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
5th Edition :  15 March 2018

Marine & Fisheries

Susi Pudjiastuti fights to stay the course
— John McBeth, Asia Times 8 March 2018
Indonesia's most popular Cabinet member, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti, would be willing to serve a second term if President Joko Widodo wins re-election next year, provided  he agrees to retain the ban on foreign trawlers fishing in Indonesian waters. More than 45% of the 1,100 foreign fishing boats previously permitted in Indonesian waters were registered under so-called foreign investment companies owned by well-connected businessmen and politicians, according to Pudjiastuti. Her determination to face down vested interests and continue with the policy of blowing up captured intruding trawlers has endeared her to the Indonesian public, but she has had to withstand efforts from other quarters to reverse that policy. "Right now, I am being disturbed by my colleagues," she told Asia Times. "They disagree with so many things and try to do things behind my back." Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan, the president's senior political advisor, and Vice President Jusuf Kalla sought to put an end to Minister Susi’s boat-sinking policy in January, claiming the policy was harming relations with neighboring countries. But Pudjiastuti went over their heads and complained directly to the president, who stuck with the policy. "Sinking the fishing boats is a form of law enforcement," he explained. Minister Pudjiastuti said her main mission during a second term would be to attract more investment in fish processing to allow exports from regional ports to be sent direct to regional markets – a move she believes would help prevent the rent-seekers from making a comeback.

Indonesia invites India to set up EEZ boundaries
— Tama Salim and Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post 10 March 2018
Indonesia's chief border treaty negotiator wants to persuade India to join in delimiting the two countries of shared maritime boundaries, an issue that has effectively been left on the back burner since 1977. Damos Agusman, the Foreign Ministry's Director General for Legal Affairs and Treaties, was on a two-day mission to the Indian capital of New Delhi to raise the issue of delimiting the maritime neighbors' exclusive economic zones (EEZ).  The eventual negotiations, if successfully concluded, would provide both nations with clarity over their maritime rights, including fishing. "From 1974 to 1977, the Exclusive Economic Zone regime has not yet come into being, leaving the continental shelf and EEZ as two different legal regimes.  India and Indonesia share common borders in the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea.  Both countries need to delimit their EEZ boundaries through a specific agreement," Agusman said.

Indonesia considering restarting talks with Australia on EEZ and seabed boundaries
— Dian Septiari and Tama Salim, The Jakarta Post 12 March 2018
President Joko Widodo will fly to Sydney on 16 March for bilateral talks with Australian Minister Malcolm Turnbull followed by a ASEAN-Australia summit.  Damos Agusman, the Director-General for Legal Affairs and Treaties of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the president’s entourage, plans to discuss restarting talks with Australia concerning unresolved maritime border issues including delimiting of the two countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and certain seabed boundaries.  The Perth Treaty, tabled in August 1997 and not yet in force, treated Timor Leste as part of Indonesia, so some border demarcation points and lines in that are now invalid, according to I Made Andi Arsana, a Gadjah Mada University borders expert. Timor Leste and Australia signed a treaty at the UN last week to end a decade-old dispute over their unresolved maritime border, the first reached under a special conciliation mechanism of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), while Indonesia still has unresolved maritime border issues with Timor Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, in addition to Australia.

BSC fisheries to be regulated
— [translated] Kompas, 28 February
Indonesia is considering imposing seasonal limits for the annual catch of Blue Swimming Crab (BSC) to protect declining stocks and sustain the BSC fishery, the country’s third most important seafood export. Sjarief Widjaja, Director General of Capture Fisheries of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, said the government is reviewing the feasibility of a seasonal closure extending from October through March. "By closing at certain periods, the crabs can spawn, and their larvae can grow optimally," Widjaja said.  Kuncoro Catur Nugroho, Chairman of the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Association (APRI), said that four provinces (Lampung, Southeast Sulawesi, Central Java, and East Java) currently support efforts to improve sustainability of the BSC fishery business through new regulations enacted at the provincial government level.

