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
2nd Edition :  1 February  2018

Protests and political pressure over the twice delayed ban on cantrang seine net trawls have come to a head as the ban, issued by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, was set to finally take effect in January of 2018.  President Joko Widodo  <> agreed to further postpone implementation of the policy prohibiting cantrang during a visit with fishers in Tegal on 15 January and in a meeting with representatives of fishers at Merdeka Palace on 17 January.  Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs, recently suggested that cantrang be allowed in certain areas, saying it can help economic performance. “The president has ordered the fisheries ministry to focus on increasing fish production and export” said Luhut.  Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, followed up by  <> issuing a provision allowing fishers in six North Java districts with smaller boats to continue to use their cantrang gear, but she stressed that the ban remained in place for larger boats. National Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, meanwhile, has  <> issued an instruction prohibiting police officers from taking legal action against fishers continueing to use cantrang gear.
The ministry continues to stress that  <> cantrang trawls are ecologically damaging, particularly when used by larger vessels laying nets extending hundreds of kilometers, and urges that this gear be replaced by gill nets or folding traps, however, the costs of replacing all cantrang gear could reach hundreds of millions of rupiah.  However, the Indonesian Fishermen Alliance (ANNI), and other critics, are now insisting that President Jokowi  <>  promised to allow unrestricted use of cantrang trawl gear throughout Indonesia, during their meeting on 17 January, without limitation of vessel tonnage.
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Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia buckles to protest against seine fishing ban
— Basten Gokken, Mongabay Maritime  25 January 2018
The Indonesian government has exempted fishermen operating off the north coast of Java from complying with a ban on the use of a particular type of dragnet known locally as cantrang. Fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti announced that the transition period would be extended indefinitely, but only for fishermen operating in the north coast of Java (Pantura) area — effectively putting the cantrang ban there on hold.  “[The seiners] can take as much time as they need to adopt new fishing equipment,” she said. “But they must truly work on replacing their fishing tools.”   As part of the transition, the fisheries ministry has deployed a team to monitor the progress of the program and the distribution of the financial aid, working closely with several state-owned banks to provide funds, which this year amounts to Rp 1.3 trillion (US$105 million) for boats of 10 to 30 GT.

Indonesian Fishermen Alliance (ANNI) rejects limits in relaxation of cantrang ban
— [translated] 26 January 2018
The Indonesian Fishermen Alliance (ANNI) urged the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) to immediately issue regulations making it clear that Indonesian fishers may continue to use cantrang fishing gear indefinitely and without limitation of vessel tonnage or restriction to the Pantura region of North Java, as stated in the recent deferral of a full ban on cantrang.  ANNI Chairman Riyono said Minister Susi Pudjiastuti’s limiting the relaxation to the waters of North Java has no basis, because President Jokowi actually said in a meeting with fishers at the Merdeka Palace that fishermen throughout Indonesia may continue to use the cantrang without any time limits.

No more quarrel, please!
— Tempo 15 January 2018
Coordinating Minister of Marine Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Minister of Marine Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti are at opposite poles regarding the sinking of illegal fishing boats.  This squabble should have been quietly resolved in an internal meeting within the cabinet, but was instead publicized via the mass media, pointing to a communications breakdown among the ministries. Luhut asked Susi to stop sinking foreign ships caught stealing fish in Indonesian waters, linking the matter to the decline in the supply of fish for export and asking the fisheries minister to boost production. Minister Susi retorted that the sinking and burning of illegal foreign fishing boats were mandated by law, and released data showing that fish exports increased throughout 2017.  The problem of inter-ministerial quarrels has become common enough that President Joko Widodo issued a presidential instruction prohibiting ministers from becoming publicly embroiled in internecine squabbles.

Government to help local seafood producers meet global health standards
— Dames Alexander Sinaga, The Jakarta Globe 19 January 2018
Indonesian seafood producers will receive intensive guidance on health requirements for fish and seafood products in the country's main export markets, a senior official at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) said. Nilanto Perbowo, Director-General of Strengthening Competitiveness of Marine and Fishery Products, said a general lack of awareness of seafood health requirements among Indonesian exporters is one of the main reasons the country could not meet its fish export target last year. "We must provide domestic fish processing companies with proper guidance," Nilanto said in Jakarta on Friday (19/01). He expressed hope that Indonesia will be able to achieve its US$5.3 billion seafood export target by the end of this year. The country was only able to achieve 51% of its US$7.62 billion seafood export target in the first 10 months of last year.

