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 – 14: 24 July 2017

With a cabinet reshuffle possibly in the works, President Joko Widodo faces continued pressure to replace Susi Pudjiastuti as Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF). Last week, the hashtag #GantiMenteriSusi (“replace Minister Susi”) became the top trending topic on twitter in Indonesia, apparently timed to coincide with a demonstration outside the presidential palace against the ban on trawl and seine nets. Twitter bots may have been responsible for the popularity of the anti-Susi hashtag, which was quickly surpassed by the hashtag #standforsusi, highlighting her continued popularity. President Joko Widodo’s recent  Perppu (Regulation in Lieu of Law) No. 2, 2017 on Community Organizations continues to elicit strong reactions. The Perppu was developed in the wake of the government’s decision to dissolve Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). Banned in most Muslim-majority countries, HTI advocates the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, but does not support violence. The government contends that the Perppu is needed to prevent the spread of ideologies opposed to the state ideology of Pancasila and the principle of the unitary state. Critics argue that the Perppu “has placed the legal existence of every NGO and civic organization in Indonesia at the mercy of a unilateral executive decision.” A Perppu remains in effect for one legislative cycle until legislators either develop permanent legislation or reject the Perppu. Meanwhile, Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab called for reconciliation between the FPI and the authorities on the condition that criminalization of [Islamic] clerical activities and activism be halted. “If reconciliation fails, then the only alternative is a constitutional jihad for a peaceful revolution,” Rizieq said in a statement. Rizieq fled to Saudi Arabia after police named him a suspect in a pornography case involving the alleged exchange of nude photographs. Rizieq’s FPI, the HTI, and others were involved in organizing mass demonstrations in late 2016 demanding the arrest of then governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on blasphemy charges. Purnama was sentenced to two years in jail in May.

Marine & Fisheries

Food cartel seeks Susi's replacement: Intelligence chief
— The Jakarta Post, 11 July 2017
The Indonesian economy is increasingly controlled by food and energy cartels, according to Gen. Budi Gunawan, Head of the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN).  These cartels are difficult to eliminate because of their wide and strong networks, Budi explained, adding that they have sought the replacement of Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti because she is tough against illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. “Bu Susi is being counterattacked through fishermen's demonstrations, etc.,” Budi said at a gathering of ulemas [Islamic scholars] from across the country in Jakarta on Thursday because their businesses were disrupted by Susi’s tough actions against illegal fishing.  The intelligence official explained that the cartels have prevented Indonesia from enjoying sovereignty in the food sector, forcing the country to rely on them.

Fishermen meet presidential staff to discuss trawl ban policy
— Antara News, 12 July 2017 
The fishermen alliance met the head of Presidential Staff Teten Masduki at Merdeka Palace following the mass protest held in front of the office on 11 July to discuss four recommendations regarding the current trawl ban policy. According to Rusdianto Samata, coordinator of the fishermen alliance, both parties agreed on four measures, including that the authority will temporarily allow fishermen to use the trawl net until the end of 2017 while studying the environmental impacts of the tool.  The second recommendation was that if the trawl was approved as not being harmful to the environment, then the fishermen can call on the authority to nationally legalize the fishing tool.

Illegal fishing in Southeast Asia: a multi-billion-dollar trade with catastrophic consequences
— Peter Chalk, the Strategist (Australian Strategic Policy Institute, ASPI) 17 July 2017
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a perennial problem in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Gulf of Thailand, where the overall catch per unit effort has plummeted by 86% since 1966, and in Indonesia, which is estimated to lose nearly A$4 billion (US$3.18 billion) a year to illegal fishing. The most frequent violators are fishers from China, Thailand and Vietnam. This ‘black industry’ ranges from small-scale violations by local artisanal fishermen to mass illicit enterprises conducted by large-scale open factory trawlers. One of the most important drivers is the weak fishing regulations of many states in the region.  Another is There’s also a dearth of scientific knowledge in Southeast Asia to inform the development of sound exploitation management models.

Indonesia renames its portion of the South China Sea
— Maritime Executive, 14 July 2017
The government of Indonesia has decided to rename the part of the South China Sea which falls within Indonesia’s EEZ as the North Natuna Sea, a move to assert Indonesian sovereignty in the face of increasing pressure from China. The new name, now features prominently on Indonesian navigation charts.  However, the area overlaps areas that are claimed by China as part of its sweeping "nine-dash line" maritime claims. Indonesian coast guard forces have skirmished with groups of Chinese fishing vessels and Chinese coast guard ships within the EEZ in recent years, and Jakarta has responded to the incursions by increasing its military presence in the Natuna chain.

