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
4th Edition :  27 February 2018

News outlets reacted strongly to an amendment to the 2014 law on legislative bodies (MD3). "DPR curbs democracy" read the front page of Kompas 14 February, while The Jakarta Post led with "Anger at new House powers." The new amendment gives the House of Representative (DPR) ethics council power to take legal action against individuals for "disrespecting the dignity" of the legislative body. Under the law, an individual could be charged for calling the house 'corrupt.' Lucius Karus, senior researcher with the Indonesian Parliament Watch (Formappi), stated that "the consequence of this [amendment] will be that corruption and bribery are likely become more rampant."  J Kristiadi of the Center for Strategic and International Studies asserted that "this will not only decrease the people's trust in the DPR, but also decrease trust in democracy."
An editorial in the Jakarta Post linked the new MD3 provision to controversial proposed revisions to the Indonesian penal code (KUHP), which are being "widely criticized for being anticriticism." (The proposed revisions to the penal code are also being criticized for criminalizing homosexual acts and cohabitation between unmarried couples, among others). "Are lawmakers currently at war with democracy?" the editorial asks.  Another controversial provision in the amendment stipulates that lawmaker will be immune to prosecution and cannot by summoned to appear in court except with the permission of the President and after consultation with the House Ethics Council.   
Activists are considering legal action against the amendment, but have low confidence in the Constitutional Court given the recent ethics violation by the head of the Court for lobbying the DPR and his resulting reprimand. This reprimand came on the heels of the Constitutional Court's rejection of a challenge to the DPR's inquiry into the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).  Launched in April 2017, the DPR's inquiry was largely seen as another attempt by the DPR to weaken the KPK, frequently mentioned as the most trusted institution in Indonesia.  The 10-month-long inquiry finally concluded on 14 February with "a list of watered down recommendations."
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Marine & Fisheries

Opinion: National fisheries architecture
— [translated] Luky Adrianto, Kompas 23 February 2018
Fisheries consist of two separate but interconnected and dynamic systems:  the ecological, and the economic/policy systems. An architecture that takes these into account can provide direction and structure for fisheries governance, policies, and development. Discussions with stakeholders and experts has yielded five critical pillars for a fisheries architecture.

  1. Change fisheries management from open-access to restricted entry, by granting a form of "fishery rights" for small scale fisheries and issuing "fishing permits" for large-scale fisheries
  2.  Strengthen clear, inclusive management instruments that can be used at the national level or in a site-specific manner at the WPP level, and that incorporate best available knowledge.
  3. Confirm the status of legal, regulated, and reported fisheries to ensure that the fishery can be both the subject and object of management, and to clarify the fishery management cycle.
  4.  Strengthen WPP institutions by establishing WPP level Management Councils (per PP. No. 2/2015 on RPJMN) that can account for each WPP's unique characteristics and dynamics.
  5. Strengthen fisheries diplomacy by participating in Regional Fishery Management Organizations and establishing Fisheries Market Intelligence Units to improve competitiveness.

(Luky Adrianto is the Dean of Fisheries and Marine Science Faculty, Bogor Agricultural Institute(IPB))

North Java cantrang fishers ready to replace their fishing gear
— Kompas, 19 February 2018
An investigation by a Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries cantrang task force in Central Java in February found that the majority of cantrang-using fishers are ready to switch to more environmentally friendly fishing nets, but they will require coaching and access to funds to realize this change. In Tegal Regency, the registration and verification found 340 cantrang-equipped ships, belonging to 193 people, of which 191 (or 99%) were ready to switch to the more environmentally friendly fishing net, while two owners said they would refuse. Similarly, in Rembang Regency, 125 out of 143 vessel owners stated their readiness ready to switch gear. The identification and verification by the task force was carried out following an agreement between President Joko Widodo and the cantrang-using fishermen living on Java's north coast. Under the agreement, the President will allow the cantrang-using fishing vessels to continue operations until the gear replacement takes place. Despite their willingness, however, fishers said they were unsure when they would be able to start the transition and noted that changing to a different kind of fishing gear would require significant funds. The fishers hope for assistance and access to funding from the government. Cantrang trawl nets were banned in Indonesian waters under Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Regulations No. 02/2015 and KP No. 71/2016 because the trawling gear posed a threat to fish stocks and ecosystems and triggered conflicts among fishermen.

