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
7th Edition :  11 April 2018

Marine & Fisheries

Navy captures most-wanted fishing boat
— The Jakarta Post 9 April 2018
The Indonesian Navy detained one of Interpol’s most-wanted fishing vessels, STS-50, in Indonesian waters to the southeast of Weh Island in Aceh on 6 April. Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said the arrest was made after Interpol’s National Central Bureau (NCB) had notified the Indonesian government that the STS-50 vessel was headed to Indonesian waters. The STS-50, also known as the Andrey Dolgov, Sun Tai No. 2, and by other names, is listed by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) as a vessel that has been engaged in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing since 2016, the Minister said.  The stateless tooth-fish poaching vessel, which is also the subject of INTERPOL Purple Notice since 2017, had 20 crew members onboard, 14 Indonesians and 6 Russians. “Officers from the military, the ministry and the police will work under Satgas 115 [illegal fishing task force] to investigate the crime,” Minister Susi said.

Balikpapan declares state of emergency after oil spill The broken pipe was ours, Pertamina admits
— N. Adri and Gemma Holliani Cahya, The Jakarta Post 3 and 5 April 2018
The Balikpapan administration has declared a state of emergency after an oil spill and a subsequent fire killed four people in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan. “We’re in a state of emergency,” said Balikpapan city secretary MN Fadli. Rasio Ridho Sani, Director General of Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said a recovery team had deployed temporary floating barriers to try to contain the spill and sprayed chemicals to make recovery easier. “Our focus now is on mitigating the impacts of the oil spill,” Rasio said. State oil and gas company Pertamina admitted that one of its pipelines, which was being used to transfer crude oil, had been the cause of an oil spill in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan. The firm had previously denied involvement, claiming that the spill material was marine fuel oil (MFO), which could have been emitted by a passing ship.  However, analysis of an oil-spill sample confirmed that the pollutant was crude oil, not MFO. “We discovered that a pipeline had been dragged 120 meters from its location, [causing it to break],” Togar MP, General Manager of Pertamina’s Refinery, subsequently stated in a press conference.

Government hunts oil spill culprits
— Gemma Holliani Cahya, N.Adri and Viriya P.Singgih, The Jakarta Post 9 April 2018
And other reports Authorities said they were continuing their investigation into what caused the oil spill in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan. Although a string of clean-up operations had reportedly treated or removed 90% of the crude oil slick, conservation groups expressed concerns over its environmental impact.  Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti doubted that the clean-up operation for a massive oil spill could be finished in such a short time. Some officials stated the oil spill was not Pertamina’s fault because it resulted from a foreign coal vessel that illegally passed through the bay and dropped its anchor, snagging the pipeline. Djoko Siswanto, Director General for Oil and Gas of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, identified the vessel passing through Balikpapan Bay as the Panama-flagged MV Ever Judger. As of 5 April, it was reported that the spill had spread into the Strait of Makassar, covering an area of 130 km2.  The disaster has claimed the lives of five fishers, contaminated a mangrove forest, prompted thousands of health complaints, and been linked to the death of an endangered Irawaddy dolphin.

Revision of fisheries law is expected to facilitate non-restricted area for fishers
— [translated] Gita Amanda, Republika 5 April 2018
Nasyit Umar, a member of Commission IV of the House of Representatives (which covers Agriculture, Plantations, Forestry, Maritime, Fisheries and Food Affairs) expects the revised Fisheries Law to allow fishers to fish in Indonesian waters without restriction. The current Ministerial Regulation on Fisheries Management Areas (WPP) limits fishers to operate in their WPP, which has often resulted in fishers being arrested for violating the rule. “This is certainly very alarming, because [the fishers who are detained] are still in Indonesian waters. I hope that the revision of the Fisheries Law will eliminate the WPP so that all fishers will be free to fish anywhere in Indonesian waters," said Nasyit after a public hearing meeting in Jakarta on 4 April. The Democratic Party politician also expressed the hope that the revised Fisheries Law will address the issue of fishers’ permits.

Tanjung Luar: A village renowned for shark trading
— Syarina Hasibuan, Al Jazeera 29 March 2018
Around 200 species of shark are known in Indonesia, but only one the Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is fully protected by the government. The shark trade generates more than US$100 million in export revenues for Indonesia. Skin, bones and meat are all part of the trade, but the big demand is for the fins, which are mainly exported to China, where shark fin soup is very popular. In the small fishing village of Tanjung Luar in Lombok, hundreds of fishers make a living hunting sharks.  The Indonesian government has previously banned the export of several species of sharks, including the Oceanic white tip and several species of hammerhead sharks. The fishers have complained these moves have negatively impacted their income. However, environmentalists believe the regulations for sharks' protection are still not tough enough. Sharks have a very slow reproduction rate.  According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been monitoring the situation in Tanjung Luar since 2015, the number and the size of the catch of these iconic animals is going down every year.