Indonesia shrugs off China's protest over North Natuna Sea's name
— Marguerite Afra Sapiie, The Jakarta Post, 18 July 2017
Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti has given China the cold shoulder over its protest against Indonesia’s move to rename the South China Sea (SCS) waters that lie within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) north of Natuna Islands the “North Natuna Sea.” The minister was surprised by the remarks from Beijing, which had asserted the renaming “makes no sense at all.” “The North Natuna Sea falls within our territory, not within the South China Sea […] We have the right [to rename the waters], the North Natuna Sea is ours,” Susi said, as quoted by on Tuesday.  Minister Susi went on to say that the North Natuna Sea had huge fisheries potential, which had yet to be fully realized because these waters still see hundreds of illegal fishing incidents involving foreign vessels.

Catch shares slow the race to fish
— Anna M. Birkenbach, David Jaczan & Martin Smith Nature Vol 544 pp. 223-226, 5 April 2017
In fisheries, the tragedy of the commons manifests as a competitive race to fish which compresses fishing seasons, resulting in ecological damage, economic waste and occupational hazards.  Matching 39 catch share programs with controls before and after the policy change shows that catch shares extend fishing seasons.  However, catch share programs also have potential drawbacks.  Concerns include industry consolidation, non-local ownership of fishing quotas, decreased employment, loss of income and deleterious effects on fishing communities, and questions about giving away a public resource to individual fishers.  The authors say that their study is the first meta-analysis of economic outcomes from any type of market-based environmental regulation.

WTO Members prepare for next chapter in fisheries negotiations
— International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, 20 July 2017 
Negotiators are examining an influx of new and updated proposals regarding WTO treatment of harmful fisheries subsidies for the next Ministerial Conference scheduled for Buenos Aires in December 2017.  Indonesia has updated its earlier proposal to include clarifications addressing differences between small-scale and artisanal fishing and exceptions to be granted to developing countries for granting subsidies to “underexploited resources in the member’s own EEZ or rights held by the member in high seas fishing quotas or a regional fisheries management arrangement.” The proposal continues to refer to the need for technical assistance to developing country members, which it says would be provided by developed countries “upon request” on terms that are “mutually agreed.” The proposal also flags another important clarification for this new iteration: “Indonesia would like to highlight that prohibition on subsidies related to IUU fishing have been rearranged to clarify that subsidies contributing to IUU fishing must not be tolerated, given such activities have great detrimental effects on all aspects, namely economic and social.”

Forestry & Land Use

Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill
— Philip Jacobson & Hans Nicholas Jong Mongabay 21 July 2017
A new palm oil bill is the latest battleground in the fight over regulating Indonesia’s plantation sector in the wake of the 2015 fire and haze crisis.  Legislators supporting the bill say it will help farmers and protect the Indonesian palm oil industry from foreign intervention.  But critics say it is a plum for large corporations, which would serve as a means for vested interests to undermine peatland protection measures put in place by President Joko Widodo to prevent a repeat of the 2015 forest fires, which burned an area the size of Vermont and emitted more carbon daily than all of Europe. Leaders of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), which supports the bill, accuse Western soybean and rapeseed oil producers of conspiring to undermine Indonesian palm oil for competitive purposes.  Firman Soebagyo, a member of the House of Representatives Commission IV overseeing agriculture, plantations and food, says the bill is needed to counter a foreign assault on Indonesian palm oil. “We won’t be lied to by developed nations that propagandize about palm oil harming the environment,” Soebagyo said. “We oppose this negative campaign, because palm oil Is our future.”

Indonesia environment minister wants permanent ban on licenses to use forest land
— The Star Online, 24 July 2017
Indonesia’s environment minister said she wants to make permanent a moratorium on issuing new licenses to use land designated as primary forest and peatland. The moratorium, part of an effort to reduce emission from fires caused by deforestation, was extended by President Joko Widodo for a third time in May. "So far, it's only been extended, and extended again. I want a permanent [moratorium]," said Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar. "Our primary forest cannot be cleared out."