Plastic not so fantastic for Bali's iconic manta rays
— Mongabay 9 March 2018
Two recent videos shot at an iconic dive site in Bali showing manta rays swimming through swaths of garbage have highlighted the plastic waste crisis in Indonesia's waters. For years, Bali has been overwhelmed by tides of plastic waste pollution washing ashore along its beaches and coastline. Some of the trash is generated locally, while some brought in by seasonal currents.  Local government and volunteers have made efforts to clean up garbage in the water and on beaches, but poor government planning and low levels of public awareness means huge volumes of trash continue to be dumped into the ocean. Indonesia produces around 130,000 tons of plastic and solid waste every day and is the second-largest plastic polluter in the world, behind China, according to a 2015 study published in Science.

As water gets murkier, Jakarta needs to clean bay
— Fachrul Sidiq, The Jakarta Post 9 March 2018
The Jakarta administration has been called on to take action against heaps of plastic waste that daily flow into Jakarta Bay, threatening the Thousand Islands Regency’s marine ecosystem. The regency, which is popular for underwater tourism, lacks adequate waste management facilities, yet it is the final destination for large quantities of plastic waste and other trash flowing through Greater Jakarta area via thirteen different rivers. According to the Jakarta administration, nearly 30% of the waste produced in the city is plastic, large amounts of which enter untreated into Jakarta Bay. According to the Thousand Islands Regency administration, 8 to 20 tons of waste pile up in the area daily. Without immediate and concrete actions to solve the problem, the amount of plastic waste in the sea around Jakarta is likely to surpass total volume of fish in the next few decades.

Lobster larvae smuggling attempt foiled
— The Jakarta Post, 7 March 2018
The Indragiri Hilir Water Police in Riau have foiled an attempt to smuggle lobster larvae worth more than Rp1.28 billion (US$93,000) to Singapore. The lobster larvae were confiscated from an unnamed boat on the Indragiri River based on a tip-off from the public. Police officers stopped the boat and arrested the captain, a 47-year-old local resident. Police discovered eight styrofoam boxes on board containing around 16,000 lobster seeds. "They planned to sell the lobster seeds in Singapore,” said Indragiri Hilir Police Chief, Christian Rony Putra. He added that the larvae originated from Jambi. Police have named the six men suspects and are charging them with violations under the 2009 Fisheries Law, which carries a maximum six-year prison sentence.

Gibran Huzaifah: Fish farming maverick
— Yuliasri Perdani, The Jakarta Post 1 March 2018
Gibran Huzaifah has brought innovation to over 1,000 fish and shrimp ponds in the country, through his company’s data-driven fish feeder, though the effort has not been without its’ challenges.  “Sometimes, [fishers] can be purely irrational,” Gibran said, “For example, they may choose a particular fish feed … simply because they have a good relationship with the salesperson. When we realized this, we tried a similar approach." Gibran and his 50-strong team have also learned to use direct language, he said. “‘If you use this product, you can earn bigger profits, enough for you to go on the haj’.”  Another challenge has been variability. Gibran and his team have found that “Carp in Bogor and Lampung have different feeding patterns … different water debits, pond environments and fish eggs,” he said.  As a result, the team has replaced the earlier algorithms for fish feeding with machine learning.  Fishery data is collected from the pond and sent to the cloud where customized algorithms are generated. Gibran also plans to use the data gathered from the ponds to help banks set a credit rating for fish farmers, who are still largely unbanked. "We want to be a marketplace that connects farmers with lenders. By looking at our data, banks can see the farmers' track record and the performance of their every fishpond."

Forestry & Land Use

One-map policy puts spotlight on land issues
— Moses Ompusunggu and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, The Jakarta Post 8 March 2018
The government aims to speed up the completion of a One-Map, the ambitious project to integrate a total of 85 thematic maps of regions across the archipelago into a single, unified layered map.   Many hope that this will help resolve protracted land conflicts, which have slowed investment and development and created hurdles to conservation and environmental initiatives. The Geospatial Information Agency (BIG), tasked with overseeing the project, said Ina- Geoportal, the One Map anchor site, would be launched in August 2018 at a 1: 50,000 in scale.  Environmentalists have welcomed the plan, saying the consolidated map will be crucial to address the country's land problems and the anticipated moratorium on permits for new oil palm plantations planned for later this year.  Authorities are currently deliberating protocols to determine which maps would be open to public access and which ones would only be restricted to use by the government for planning and policymaking.