Indonesia postpones implementation of new coal, palm oil shipping rules to 2020
— Michelle Howard, Maritime Link 3 April 2018
Indonesia will postpone implementation of new trade rules requiring exporters of coal and crude palm oil to use only Indonesian-flagged vessels until 2020, Minister of Industry Airlangga Hartarto said.  The new rules, which had been due to take effect this month, were intended to support the archipelago's shipping industry and boost foreign exchange reserves. However, coal and palm oil industry figures had expressed concern over the availability of local vessels. "The timing will be adjusted, and a special two-year period will be given for shipping (industries)," Airlangga told reporters, adding that the government would also push for adoption of shipping contracts using a Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) basis, allowing exporters to choose transportation carriers, whereas most export shipments are currently made on a free-on-board (FOB) basis. Rules mandating the insurance of shipments by Indonesian insurers will still be imposed, but with an additional three months grace period after May 2018.

Southeast Asia’s fisheries near collapse from over fishing
— Kim J DeRidder and Santi Nindang, Asia Foundation 28 March 2018
Some of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world are located in Southeast Asia, but their continued existence is currently threatened by overfishing and destructive fishing. Across the region, 64% of the fisheries’ resource base is at a medium to high risk from overfishing, with Cambodia and the Philippines among the countries most affected. Much of the overfishing and destructive fishing in Southeast Asia is attributable to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which occurs across the region, with violators ranging from small-scale local fishers to large-scale enterprises conducted on commercial fishing trawlers. The chief problems are weak fishing regulations combined with a lack of intra-regional cooperation on fisheries management. There is also a lack of science-based knowledge about the region’s marine ecosystems that could better inform the policy-making processes and lead to the adoption of more effective models for fisheries management. There has also been insufficient focus on cultivating alternatives to wild catch fisheries, such as sea-farming and inland freshwater aquaculture.

Forestry & Land Use

Presidential regulation seen necessary to speed up ISPO certification
— Karina Maharani Tehusijarana, The Jakarta Post 7 April 2018
The effort to promote sustainable palm oil production through the country’s own Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification standard continues at a snail’s pace, but the urgent need to speed up ISPO certification is now reinforced by mounting international criticism of the Indonesian palm oil industry over environmental damage. Government officials and industry players have agreed that a presidential regulation (PP) would help strengthen the ISPO certification scheme, which currently operates under the authority of a Ministry of Agriculture decree. “We are being challenged on a global stage,” Musdalifah Machmud, Undersecretary for Food and Agriculture at the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, said during a recent discussion on ISPO. Musdalifah added that the issuance of a presidential decree would facilitate inter-ministerial coordination, which could speed up the certification process, noting that the Ministry had already finished drafting the decree, which is expected to be enacted before the end of the first half of 2018.

Palm oil bill deliberation could go nowhere
— Leo Jegho, Global Indonesia Voices 4 April 2018
Indonesian lawmakers are unsure whether to continue deliberating a draft palm oil bill which the House of Representatives (DPR) initiated in late 2016. Legislators may decide to cancel the draft palm oil legislation if open hearings with palm oil industry stakeholders lead them to do so. According to Kompas daily, those stakeholders include economic ministers, the Forum for the Sustainable Development of Strategic Plantations (FP2SB), the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI), and the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Farmers (APKSI). Ferdiansyah, a member of DPR’s legislation body (Baleg) from Golkar Party, said discussions with participants in the hearings had not indicated that passage of this bill was particularly urgent. The government pointed out last July that a new special law on palm oil industry was unnecessary, noting that the industry is already regulated by several laws, including Law No. 39 of 2014 on Plantations, Law No. 3 of 2014 on Industry, and Law No. 19 of 1999 on Farmers Protection and Empowerment.