Forestry & Land Use

Outrage and conspiracy claims as Indonesia, Malaysia react to EU ban on palm oil in biofuels
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 19 January 2018

Indonesian businesses protest EU’s palm oil prohibition
— Winny Tang, The Jakarta Post 23 January 2018
Officials in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s biggest palm oil producing countries, lambasted the European Parliament’s decision to phase out palm oil from motor fuels over the next three years due to environmental concerns. Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said that the vote to reduce to zero “the contribution from biofuels and bioliquids produced from palm oil” by 2021 was misguided and unfair, given that Jakarta had taken steps to address the environmental impact of the palm oil industry. The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), and the Indonesian Biofuel Producers Association (Aprobi) similarly argued that Indonesian palm oil producers had invested in sustainability programs.  Indonesia’s biodiesel sales to the EU totalled US$20.2 million over the first 9 months of 2017 while palm oil exports to the EU tallied US$2.5 billion over the same period. Shinta Kamdani, Kadin Vice Chairwoman for International Cooperation, said the private sector had called on the government to raise the issue during the 4th round of negotiations on the Indonesia-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership (I-EU CEPA), to be held in Indonesia over February 19-23.  The vote by the European parliament still needs to be ratified by the European Commission and member governments. |

Indonesia organizations criticize omission of key principles from ISPO certification regulations
—  Jakarta Post 30 January 2018
A group of forty-five civil society organizations (CSOs) have criticized a recent draft of a new presidential regulation to strengthen the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification standard, saying that it failed to take into consideration principles of traceability and human rights, included in an earlier draft.  The government introduced the standard in 2011, after several multinational corporations stopped buying Indonesian palm oil.  Muzdalifah, Under-Secretary for food and agriculture of the Office of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, claimed that the two principles had been merged with the other seven principles.  “Traceability was merged with the transparency principle, while the human rights principle was integrated with labor management, so it’s just a matter of grouping,” she wrote in a text message.  Sri Palupi, a researcher from the Institute for Ecosoc Rights, said that the setback could mean the government had decided to move away from the EU market and instead boost exports to countries which pay less attention to sustainability, such as India and China.

Indonesian ruling rings alarms over criminalization of environmental defenders
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 26 January 2018
A court in Banyuwangi Regency, East Java, sentenced environmental activist Heri Budiawan to ten months in jail for allegedly displaying a banner with the hammer-and-sickle logo symbolizing communism during an April 2017 protest against a gold mine in a once-protected forest.  The ruling is the latest in a series of controversial prosecutions of environmental activists and protesters based on draconian or obscure laws critics say are meant to silence dissent against politically-connected land developers. The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry says it wants fewer such cases going to court, but activists say the biggest perpetrators of what they deem the criminalization of criticism are the police and district attorneys.

Jambi to replant palm oil on 20,000 hectares land
— Tempo 22 January 2018
Agusrizal, Head of Jambi's Provincial Plantation Office, said Jambi will conduct a replanting program on 20,000 hectares of oil palm land in six districts in 2018. The program is expected to run in Muarojambi, Batanghari, West Tanjungjabung, Bungo, Merangin and Tebo.  "One of the efforts taken by the government to realize the plan is to provide Rp 25 million (US$ 2,000) per ha grants from the Ministry of Finance (MoF) through the Plantation Fund Management Agency (BPDP) of palm oil for farmer groups who have four hectares land," Agusrizal said. To access the aid, the farmers must have a total land area of at least 40 hectares and are required submit their proposal to a cooperative to serve as an intermediary between them and the Agency." According to the Jambi Provincial Plantation Office, thirteen Village Cooperative Units (KUD) have applied for financial assistance from the MoF through the program, and other cooperatives are in the process of being verified by district and province authorities.

Four illegal logging suspects arrested in conservation forest
— Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 25 January 2018
The Merbau Police have arrested four suspected illegal loggers during an operation in Kudap village, Tasik Putri Puyu district, Meranti Island regency in Riau province. Merbau Police Chief First Insp. Roemin Putra said the suspects were arrested as they processed wood in a conservation forest area within timber giant Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper‘s (RAPP) concession area.  “Every day, they loot the forest and process the logs with two chainsaws, a handsaw, a hammer and an axe. We have confiscated them all,” Roemin said.

