of information and a low prioritization amid other economic concerns make management difficult, particularly across international boundaries. Still, reasons for hope exist. Quotas, property rights, and similar constraints have worked well in some cases, including the US, where the number of overfished stocks decreased from 25% of total socks in 2000 to 16% today. The WTO hopes to introduce rules for fishery subsidies which now total $30 billion per year and mostly support developed countries and harmful fishing practices. New technology is also critical in helping to identify changes in the ocean and shedding light on fishing practices. However, nothing will be successful without the participation of fishers in the design of regulatory regimes.

Police foil a series of attempts a billion-rupiah worth of lobster seeds 
— Eni Muslihah, Kompas 29 May 2017 
A joint team comprising personnel from Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and National Police has thwarted attempts to smuggle 65,000 lobster seeds worth billions of rupiah, Thursday 25 May 2017. Further investigation conclude that the perpetrators have successfully smuggled lobster seeds for two to three times in the past. In the same week, East Java Police also failed an attempt to smuggle 50,011 lobster seeds worth of 10 billion IDR. Indonesia has not been able to cultivate lobster seeds and has issued a regulation prohibiting capture of lobster seeds.  The smuggling activities had inflicted huge financial losses upon Indonesia’s fishing communities since the lobsters were caught only after they were ready for harvest.

Swimming Crab (BSC) fuels Lampung province economies  
— Lampung Post, 11 May May 2017 
BSC’ popularity has started to rise following the decline of shrimp production in Lampung, said the Secretary of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Toga Mahaji. BSC production form Lampung has so far contributed to 10-15% of the national production, generating 250 billion IDR (18.8 million USD).  To improve the productivity Lampung Marine Affairs and Fisheries Agency with the Team of Sustainable Fisheries Management Initiative (IPPRB) collaborate to develop actions plan to build sustainable fisheries management involving various stakeholders; public, private, academic and the local community. The initiative aims for sustainable fisheries and product handling to meet the international standard for export.   A pilot project for the sustainable BSC management in Lampung is currently underway.

Forestry & Land Use

Government dismisses stronger moratorium on forests
— Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta Post, 29 May 2017
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has approved a two-year extension to a moratorium on issuing new licenses in land designated as primary forest and peatland, an area now covering more than 66 million hectares. This is the third extension of the policy established by the previous administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. 
In response to the latest renewal, a coalition of environmental NGOs has criticized the latest renewal, arguing that the regulation should be “based on an evaluation on the implementation of the previous periods…” The coalition includes Forest Watch Indonesia, Greenpeace Indonesia, the World Resources Institute, and the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy.  A recent study by WRI and the University of Maryland indicates that deforestation rates in Indonesia remain high despite the Moratorium (see below).

Study finds moratorium does little to curb deforestation
— Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta Post, 26 May 2017
Using latest satellite data from the University of Maryland, the World Resources Institute (WRI) said in a study that deforestation decreased in 2013 before increasing significantly to 796,500 hectares (ha) and 735,000 ha in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Almost half of nationwide deforestation in 2015 took place in Kalimantan (323,000 ha), while forest cover loss rate was also alarming in Papua. The study also found the highest level of deforestation within moratorium areas in 2015 was in Kalimantan, reaching 69,000 ha, followed by Sumatra with 39,000 ha and Papua with 25,000 ha. The authors argue that the government’s moratorium on the issuance of permits for primary forests and peatlands had “scant effect on forest protection” and suggest that this may be because the moratorium is in the form of Presidential Instruction “which does not entail legal consequences for the perpetrators,”

Borneo Could Lose 75 Percent of Its Forest by 2020: WWF
— Jakarta Globe, 5 June 2017
World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and Malaysia released an executive summary of an upcoming publication titled "The Environmental Status of Borneo 2016," predicting that Borneo could lose 75 percent of its forest by 2020 due to the alarming level of deforestation on the island. Only 71 percent of the 74 million hectares of Boreno's forest was left in 2005, and only 55 percent was left in 2015. Projections indicate that if the deforestation continues at this rate, a further 6 million hectares of forest will be destroyed by 2020, leaving less than a third left by 2020.