Pay people not to chop down trees
— reducing deforestation by paying for environmental services 
— Brad Plumer The New York Times, 20 July 2017
A team of researchers has confirmed the effectiveness of a simple approach to slowing the pace of deforestation in Uganda: paying landowners small sums not to cut down their trees.  The study, “Cash for carbon: A randomized trial of payments for ecosystem services to reduce deforestation,” was published in the journal Science on 21 July.  The researchers evaluated a program of payments for ecosystem services in Uganda that offered annual payments of 70,000 Ugandan shillings per hectare to forest-owning households if they conserved their forest. The program was implemented as a randomized trial in 121 villages, 60 of which received the program for two years. The primary outcome was the change in land area covered by trees, measured by classifying high-resolution satellite imagery. The tree cover declined by 4.2% during the study period in treatment villages, compared to 9.1% in control villages. The researchers found no evidence that enrollees shifted their deforestation to nearby land.  Moreover, even in a scenario where tree feling resumed after payments ceased, the beneficial delay in CO2 emissions from cut trees were 2.4 times larger than the program costs. <

Government prepares 30,000 hectares of land for palm oil replanting
— Antaranews, 12 July 2017 
The government has prepared 30,000 hectares (ha) of land for a pilot project to replant oil palms to increase productivity.  Minister of Agrarian and Spatial Planning, Sofjan Djalil, said the replanting project will be in an area where the cooperative sector is relatively strongly, because small-holder cooperatives are expected to be the basis of the project. "If the first phase of the project is successful, then there will be more projects the next year," Sofjan said.

82,000 ha of Papua’s peatlands to be restored
— Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, 12 July 2017 
The Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has targeted 82,000 ha of degraded peatlands in Papua which had been damaged by fires three years ago for restoration.  The program will start with 5,092 ha of peatlands in three villages in Kurik sub-district in Merauke Regency. The agency has recruited and trained facilitators to work in the  targeted villages to supervise and help integrate the restoration program into the sub-district’s development plan. By 2018, an additional 14,000 ha of Mappi regency peatlands are expected to be restored. Mappi Deputy Regent Ibnu Jaya Sahid welcomed the plan, saying the regency suffered from land fires in 2015, because of residents’ use of the slash-and burn method to clear land.

Energy, Climate Change and Pollution

Asia's coal-fired power boom 'bankrolled by foreign governments and banks'
— Michael Slezak, The Guardian, 20 July 2017
Environmental analysts from the activist group Market Forces examined 22 deals involving 13.1 GW  of coal-fired power in Indonesia and found that 91% of the projects were backed by foreign governments through export credit agencies or development banks. Export credit agencies, which provide subsidized loans to overseas projects to assist export industries in their home countries, were involved in 64% of the deals and provided 45% of the total lending. Most of these loans were from Japan and China. The China Development Bank was the biggest development bank lending to the coal projects, providing US$3 billion in credits, with US$240 million in development funds coming from the Korea Development Bank.  The credit surge has occurred despite warnings last year from the World Bank —the world’s biggest development bank – that plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a disaster for the planet.  “Right know, several key countries supporting the Paris climate change agreement are actively undermining it by trying to expand the polluting coal-power sector in other countries,” said Julien Vincent, Executive Director of Market Forces.

Southeast Asia renewables fund to be launched
— Finbarr Bermingham, Global Trade Review, 20 July 2017 
Infrastructure investment firm Susi Partners and environmental solutions company South Pole Group have combined to launch an energy infrastructure fund for Southeast Asia. The €250 million fund will invest in up to 30 renewable energy projects throughout the region, focusing on Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, channeling funds secured from institutional investors. The fund will have a ten-year lifespan, targeting solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind farms, hydropower, behind-the-meter solar PV, and energy efficiency retrofits on large-scale public and privately-owned infrastructure projects.

Siemens Gamesa secures 72-MW wind turbine order in Indonesia
Ivan Shumkov, Renewables Now, 21 July 2017
Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA said today that Asia-Pacific-focused power producer Equis Energy has ordered gearless turbines for its 72-MW Tolo 1 wind project in Indonesia. The newly-secured order calls for Siemens to supply 20 units of its SWT-3.6-130 direct-drive turbines for installation on the south-coast of the central Indonesian island Sulawesi. The company got five-year contracts with Equis Energy covering engineering, procurement, and construction as well as operations and maintenance. Siemens Gamesa will work with the state-owned construction company PT PP (Persero) Tbk on the installation, which is expected in late 2017. Commissioning is planned for early next year.