Indonesia’s dying timber concessions, invaded by oil palms, top deforestation table
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 3 April 2018
The rate of deforestation in logging concessions in parts of Indonesia has unexpectedly overtaken the rates of forest loss in pulpwood and oil palm concessions areas, according to a recent study by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI). North Sumatra, East Kalimantan and North Maluku experienced a combined loss of 7,180 km2 of forest between 2013 and 2016, 72% of which occurred in within one of four types of concessions: selective logging for timber; pulpwood (typically acacia, for paper pup); oil palm; and mining. Of these, selective logging experienced the highest rate of deforestation over the study period, losing 838 km2 of natural forest, followed by mining concessions (833km2), palm oil concessions (760 km2) and pulpwood concessions (370 km2). The researchers attributed part of that deforestation to the illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into timber concessions. Another factor is the cutting of more trees than permitted by logging operators. Environmentalists warn that the problem could get worse if the government follows through on plans to lift a ban on exports of unprocessed logs, which has been in place almost continuously since 1985 excepting a four-year hiatus from 1997 to 2001.

South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 5 April 2018
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), over the past four months a total of 23 km2 (8.9 mile2) of forest has been cleared in a concession in Papua Province owned by PT Bio Inti Agrindo (PT BIA), a subsidiary of South Korean giant POSCO Daewoo. POSCO Daewoo, which acquired an 85 percent stake in PT BIA in 2011, responded to the WRI report saying that its subsidiary’s operations in Merauke were legal and that it had all the necessary permits.  The PT BIA concession spans 342 km2 near Indonesia’s border with Papua New Guinea, overlapping a WWF Global Ecoregion known for its rich biodiversity of plants and animals.  Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include major brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars, and Unilever. POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land-clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there, but company representatives were quoted in South Korean publications saying they would only “consider” the consultant’s recommendations and would “think about” whether to carry them out.

Independent oil palm smallholders neglected in sustainability effort
— Moses Ompusunggu and Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post 6 April 2018
A World Resource Institute Indonesia study has concluded that oil palm smallholders, "have few resources at their disposal" to enable them to shift to sustainable palm oil production. Most people point fingers at large corporations when it comes to problems within the palm oil industry, the report said, "but that overlooks key actors in palm oil production: small-scale farmers" who account for about 40% of Indonesia’s oil palm planted area.  Independent smallholders have only limited support from the government, companies, and banks, and are vulnerable to exploitation. Because of the lack of support, training, information about good agricultural practices, and supervision, smallholder plantations tend to have lower yields and are less sustainable.  When the time for replanting comes, independent small farmers often purchase inexpensive, low quality seedlings which leads to lower future yields, and burn brush and vegetation to clear the land for crops, contributing the risk of forest fires, the report said.

Indonesia’s ambitious peat restoration initiative is severely underfunded
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 30 March 3018
Indonesia will require an estimated US$4.6 billion to restore some 20,000 km2 (7,720 mi2) of degraded peatland by its self-imposed deadline of 2020, according to a study by Amanda Hansson and Paul Dargusch published in January.  To date, funding for the project (which began in 2016) amounts to less than US$200 million, which has been used to meet only 5% of the restoration target.  That funding includes donations from the Norwegian government, the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands.  The Indonesian government initially allocated the equivalent of US$60.5 million from its 2017 spending budget to the project, but subsequently had to slash its contribution by half because of lack of funds. The authors said that the Indonesian government now faces a dilemma over whether to concentrate its limited resources in a smaller area, or risk using restoration methods that may be less effective to try to cover the entire targeted area.

Energy, Pollution & Climate Change

Nur Alam’s graft verdict ‘loss’ for environmental protection
— Moses Ompusunggu, The Jakarta Post 2 April 2018
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has requested an 18-year prison sentence for suspended Southeast Sulawesi governor Nur Alam, who was convicted over corruption related to the issuance of mining permits.  The request has been praised for being the highest ever sentence sought by the KPK for a regional leader. This was also the first time the antigraft body included potential environmental losses in calculating the damages in a corruption case. However, panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court’s decided not to include the KPK’s calculation of environmental damages into its ruling, indicative of the country’s general ignorance of environmental value and protection.  The judges sentenced the National Mandate Party (PAN) politician to 12 years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of Rp1 billion (US$72,700).

Indonesia`s oil reserves recorded at 3.3 billion barrels
— Tempo 27 March 2018
Deputy Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources (MoEMR) Arcandra Tahar said Indonesia`s proven oil reserves at present are about 3.3 billion barrels. Based on MoEMR data collected by ANTARA, and assuming constant production of 800,000 barrels a day, Indonesia would cease to be an oil producer within the next 11 to 12 years unless new reserves are discovered.  Improved technology and developing new reserves will be key to sustaining oil production in Indonesia, Arcandra said. Existing oil exploitation technology can only recover 40 or 50% of proven reserves. "So far there is no technology that could do more, but if a future generation develops the technology to increase the exploitation ratio, then we could produce more than that” he said.