Peatland Predicament

Tempo English issue May 22-28 focuses on peatland issues with several articles highlighted below
Peatlands under pressure 
— Agus Supriyanto et al 
Recent efforts to enforce government regulations No. 57/2016 and 71/2014 have included the forced halting of plantation activities and removal of planted species, affecting companies in both Kalimantan and Sumatra, with the potential for far greater impacts.  Industry advocates have taken issue. The Association of Forest Business Owners (APHI) sent a letter of protest to senior government officials, which was soon followed by a letter from the Governor of West Kalimantan.  
In response, Minister of Industry, Airlangga Hartarto, sent a letter to the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, and President Joko Widodo, proposing that holders of forestry and oil palm concessions on peatland be allowed to continue operations if they “implement the latest in peatland water management technology.” The Ministry of Industry also proposed revising the requirement to maintain the water table 0.4 meters below the peat surface to 0.8 meters, in line with industry preferences. Also targeted by industry is an article requiring conservation of 30% of total peat area.
According to Panggah Susanto, Director-General of Agro Industry at the Ministry of Industry, the regulations could lead to losses of 1.02 million ha of land in the palm oil sector, and 780,000 ha in the forestry sector. According to Gapki, investors could lose Rp138 trillion in investments, and Rp88.5 trillion in lost revenue.  Minister Siti remains unconvinced, suggesting that some concession holders are land-banking, and calling for the sharing field concession data. 

The looting of the land
— Ayu Prima Sandi et al, Tempo 28 May 2017
According to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, the government granted too many land concession licenses over 2004 to 2014, releasing 9.3 million ha of forest lands for commercial use, of which 6.2 million ha was located on peatlands. According to Made Ali, Vice Coordinator of the Riau Forest Rescue Working Network (Jikalahari), many of these concessions were based on unofficial deals between business owners and government officials.  A Special Committee of the Riau Province Legislature last year noted that hundreds of oil palm companies were operating illegally in forested areas without plantation business licenses or authorization to have forested areas released for commercial use. “Many plantation business licenses were issued by regents just before regional elections, as a means to acquire funds,” Made said.  In 2008, Riau Police Chief Brig. Gen. Sutjiptadi reported corruption in the licensing of forest use rights, implicating the Pelalawan Regent and two former chiefs of the Riau Forestry Office, all of whom ended up in prison.

Interviews with Minister of Environment and Forestry; Minister of Industry 
Brief excerpts from interview with Minister of Environment and forestry Siti Nurbaya and Minister of Industry, Airlangga Hartat:
Tempo:  Do you agree with the proposal of the industry ministry to change a number of articles in Government Regulation No. 57/2016
Siti Nurbaya: “The regulation is there to protect peatlands.  It cannot be played with.  Moreover, the protection of peatlands is an absolute.  So, if you want to change its contents, it means opposing the principles requested by the President.”

Tempo:  Did the debate start at cabinet meetings discussing peatlands restoration?
Airlangga Hartarto: “… I know when any implementation [of legislation] is out of line.  In the context of peatlands, for instance, it is not possible to restore an ecosystem exactly to what it was like before.
Fires and drought cannot fully be blamed on the forestry industry or its business owners.  This is because those fires occurred during the times of La Nina.  The land which has been cultivated into productive forests or for oil palm (plantations) do not completely disrupt the ecosystem.  Government Regulation No. 71/2014 stipulates that a license remains in effect until the concession ends.”

Opinion: The Battle Over Peatlands 
President Joko Widodo must immediately resolve the dispute between Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto.  Peatlands restoration is linked to two major conflicting interests:  environmental protection including prevention of forest fires, and economic interests worth hundreds of trillions of rupiah.  The dispute was triggered by the government itself, when Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto and West Kalimantan Governor Cornelius sent letters to President Joko Widodo objecting to the program to restore peatlands because of the disruption to production of timber and palm oil.  The restoration program must go ahead with the minimum possible negative impacts on the economy.  The government could delegate the problem but the final choice in the hands of the president.

Companies challenge strict liability clause in environmental law 
— Sri Pujianti, Constitutional Court Website, 30 May 2017 
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post, 5 June 2017
The Association of Indonesian Forest Concession Holders (APHI) and the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) are challenging Law 31/2009 on Environment Management and Protection. In May, the two associations filed a petition with the constitutional court to review Article 88, on liability for threats to the environment, Article 69 prohibiting land clearing through slash-and-burn practices, and Article 99 penalizing damage to the environment through negligence.  
In the petition, the Lawyer appointed by the associations highlighted the potential for huge financial losses for fires that may not be the fault of the concession holder. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar responded, saying “They have been granted concession permits, how can they refuse to take responsibility if there is a fire on their land and instead put the blame on others?”  The Constitution Court has indicated that the petition may be lacking legal basis.  The second court hearing is scheduled on Friday, 9 June 2017.