Freeport Indonesia mine workers to extend strike into fourth month
— Wilda Asmarini and Susan Taylor, Reuters, 21 July 2017 
An estimated 5,000 workers at the giant Grasberg copper mine operated by Freeport-McMoRan Inc's Indonesian unit will extend their strike for a fourth month, a union official said on Friday. The ongoing dispute over layoffs and employment terms comes as Freeport is snarled in a lengthy and costly dispute with the Indonesian government over its contract to operate the Grasberg copper and gold mine.  Freeport Indonesia union industrial relations officer Tri Puspita told Reuters on Friday that the strike was extended because there is still no solution for worker concerns. The strike began in May after Freeport laid off some 10 percent of its workforce to cut costs.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Inflated quotas for captive-bred wildlife in Indonesia may aid traffickers
— Basten Gokken, Mongabay, 18 July 2017
Inflated quotas for breeding animals in Indonesia’s commercial conservation facilities appear to be fueling the illegal wildlife trade, according to a new   study by TRAFFIC, a joint programme of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Conservation Union (IUCN). Indonesia's captive breeding plan is meant to enable the legal wildlife trade while protecting the country's natural resources, including its incredible biodiversity. But "unrealistically high" quotas for the maximum production of certain species in the plan are likely being taken advantage of by wildlife traffickers, according to the study. The Indonesian environment ministry official in charge of setting the quotas says his department has audited the country's breeding centers to ensure their professionalism and quality.

Indonesia sues Thai energy giant PTT for US$ 2 billion over 2009 oil spill
— Fidelis E Satriastanti, Mongabay, 11 July 2017
Indonesia is suing an arm of Thailand’s biggest energy group, PTT, for the equivalent of more than US$ 2 billion over a 2009 oil spill the archipelago country says damaged its environment and the health and livelihoods of local people. The lawsuit follows a meeting in March between Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia's coordinating maritime minister, and Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister.
It also comes on the heels of a class-action suit brought by 15,000 Indonesian seaweed farmers against the firm in an Australian court. The company maintains it has seen no evidence of damage from the spill in Indonesian waters. NGOs are calling on all sides to form a joint task force to establish once and for whether such damage occurred.

Shipping companies face criminal charges after damaging an Indonesian reef in Karimunjawa 
— Basten Gokkon, Pacific Standard, 14 July 2017
Indonesian authorities have indicted five local shipping companies on charges of gross negligence after their coal barges damaged coral reefs in a Javan marine park, according to a local official. About 15,000 square feet (1,394 m2) of reef in Central Java's Karimunjawa National Park were wrecked when five coal-carrying vessels separately ran aground during storms on 14 January and 10 February, according to Agus Prabowo, the head of the Karimunjawa National Park Agency.  Prabowo said the vessels had been granted permission by the head of a local port to make an emergency detour and seek shelter at two islets in the park, Cilik and Tengah, due to bad weather.

Linking the influence and dependence of people on biodiversity across scales
— Forest Isbell et al, Nature Vol 546, pp. 65-72, 1 June 2017
Biodiversity enhances many of nature’s benefits to people, including the regulation of climate and the production of wood in forests, livestock forage in grasslands and fish in aquatic ecosystems.  Yet people are now driving the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history.  Human dependence and influence on biodiversity have mainly been studied separately and at contrasting scales of space and time, but new multiscale knowledge is beginning to link these relationships.  Biodiversity loss substantially diminishes several ecosystem services by altering ecosystem functioning and stability, especially at the large temporal and spatial scales that are most relevant for policy and conservation.  Environmental policy needs to account for these important effects by considering biodiversity not only as an output but also as an input of environmental policy scenarios, including future climate scenarios.


Mouth-dropping corruption charges rock Indonesia
— John Mcbeth, Asia Times, 19 July 2017
The Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) named Setya Novanto, Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) and Golkar Party Chairman, as the mastermind behind the single most egregious corruption scandal to hit the graft-scarred Indonesian parliament since the dawn of the country’s democratic era.  Novanto now faces a possible 20-year prison term as the alleged central figure in a conspiracy involving at least 37 other DPR members and 12 Ministry of Home Affairs officials to embezzle IDR 2.3 trillion (US$173 million) from a grossly-inflated IDR 5.9 trillion (US$ 443 million) budget to develop an electronic identity card (e-KTP) system eight years ago, which one watchdog group called “a massive robbery of the national budget.” Novanto has denied any wrongdoing and has refused to step down from his two posts, saying he will lodge a pretrial motion challenging his suspect status—a tactic that has worked in two prominent graft cases in the bribe-prone lower courts.

Trump’s protectionism yet to impact Indonesian trade
— Stefani Ribka, The Jakarta Post, 18 July 2017 
Indonesia’s bilateral trade balance with the US has so far remained unaffected by United States President Donald Trump’s decision to put Indonesia on its trade hit list.  Indonesia enjoyed a US$4.7 billion trade surplus over the US in the first six months of 2017, up by 4.45% compared to the first half of 2016, thanks to cheaper goods resulting from lower labor costs and improved commodity prices, Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data show. Indonesia’s overall exports in the firsts half of 2017 were valued at US$6.3 billion USD (IDR 8.4 trillion) with fisheries export; fish, crustaceans, and mollusks contributing almost 10% or US$662 million (IDR 8.82 trillion).




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