Pepsi cuts off Indonesian palm oil supplier over labor, sustainability concerns
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 1 March 2018
and other reports PepsiCo has suspended its business ties with Indofood Agri Resources (IndoAgri), one of Indonesia’s largest palm oil companies, citing concerns about sustainability and labor rights. U.S.-based PepsiCo sources most of its palm oil from Indonesia and has a joint venture with Indofood, the parent company of IndoAgri, to produce products for local consumption.  "PepsiCo is very concerned about the allegations that our policies and commitments on palm oil, forestry stewardship and human rights are not being met," PepsiCo said in a statement. The company decided to suspend procurement of palm oil from IndoAgri for the Indofood joint venture in January and engage the RSPO complaint process. A case against IndoAgri, raised in 2016 by the Rainforest Action Network and Organisasi Penguatan dan Pengembangan Usaha-Usaha Kerakyatan (OPPUK), alleged that the company was employing underage laborers and violating legal requirements with respect to pay, health and safety, among others.

Indonesia's forest fires return
— Pamela Victor, The Asean Post 7 March 2018
Late last month saw the return of Indonesia’s infamous annual forest fires. Fires have broken out in the provinces of South Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. Twenty-three of the 90 hotspots recorded across the country were in West Kalimantan, where thick smoke blanketed the provincial capital Pontianak and disrupted flights. In Riau, fires have destroyed 640 hectares of land.  This prompted the archipelagic nation to declare "alert emergency" status (one below the most severe warning level) for all four affected provinces. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Agency (BNPB) stated that this will provide firefighters and the central government better access to resources in order to combat the forest fires.  The threat of major forest fires is of particular concern because Indonesia will host the Asian Games in Jakarta and Pelembang from August-September this year.  Officials are preparing planes for cloud seeding and helicopters for water bombing, as well as soldiers, police, firefighters and volunteers to help fight the fires.

Indonesia seizes illegally logged wood from West Papua
— Stephen Wright, The News Tribune (Associated Press) 9 March 2018
Indonesian authorities foiled the shipment of 21 containers of prized ironwood from West Papua province, highlighting the extent of illegal trade in the country's easternmost regions. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s law enforcement agency said the wood from the tropical forest areas in Kaimana Regency was ready for shipment to Surabaya when seized. Greenpeace Indonesia said the amount confiscated was small compared with long-standing smuggling from West Papua where no "big actors" have been prosecuted. The region has Indonesia's largest remaining tropical forests and is seen as a new frontier, after the stripping of forests in Java, Sumatra and Borneo. The ministry said investigations by police and its staff in Papua revealed a scheme for transporting and processing the wood and then shipping it with falsified documents once the desired quantity had been accumulated in warehouses. Greenpeace forests campaigner Charles Tawaru said that oversight through the Timber Verification and Legalization System (SVLK) had weakened with the absorption of the Kaimana Regency Forestry Service into the province-level forestry office (as part of law 23/2014 – eds).  Police have arrested the director of one of the companies involved who could face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to US$140,000.

Palm oil industry Indonesia: CPO price under pressure in early March
— Indonesia Investments 6 March 2018
CPO prices on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange (May 2018 shipments) fell 2,467 ringgit per metric ton, down 2.9% from a week earlier. According to Monex Investindo Futures downward price pressure stems from three sources: a) sliding demand in China; b) an almost 50% increase in CPO import tariffs in India (from 30% to 44%), one of the world's largest vegetable oil importers; and c) concern about the European Union (EU)'s plan to ban the use of palm oil in motor fuels from 2021 onward – about 40 percent of Indonesia's palm oil exports to the EU are converted into biofuels.  Since 2012, Indonesian palm oil export volumes have increased by 72%, while export value has increased by 4%.

Public access to Indonesia plantation data still mired in bureaucracy
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 8 March 2018
The Indonesian Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning/National Land Agency still has failed to release to the public detailed maps and other documents in its possession related to plantation companies operating in the country, a year after the nation's highest court ordered it to do so in the interests of transparency. Linda Rosalina, a campaigner with the NGO Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), said there had been no progress in the year since the Supreme Court upheld a freedom-of-information order on the matter. The ministry argues that it is obliged to generate revenue from the release of such data, and that the lack of a payment mechanism prevents it from complying. The agency also initially dodged a request for similar data filed by the national mapping agency, citing the same reasoning, but complied after the anti-corruption agency intervened.