Social forestry program shows slow progress
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post 30 January 2018
Three years after its launch, Indonesia’s social forestry program has only come through on a small portion of planned allocations. In October 2014, President Joko Widodo promised his administration would allow local communities to manage 12.7 million ha of land across Indonesia, but as of December 2017, permits had been issued for only roughly 1.3 million ha.  Minister of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that the president’s target was unrealistic, citing budget constraints and a lack of personnel to assist local communities in obtaining the 35-year land management permits.  The MoEF has suffered heavy budget cuts during the last three years which restricted allocations for the social forestry program, one of the government’s flagship policies to reduce social and economic inequality.  Around 66% of Indonesia’s poor live around or inside forests which they depend on for their livelihoods.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Indonesian parliament to discuss renewable energy bill
— Viriya P. Singgih, The Jakarta Post 25 January 2018
Following the failure of the Indonesian government to meet its target of securing 10.42% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2016, Indonesian legislators are committed to drafting a law to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for renewable energy development.  However, business groups have expressed concern that recently issued ministerial decrees have not provided fair treatment for investors, Halim Kalla, Deputy for Energy at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) said. Kalla cited Energy and Mineral Resources Decree 50/2017, which stipulated a price cap on renewable electricity based on the regional supply cost of electricity, and obligated investors to transfer renewable projects to the state-owned electricity firm PLN at the end of their power purchase agreements for a price of only US$1,000.  The Ministry’s Director-General for New and Renewable Energy Rida Mulyana has concurred that the decree hampered investment in the domestic renewable energy sector.

Energy subsidy estimated at Rp127.6 trillion this year
— The Jakarta Post 23 January 2018
The Indonesian energy subsidy is estimated to reach Rp 127.7 trillion (US$10.22 billion) this year, or 0.2% of GDP. The government spent Rp 97.6 trillion (US$ 7.8 billion) on energy subsidies in 2017.  Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia Chief Economist Aldian Taloputra said the increase in the energy subsidy projection was due to the rise in global prices for oil, currently US$70 per barrel, well above the government's original projection of US$48 per barrel in the state budget. The government has announced that it would not increase subsidized fuel prices until March. Aldian said the unexpected increase in the cost of the energy subsidy would widen the state budget deficit from the planned 2.2% of GDP in the government’s original projection to 2.6%.

Renewable energy Indonesia: Rising geothermal power capacity
— Indonesia Investments 15 January 2018
The Indonesian government aims to add 250 MW to the nation's installed geothermal generating capacity in 2018. Based on data from Indonesia's Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, Indonesia's geothermal generating capacity stood at 1,808.5 MW at the end of 2017, slightly below the government's target of 1,858.5 MW. Indonesia currently is tapping only 10.3% of its geothermal potential.  Despite accounting for roughly 40% of global geothermal reserves, Indonesia is only the third-biggest producer. But with the second unit of the Sarulla plant (the world's largest single-contract geothermal power project) coming online last year, Indonesia is close to becoming the world's second-largest geothermal producer. By 2025 the Energy Ministry plans to raise the nation's geothermal generating capacity to 5,000 MW.

Indonesia to auction 43 oil and gas blocks by March 2018
— Viriya P. Singgih and Stefani Ribka, The Jakarta Post 19 January 2018
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources plans to offer 40 conventional and three unconventional oil and gas blocks through a tender in early March, including 32 blocks that failed to attract investors in earlier auctions.  Winners of the upcoming tender will operate all blocks using the new gross-split mechanism which requires investors to pay exploration and production costs instead of relying on the government’s reimbursement, as was the approach under the former cost-recovery scheme. In December 2017, the ministry announced it had found bidders for five of 15 oil and gas blocks offered through that year’s auction. Among the bidders are the United Arab Emirates-based Mubadala Petroleum, Spain’s Repsol Exploración SA and a consortium consisting of the United Kingdom-based Premier Oil Far East, Mubadala Petroleum and Singapore’s Kris Energy.