Fishing practices must be changed
— Kompas, 21 February 2018
Replacing cantrang (seine net) with more environmentally-friendly fishing equipment will not be sufficient to protect the marine ecosystem, and fishing communities must change their fishing practices from merely hunting to investing, according to maritime anthropologist Kusnadi of Jember University's School of Humanities. "Cantrang destroys the marine ecosystem", Kusnadi said. "However, fishermen are used to using it and it is understandable that it's difficult for them to change their habits." Due to their culture of hunting, fishers are used to depleting fishery resources, and as fish become rare they tend to use other fishing equipment or modify existing equipment to catch more fish. New efforts are needed to change these practices. An example of fishery resource investment would be to cease destructive fishing practices and implement marine conservation policies.

Philippines President Duterte orders navy to fire on foreign poachers in national waters
— Basten Gokken, Mongabay 14 February 2018
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the navy to shoot at foreign ships suspected of extracting natural resources from his country's exclusive maritime territory. Duterte made the decision to address concerns about territorial rights over the Benham Rise, an undersea plateau believed to be rich in oil, gas and fisheries. Philippine authorities recently drew attention by flagging a Chinese ship crisscrossing the area. Duterte's decision was praised by Indonesia's Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, who has led her own campaign foreign fishing vessels caught poaching in Indonesia's waters. "It's good, they understand that theft isn't just about fish," Susi told reporters, "There are other motives, other crimes, and they're not playing around."

Study: Jokowi's sea toll road program marred by rent seekers
— Amal Ganesha, The Jakarta Globe 21 February 2018
Large logistics companies have exploited the government's "Sea Toll" program at the expense of smaller businesses, which are required to pay logistical costs at a higher rate than the program intended, according to a study by Maritime Research Institute Nusantara (MRIN).  MRIN director Muhammad Makbul Rahmadhani said that the larger companies have "gamed the system" to obtain subsidized cargo slots, which they then sell at a mark-up. "These big players monopolizing the system usually have gone through a legitimate process [to obtain the slots], but what they are doing is still unethical" Rahmadhani said. MRIN has also discovered other abuses such as the inclusion of non-basic commodities, like electronic goods, in cargoes, which are not permitted. Rahmadhani called on the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Trade to look into this case.

Debt for dolphins: Seychelles creates new marine parks in innovative finance scheme
— Damian Carrington, The Guardian 22 February 2018
The tropical archipelago nation of the Seychelles will create two large marine parks in return for a write-off of part of its national debt owed to the UK, France, Belgium and Italy. The novel financial engineering scheme leveraged US$5 million, raised by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to purchase Seychelles' debt obligations and reduce interest rates on the remaining debt, freeing up US$12 million over 20 years to implement the initiative. The two new protected areas will cover 15% (208,000 square kilometers) of the Seychelles territorial waters. However, despite an unprecedented consultation process, some islanders did not welcome the plan, which will limit fishing around biodiversity hotspots. Leonardo DiCaprio, whose foundation donated US$1 million, said the MPAs would provide protection from overfishing, pollution and climate change. According to TNC's Rob Weary, the deal is a test case. "In the next 3-5 years, we could potentially do a billion dollars of these deals."

Forestry & Land Use

Riau ups wildfire alert status
— Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 20 February 2018
The province of Riau upgraded the emergency status for peatland and forest fires to alert level 3 following a spate of fires that burned 540 hectares of peatland as the region enters this year's dry season. Acting Governor Wan Thamrin Hasyim said that the emergency status would remain in effect until May 31th. A number of regency administrations in the province had already declared "peatland and forest fire emergencies." Governor Wan said prolonged hot weather had led to widespread forest fires in several regencies. Earlier this year, the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) detected 59 hotspots spread out across the province's 12 cities and regencies.