Palm oil players hit back at criticism, unfavorable rules
— The Jakarta Post, 10 March 2018
Demonized by global environment groups and even from within Indonesia, Indonesian domestic palm oil players say the industry contributes to poverty alleviation and brings economic growth. The palm oil industry is also being undermined by factions within Indonesia's government, said Danang Girindrawardana, the executive director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki). Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya recently said 224 palm oil companies in central Kalimantan encroached on orangutan habitats. President Joko Widodo, meanwhile, has called on the EU to halt the negative campaign against palm oil, stressing that the country had been strict in implementing sustainable practices, in part by placing a moratorium on oil palm plantations since 2013. The President plans to extend the oil palm moratorium, which Bhima Y. Adhinegara, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance, said was simply another example of how government policies oppose the development of the palm oil industry.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Widodo signs regulation revising coal prices for the domestic market
— Indonesia Investments, 8 March 2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo signed Government Regulation PP No. 8/2018 on the Implementation of Mineral and Coal Mining Business Activities on 7 March, revising regulation, PP No. 1/2017, which stated that price of coal for the Domestic Market Obligation (DMO) scheme would be determined by market forces.  The new regulation provides that in the context of meeting domestic coal demand for the nation's interest, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources will determine a specific DMO price. The DMO price only applies to coal sold to domestic coal-fired power plants, the biggest domestic coal purchasers in Indonesia which account for nearly 60% of the country’s total power generation capacity.  The regulation is expected to reduce the cost of coal purchased by Indonesia’s state-owned electric power company, Persahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), which cannot pass on increases in the cost of fuel to consumers because electricity tariffs are set by the government at subsidized levels.

Government to raise subsidies as oil and coal prices soar
— Marchio Irfan Gorbiano and Viriya P. Singgih, The Jakarta Post 13 March 2018
Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati announced that the government would double the subsidy on Solar-branded diesel fuel and increase the subsidy allocation for state-owned electric power company, Persahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) to accommodate additional customers.  In total, the government is set to spend Rp 94.5 trillion (US$ 6.62 billion) on energy subsidies in 2018, of which Rp 46.87 billion (49.1%) will go to the fuel subsidy and Rp 47.66 trillion (50.4%) to the electric power subsidy.  The policy is intended to ease the burden on PLN and the state-owned fuel company Pertamina, which are obliged by the government to hold fuel and electricity prices at current levels while paying more for coal and oil.

Indonesia targets up to $1.7 billion investment in geothermal projects for 2018
— Alexander Richter, Think Geothermal 9 March 2018
The Directorate General of Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (EBTKE) of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has targeted US$1.7 billion in new investments for 25 geothermal projects in the Indonesia in 2018, representing more than 80% of all investments in the new renewable energy sector. Rida Mulyana, EBTKE Director General of EBTKE, said that the government will continue to monitor the investment commitments already submitted. This year the government is more ambitious than last year as there is an increase in targeted commitments.  "The investment recorded from 25 companies reached US $ 1.71 billions of geothermal investment projection for 2018," Rida told World Energy.

Conservation and Protected Areas

Value of illegal wildlife trafficking in Indonesia estimated at Rp13 billion per year
— [translated] Kompas, 5 March 2018
Despite efforts to control trafficking in protected animals and animal parts in Indonesia,  this illegal trade continuies to grow.  According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the value of the annual illegal trade in wild animals  has quadrupled since 2010, reaching an estimated Rp 13 trillion (US$ 943.8 million) in 2013.  Due to poaching and illegal trade, a number of protected wildlife species are now critically endangered such as the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris), Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus ) and Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). With the rapid growth of wildlife trafficking in Indonesia tracks increasing demand at regional, national and international levels, while the payments mechanisms have increasingly shifted to online transactions. WCS Wildlife Policy Program Manager Sofi Mardiah monitored 49 cases of wildlife trafficking (plants and animals) over 2011-2017. "Within five years, electronic marketing and transaction has grown to reach 40% of the total transaction value,"  she said, “but ironically, punishments for wildlife trafficking crime is still lax and with low fines.