Singapore banks finance Southeast Asia coal projects
 David Fogarty, The Strait Times 23 January 2018
Singapore’s three top banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – are key funders of coal projects in the region, according to an analysis of investments by the Singapore banking sector by Market Forces, an Australian financial green group.  The report noted that financing coal development is at odds with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote the rapid growth of affordable renewable energy.  According to the report, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank have financed 21 coal project deals since 2012 worth US$2.29 billion, more than half of which were for coal-fired power stations, mainly in Indonesia and Vietnam. OCBC was the top lender, participating in coal deals worth US$1.14 billion since 2012. This included US$195 million for the 2,000MW Tanjung Jati B plant in Indonesia last year.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Study: Lack of concrete actions blocked Indonesia’s efforts to meet environment targets
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post 25 January 2018
President Joko Widodo’s administration has struggled to meet its environmental targets in 2016 and 2017, according to a new study by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), which warned that the government’s push on infrastructure development in the run-up to next year’s presidential election could mean the same pattern could be repeated this year.  “Regional elections always provide room for strong association between business magnates and political leaders,” the report said.  Experts also allege rampant corruption in the issuance of questionable Environmental Impact Analyses (Amdal) in the process of obtaining business permits.  Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar said her ministry had identified legal loopholes in the existing Amdal regulations and would focus on revising the regulations.

Sumatran tiger in danger of extinction
— Otniel Tamindael, Antara News 27 January 2018
The poaching of Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae) for trading remains a serious threat to the survival of this protected animal. One of only six subspecies of tigers that survive today, Sumatran tigers, found only on the island of Sumatra, are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, meaning that it faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. Despite increased efforts to protect the endangered animal, including strengthening law enforcement and enhanced anti-poaching capacity, a substantial market remains in Sumatra and the rest of Asia for tiger parts and products.  The population of Sumatran tigers is declining because of high rates of habitat loss (3.2-5.9%/year) and fragmentation—in part due to expansion of oil palm and acacia plantations—high levels of tiger-human conflict, and the illegal international trade in tiger parts.

Government, NGOs join hands protecting marine ecosystem
— The Jakarta Post 23 January 2018
Almost half of Indonesia’s coral reefs have been severely damaged by years of excessive fishing and exploitative tourism activities, according to the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.  The Coral Triangle Center (CTC), a Bali-based environmental organization founded in 2010, has trained people residing on the shores of Bali and on Maluku’s Banda Islands to be more environmentally aware.  1k67890“We train them to use more nature friendly equipment or methods which we have provided,” CTC executive director Rili Djohani said, including traditional fishing methods, such as sasi which places restrictions on fishing. Indonesia’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) currently total 19.1 million hectares. Andi Rusandi, the ministry’s Director of Marine Conservation and Biodiversity, said they have been using a similar strategy espoused by the CTC to persuade local people to adhere to area restrictions and fish in sustainable ways.

Slain orangutan found in Central Kalimantan died of gunshot wounds before it was beheaded
— Tempo 20 January 2018
A critically-endangered Bornean  <> orangutan found dead in a river Central Kalimantan on Monday had died three days earlier from air rifle wounds before it was decapitated, Center for Orangutan Protection said.  Authorities previously said the great ape appeared to have been stabbed multiple times in the latest in a string of unnatural orangutan deaths on the island of Borneo. A necropsy carried out by police and the Center found 17 air rifle bullets in the corpse of the male orangutan, "proving" that it died due to human action, said the Center's habitat protection manager

Indonesian minister calls for stronger legal measures against orangutan poachers
— Tempo 21 January 2018
Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar announced that government will impose strong legal measures to control orangutan poaching.  She made the statement in response to the discovery of headless orangutan floating on Kalahien Buntok River in Central Kalimantan.  Minister Siti promised that the perpetrator would be revealed and punished in accordance with the Law by Central Kalimantan Police. "The Police will investigate the case and keeps monitoring the progress of the case."

Komodo dragon population reaches 3,012 in Komodo National Park
— Tempo 21 January 2018
Komodo dragon population reaches 3,012 in Komodo National Park The population of Komodo dragons in the Komodo National Park is 3,012 heads in 2017, according to Sudiyono, head of the park. "Last year, the population … tended to increase, particularly those on Gili Motang [and] Nusa Kode isles, where the population was very small in the past," he stated. Sudiyono explained that the population of Komodo dragons (Varanus Komodoensis) in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai Regency, is stable and not on the brink of extinction.  However, the 2017 figure suggests a possible decline of more than 6% since 2013, when the population was estimated at 3,222.  The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is classed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN “Red List of Threatened Species.  It exists on only five islands in Eastern Indonesia, and the number of breeding females may be as few as 350 individuals.


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