Rash of forest fires breaks out in Indonesia
— Phys, 21 February 2018
Indonesia was battling a rash of forest fires as it raised the alert over the annual conflagrations which can envelop neighboring Singapore and Malaysia in choking haze. Fires have led to "alert emergency" status declarations in four provinces-South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. Hundreds of hectares of land have been destroyed as governments step up efforts to contain the fires. The blazes are frequently deliberately set by farmers using fire to clear land for cultivation. "We are now preparing planes for cloud seeding and helicopters for water bombing," said disaster mitigation agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Two arrested over fires allegedly set to clear land
— Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post 20 February 2018
As authorities in Riau crack down on illegal logging and slash-and-burn practices, two residents have been arrested in separate locations after reportedly being caught using fires to clear land for oil palm plantations. A resident of Kepenuhan Baru village was arrested by Rokan Hulu Police and Kepenuhan Police personnel for allegedly setting fires in the village of Sei Air Hitam in Central Kepenuhan last Friday. In a similar incident, Ministry of Environment and Forestry officials and rangers at the Tesso Nilo National Park detected illegal logging in a conservation area.  A resident of Air Molek in Indragiri Hulu regency, was apprehended using an excavator and was taken into custody for having the equipment in the national park without a permit.

Unilever lays bare palm oil supply chain in rare industry move
— Anton Hermansyah, Reuters 17 February 2018
Consumer goods giant Unilever laid bare its entire palm oil supply chain, including all the suppliers and mills that it sources from. Unilever disclosed the location of more than 1,400 mills and over 300 direct suppliers of palm oil used in products from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels, noting that it was the first consumers goods company to publish such information.  Marc Engel, Unilever's chief supply chain officer, said the company hoped this would be the start of a new industry-wide movement toward transparency, noting that palm oil transparency and traceability are vital in addressing deforestation and human rights abuses.

European alliance to help palm oil producers counter attacks
— Anton Hermansyah, The Jakarta Post 14 February 2017
With the help of the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA), Indonesian palm oil producers are working to counter a European campaign against Indonesian palm oil. EPOA chairman Frans Claassen said the alliance would help the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) negotiate with relevant private supply chains, such as food producers, and educate customers. "We imported 7.5 million tons of palm oil in 2017 … But now palm oil use for food is slowly declining in Europe because of its negative image," Claassen said after a meeting in Jakarta. EPOA will produce books, websites and social media underlining sustainable palm oil programs in palm oil-producing countries. The material will cover the progress toward reaching 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020.

Government of Indonesia backtracks on palm oil standards while industry and investors demand NDPE and supply chain transparency
— Chain Reaction Research, Valuewalk 22 February 2018
In 2018, corporate palm oil buyers concerned about reputational and financial risks are looking for sellers of certifiable products covered by reliable No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policies. But the Indonesian government is moving in the opposite direction, proposing to loosen requirements for certification under the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil standard (ISPO) in an effort to make their product attractive to buyers. A new draft government regulation would eliminate the requirement for independent monitoring and replace "protection" with "management" of natural ecosystems. By weakening its standard, the Indonesian government may create further risks of environmental damage and rights violations, reducing international demand for Indonesian palm oil.

Indonesia to hand over 2 million ha of forest land to locals: Minister
— The Jakarta Post, 20 February 2018
The Indonesian government announced that it will hand over 2 million hectares of forest land to local residents.  "It is a large number and the progress is fast. The handover of the 2 million hectares of land must be completed in 2018," according to Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar. About 900,000 hectares of forest land was ready for verification, the minister said, adding that her ministry had deployed a large number of workers to speed up the process. Siti also said that another 1.4 million hectares of forest was ready to be converted, including 100,000 hectares of customary land. The government claims to have certified 4.2 million plots of land last year, out of the total target of 5 million.