Palm oil prices, stocks remain low
—, 31 May 2017
— Stefani Ribka, The Jakarta Post, 5 June 2017
Increasing soybean production in the US, US dollar weakness, and other factors have pushed crude palm oil prices lower, reaching 2,502 ringgit (USD $584.46) per ton (30/05), falling a total of 14.48%this year. Increases in sales to the European Union (up 8% mom to 482,950 tons in April) and to countries with large Muslim populations in advance of the Idul Fitri holiday have led exports higher.  Overall, exports for the first four months of 2017 surged by 26 percent year-on-year (yoy) to 10.7 million tons. However, production has not kept pace, and the nation’s palm oil stocks have fallen to 888,000 tons in April, the lowest level so far this year.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Trump’s decision to leave Paris Deal won’t affect Indonesia 
—, 3 June 2017
President Donald Trump`s decision to pull the country out from the Paris Agreement will not affect Indonesia’s efforts on climate change mitigation and adaptation, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya stated. "I am strict to my mission to improve the environment, with or without any foreign assistance," she told the press on Friday, 2 June 2017. Nurbaya asserted that the country has determined to reduce its carbon emission by 29 percent in 2030 without any international assistance.

Five Geothermal Working Areas are ready for tender in July 
— Tempo, 2 June 2017
The government will be calling five geothermal blocks with a projected capacity of 330 megawatt (MW) in July.  Rida Mulyadi, General-Director of New, Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation stated the blocks will be auctioned once a new regulation on auction procedure and geothermal utilization is signed.  The five blocks include: Southeast Sulawesi (20 MW), Oka Illiange in West Nusa Tenggara (20 MW), Jailolo in North Maluku (60 MW), Simbolon Samosir in North Sumatra (220 MW) and Sirung in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara (10 MW).

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources launches integrated geospatial application 
— Antara, 1 June 2017
Following on the "One Map Policy", the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources launched an application to provide integrated geospatial information for oil, gas, power, geology, resource potential, and energy reserves.  "This application is an attempt to integrate all the systems used within the ministry, the Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKK Migas), as well as the Downstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Agency (BPH Migas)," Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Ignasius Jonan said in Jakarta. The integrated system is expected to improve data validity and reliability, and help all policy makers, stakeholders, and businessmen to improve their investments in Indonesia.  The application is part of a joint program with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to support an integrated supervision system.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Kalimantan
— Saparia Saturi et al, Mongabay 30 May 2017
After coming under public scrutiny, Central Kalimantan Governor Sugianto Sabran halted construction of a railroad to transport coal through forested areas of the province. The decision followed a May 21 article by Mongabay’s Indonesian sister site which reported that the developers of the Katingan-Gunung Mas coal railway had cleared forest land and laid roughly two kilometres of track despite apparently not having all of the necessary permits. The project — designed to transport coal 90 kilometers to Katingan from the neighbouring Gunung Mas Regency — also includes a coal port on the banks of the Katingan River in Tewang Karangan Village. Residents and environmental activists fear the project will divide wildlife habitats and communities, pollute the river, damage local people’s livelihoods and spark conflict between local landholders.

Indonesia seeks 6 trillion IDR over raja Ampat Reef Destruction 
— Hussein Abri and Fransisco Rosarians, Tempo 24 May 2017
The Indonesian government is seeking Rp 6 trillion IDR (451.3 million USD) in damages from UK-based tourism operator Noble Caledonia for the destruction of coral reef and ecosystems in the Raja Ampat waters. The Caledonia Sky crashed into coral reefs in Raja Ampat and left 18,882 square meters of marine ecosystems damaged, 13,270 square meters of which were completely destroyed. An official familiar with the negotiation said that there was a huge gap between the amount of damages set by Noble Caledonia’s insurance company, SPICA, and that of the government. Environment Ministry Pollution and Coastal Degradation Management Director Heru Waluyo said that the negotiation would take some time, but the government will not lower the demand. Maya Tribe chief Kristian Thebu noted that the Raja Ampat tribe has been affected by the ecosystem damage. “The location is a Sasi [traditional conservation system]. It must be restored,” Kristian said.

National Park devastated by earthworm hunters 
— Tempo, 28 May 2017 
Around 20 hectares of conservation forest at the Mount Gede Pangrango National Park (TNGGP) in West Java has been damaged by hunters illegally searching for Sonari worms. "It took less than a year for the forest to be damaged," the TNGGP acting director Adison said.  The hunters cut down trees in order to find the worms and make camp while in the jungle. The worms were highly popular for its benefits including for typhoid and high fevers and the dried worms per kg could reach 5 million IDR (375 USD)


Police ask Interpol to issue ‘Red Notice’ for Islamic Defender Leader Rizieq Shihab
— Jakarta Globe, 2 June 2017 
Jakarta Police will ask Interpol to issue a red notice for firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front or FPI, who has been named as a suspect in the exchange of pornographic messages and photos, a police spokesman said on Tuesday 30 May 2017. Jakarta Police Spokesman Chief Comr. Argo Yuwono said investigators decided to ask for Interpol's help to bring Rizieq back to the country since the FPI leader had already evaded police questioning twice in April and May. At the moment, police investigators are still trying to find out Rizieq’s whereabouts.



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