Sarawak makes 80% forest preservation commitment, but some have doubts
—  Morgan Erickson-Davis, Asian Correspondent 13 March 2018
The Malaysian state of Sarawak is committing to the preservation of 80 percent of its land area as primary and secondary forest, according to an announcement by Sarawak Chief Minister made on February 26th. Occupying the northern coast of Borneo, Sarawak’s rainforests are home to unique, disappearing species like endangered proboscis monkeys and critically endangered Bornean orangutans. “If Sarawak wants its promises to be taken seriously, the first thing it needs to do is release information about all of the areas of forest licensed for conversion to palm oil and timber plantations,” said Sam Lawson, director of the UK-based Earthsight. According to data from Earthsight, concessions for oil palm and other kinds of tree plantations covered 32.7 percent of Sarawak’s land area as of 2010/11. Lawson suggested that Sarawak may need to cancel some concessions if it is to fulfill its commitment.

Brutal tiger killing blamed on illegal logging ring
— Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 5 March 2018
And other reports The killing of an endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. Sumatrae) by angry villagers in Mandailing Natal regency in North Sumatra on Sunday was allegedly provoked by illegal loggers who sought to exploit the human-wildlife conflict in the region, an official said. In one of the worst human-wildlife incidents in recent years, members of five villages in Batang Natal district forced members of a government team tasked with solving the conflict to participate in the hunt for the tiger that villagers said had been haunting their villages for more than a month.  The team consisted of members of the North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Batang Gadis National Park, the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI). After failing to persuade the villagers to capture the tiger alive, the team members were forced to sign a letter saying they would not sue the villagers if they killed the tiger and promising not to return to the village again, according to a statement released by North Sumatra BKSDA head Hotmauli Sianturi on Sunday. The agency believed provocateurs were behind the brutal killing of the tiger, as it was unusual for the villagers to show hostility. The incident raised questions about the adequacy of supervision and protection of the endangered animal by authorities.

Rare Saltwater lakes filled with jellyfish found in Indonesia
— Elaina Zachos, National Geographic 28 February 2018
Researchers have discovered 42 undocumented marine lakes in Indonesia, several of which are teeming with friendly jellyfish. Saltwater lakes are not very common, with only a few hundred known to exist throughout the world. Working with the National Geographic Society, marine biologist Lisa Becking and her team of researchers discovered the sea-like lakes during a trip to Indonesia, documenting their diversity and helping to flesh out conservation plans to ensure they continue to thrive. Various species of jellyfish, including moon jellies and golden jellies, occupy the lakes and drift near the surface where they soak up sunlight as it beams down. The tissues of these jellyfish harbor symbiotic algae, known as zooxanthellae, which are capable of photosynthesis and can provide energy to their hosts.  The jellyfish follow the path of the sun across the sky, ensuring that they can catch as many rays as possible, shying away from shade whenever possible. Unlike many ocean-dwelling jellyfish, these quirky blobs aren't actually dangerous to humans, and divers can swim right through them with little worry.


Agus Yudhoyono ready to take role as third 2019 presidential candidate
— Ahmad Faiz Ibnu Sani, Tempo 7 March 2018
Democratic Party executive Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono (AHY) said his party is deliberating the possibility of presenting a third alternative for the 2019 presidential election. Agus has been travelling to the regions and has stated his willingness to fulfil the calling if Democratic Party members request him to run for the presidency. AHY’s electability steadily increased after the gubernatorial election, according to pollster Indo Barometer.

Gerindra to declare Prabowo's presidential candidacy soon
— Reiny Dwinanda, Republika 14 March 2018
The Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party will soon declare its general chairman, Prabowo Subianto, as a candidate for the presidency in the 2019 election. The announcement will be made in a forum possibly during national leadership meeting (Rapimnas) or a national working meeting (Rakornas).

Mobile data, not internet service providers, to be blocked in Bali during Nyepi
— Coconut, 14 March 2018
Under order of Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo), mobile providers will be blocking data access on their networks during the holiday, but internet service providers (ISPs) won’t be required to shut down.  Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), the country’s leading authority on Hinduism, said it wants to stop people from taking selfies on the sacred day, when everyone on the island — Hindu or not — is expected to power down and even the international airport is closed. The age-old practice is guided by the Balinese belief that mythical evil spirits come out on the new year. By hiding, they trick the spirits into thinking Bali is deserted. Pecalang, the traditional Balinese neighborhood security, monitor the streets and make sure everyone is complying.  The holy day begins March 17 at 6am and finishes on March 18 at 6am.



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