Borneo's carbon sink
— Kate Evans, CIFOR Forest News 6 February 2018
Mature tropical forests were once thought to reach a "carbon equilibrium" in which the total amount of living material would remain roughly constant over time.  But a new study in Nature Communications has revealed that intact, old-growth primary forests in Borneo have continued to increase in biomass by an average of 430 kg per hectare per year over the past fifty years, and therefore have continuing to act as a carbon sink. Other studies have already shown that intact tropical Amazon and African forests also gain biomass. But this sink remains vulnerable to climate and land-use change.  Across Borneo, the 1997-1998 El Niño drought temporarily halted net absorption of carbon by increasing tree mortality, while fragmentation persistently offset the sink and turned many edge-affected forests into a carbon source to the atmosphere.

The power of "sasi": a sustainable taboo (second in a three-part series)
— Catriona Croft-Cusworth, CIFOR Forest News 23 January 2018
"Sasi" is a customary resource management method which, in Maluku, is used to enforce sustainable rotational harvesting of forest products like cacao, resin, coffee and fruit.  Such customary rights, within a framework of good governance and collaborative decision-making, was found to be the preferred approach to tenure security among local communities in Maluku. "All of the forest in Maluku has been claimed under customary title and this is recognized, at least in a de facto way, by the provincial, district and local governments" according to scientist Nining Liswanti, Indonesia Coordinator for the Global Comparative Study on Forest Tenure Reform led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).  "We want to see if these customary systems can be integrated into formal systems, if not in terms of land ownership then at least the right for communities to manage and benefit from forests," Liswanti said.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

PLN to put 6,600 MW of renewable energy projects on hold
— Viriya P. Singgih, The Jakarta Post 26 February 2018
Indonesia's state-owned monopoly electric power provider will slash plans for new renewable energy by one third in its upcoming 10-year business plan due to sluggish demand.  The original plan called for 21,560 MW of new renewable power facilities, but this has been scaled down to 14,912 MW of hydroelectric (55%) and geothermal (31%) out of 56,000 MW of new generating capacity planned for 2017-2026.  The cut will make it even more difficult for Indonesia to meet the target of raising the share of renewable energy from 7.7% in 2016 to 23% by 2025. "If we try to deliver the 23% energy mix by 2025 at any cost, I don't think the people could afford [the electricity]," Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Ignasius Jonan said.

Government to impose excise tax on plastic bags in July
— Adinda Normala, The Jakarta Globe 21 February 2018
The government plans to impose an excise tax on plastic bags this year in an effort to reduce plastic use and diversify excise revenues, an official said on February 20. "The important thing is to get approval from [House of Representatives'] Commission XI, which is ready to be submitted by the government," said Heru Pambudi, Director General of Customs and Excise at the Ministry of Finance. Heru said tariffs on recycled plastics will be lower than those on non-recyclable plastics. The new tax is expected to encourage the development of environment-friendly products. According to a recent study, Indonesia is the second largest marine polluter in the world, after China. The ministry also expects the new tax to diversify its excise tax collection, which currently is centered on tobacco-related products. The tariff on plastic bags is expected to come into force in July.

Study to challenge claim Indonesia second-biggest marine polluter
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post 23 February 2018
A top Indonesian marine scientist said Indonesia plans to carry out a large-scale research study to challenge international findings that the country is the world's second-largest marine polluter. "Many parties have said Indonesia's seas have been polluted by plastic and other [materials]. We want to determine whether this is accurate," said Dirhamsyah, who heads the Center of Oceanography Research at the government-sanctioned Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI). A study published in the journal Science in January estimated that more than 11 billion pieces of plastic debris litter coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, with the highest amount of plastics found on reefs near Indonesia.

Less headwinds for renewables now says Indonesia pioneer
— Fergus Jensen and Wilda Asmarini, Reuters 12 February 2018
The developer of Indonesia's first commercial-scale wind farm says conditions for renewable energy investors are better than ever before, but more work is still needed for the country to meet its wind energy targets. Over the past three years, technology costs have come down and the government has become more supportive, said Soeripno Martosaputro, project development manager for UPC Renewables Indonesia. Online licensing systems have cut processing times, improved transparency and made it far easier for renewable energy developers, who need hundreds of permits to establish wind farms, Soeripno said.

Global warming is eliminating male sea turtles
— Sue Palminteri, Mongabay 29 January 2018
The northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) population of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) has become almost 99% female since the early 1990s. Turtles, like some other reptiles, lack sex chromosomes, so gender is determined by the environment while the embryos incubate and is very sensitive to nest temperature. A new study in Current Biology showed that green turtle rookeries in the northern GBR have been producing primarily females for more than two decades, and that complete feminization of this population is possible in the near future. While rising temperatures may initially result in increased female population sizes, the lack of males will eventually impact overall fertility of the population. The study called for immediate management strategies to avoid a possible population collapse or local extinction.

Conservation and Protected Areas

Borneo lost more than 100,000 orangutans from 1999 to 2015
— Joe Cochrane, The New York Times15 February 2018
The island of Borneo lost more than half its orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) between 1999 and 2015, according to a recent study in Current Biology. As many as 148,500 animals died over that period, many as the result of deforestation driven by logging, and land clearance for agriculture and mining. However, many orangutans also disappeared from more intact, forested areas, suggesting that hunting and other direct conflicts remain a major threat. "The decline in population density was most severe in areas that were deforested or transformed for industrial agriculture," said a lead researcher for the study, Maria Voigt of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. "Worryingly, however, the largest number of orangutans were lost from areas that remained forested during the study period. This implies a large role of killing." About 70,000 - 100,000 orangutans are still left on Borneo, but researchers predict that 45,000 of these remaining survivors will die over the next 35 years.

Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times
— Basten Gokken, Mongabay 18 February 2018
Police in Indonesia arrested and charged four farmers in Eastern Borneo for killing an orangutan that was found shot more than 100 times. Police also seized four pellet guns allegedly used in the killing. The suspects said they killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. The killing was the second such case this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.

Southeast Asia is in the grip of a biodiversity crisis
— Alice Catherine Hughes, Asian Correspondent 23 February 2018
Southeast Asia includes at least six of the world's 25 "biodiversity hotspots" - areas of the world that contain exceptional concentrations of species and are exceptionally endangered. The region contains 20 percent of the planet's vertebrate and plant species and some of the world's largest tropical forests. However, parts of the region are projected to lose up to 98 percent of their remaining forests in the next nine years, driven by pulp-paper, rubber and oil palm production. Southeast Asia is also thought to be the world's most threatened region for mammals. Southeast Asia also has more dams planned than any other part of the planet which can lead to a loss of biodiversity and undermine rural economies through loss of livelihoods. Mining also poses a significant threat, especially in karst regions which cover around 800,000 square kilometers of Southeast Asia. The region's illegal wildlife trade, estimated to be worth approximately US$20 billion annually, is the fourth-biggest illegal trade in the world.

Female Sumatran Elephant shot to death inside Lampung Conservation Park
— Telly Nathalia, The Jakarta Globe 15 February 2018
Rangers at the Way Kambas National Park and Rhino Protection Unit in Lampung found the remains of a female elephant on 12 February near Kuala Penet inside the conservation area, Indonesia's Ministry of Environment and Forestry said. The elephant had suffered five bullet wounds and was missing some of its body parts, including the teeth, tusks and trunk. The rangers have asked for help from the local police to find the assailants. Way Kambas National Park is a conservation area for Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) and the hairy Asian two-horned rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), both of which have been declared "Critically Endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

First in Asia; Indonesia sells $1.25 billions of global green bonds
— Indonesia Investment, 24 February 2018
The government of Indonesia raised US$1.25 billion through the issuance of global "green" bonds, becoming the first Asian country to issue this type of bond.  The instrument was issued in the form of five-year sukuk (debt paper that is in line with Islamic principles) carrying a 3.75% coupon. Proceeds from the bond will be used to finance projects such as renewable energy, green tourism and waste management. The Indonesian government emphasized that some projects will involve "an element of deforestation" but said that no funds will be used to support fossil-fuel based infrastructure development projects, or projects that involve the burning of peatland.




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