Indonesia is crucial to global climate goals
— Nothin Coca, The Diplomat 23 March 2018
Indonesia, despite its large size and important role in the global fight against climate change, gets little attention compared to major carbon emitters such as China, India, and the USA, partly because of the unique nature of Indonesia’s carbon emissions. Carbon emissions of the other countries mentioned are mostly related to the large-scale use of fossil fuel for electric power, heating, and transportation. International attention to the causes of carbon emissions and climate change has thus far mainly focused on these emission sources. “In general, forests are underappreciated, not given enough attention, and marginalized in policy,” Jonah Busch, from the Center for Global Development      explained.  “When people think about climate and greenhouse gas emissions, they only think about emissions from fossil fuels. Right now, Indonesia’s emissions are mostly forest-based, but in the future, fossil fuel energy consumption could be just as important.  If Indonesia’s neighbors move toward clean energy while Jakarta still sticks to coal, gas, and oil, the costs to public health and the environment could be huge.

ADB issues $175.3 million loan for geothermal energy investment in Western Indonesia
— The Financial 29 March 2018
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $175.3 million loan agreement with PT Supreme Energy Rantau Dedap (SERD) on 26 March to finance the second phase of the company's geothermal power project in South Sumatra Province. As part of the financing, ADB will also administer an additional loan provided by the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), which is a rollover from an existing CTF facility for the first phase of the project. The CTF loan for the first phase helped to confirm the size of the commercial resource and allowed the project to proceed to financing of construction and operations, according to ADB. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and three commercial banks under a guarantee from Nippon Export and Investment Insurance are also providing financing for the project worth approximately $188.8 million and $125.9 million, respectively.

How BP got it right in Indonesia
— John McBeth, Asia Times 3 April 2018
The British oil company BP’s Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in West Papua’s Bintuni Bay is one of Indonesia’s biggest gas producing areas, but this project has never generated the same level of controversy as US mining giant Freeport McMoran. From the time of the project launch 14 years ago, BP decided that it needed to avoid many of Freeport’s historic mistakes. Apart from bringing in an independent monitoring team, BP also succeeded in keeping the Indonesian police and military at a distance while establishing an atmosphere of trust with the local indigenous community in a region largely free of separatist rebels. More than 50% of BP’s 980-strong staff is Papuan, a significantly higher percentage than at Freeport, and the firm’s three-year apprenticeship program is designed to increase that percentage to 85% by 2029. Wary of human rights issues, the independent monitoring panel has advised against closer cooperation with the army and police, suggesting instead more training for the firm’s all-Papuan security force and upgrading its equipment from simple batons to non-lethal pepper gel guns, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Greenpeace leaves sustainable wood certification group
— Stephen Wright, The Washington Post 27 March 2018
Greenpeace International is withdrawing from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), saying the organization is failing to protect natural forests from exploitation. Greenpeace said the FSC inconsistently implements its standards and “fell short” of its goals to conserve forests and benefit society.  The council had successes in some regions, the environmental group said, but was failing in “high risk regions where democratic and civil society institutions are weak and corruption is high.” Greenpeace International’s statement, posted on its website, said the FSC has become a “tool for forestry and timber extraction” and announced that the organization would not renew its membership, but that national branches of Greenpeace would make their own decisions about whether to continue to work with the council. In an emailed statement, the FSC denied that it allows deforestation and argued that few other organizations could match its transparency. “It is a fact that FSC is a tool for responsible forest management, which includes forestry and harvesting. This is the core mandate of the organization, but FSC is also a safeguard against widespread illegal logging, deforestation and ultimately, forest degradation” the statement said.

4 Indonesians arrested for killing sun bears
— The Strait Times 4 April 2018
Four Indonesians on the island of Sumatra have been arrested after a video emerged showing them skinning and cooking four sun bears they had slaughtered, according to police reports. The men were charged under Indonesia's environment law and could face five years in prison and 100 million rupiah (S$9,500) in fines, if convicted, said the authorities. Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), the smallest bear species, endemic to Southeast Asia, are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  But populations have declined by about 35% over the past three decades due to rapid deforestation and habitat loss. The four bears were caught in traps set by the suspects, who later beat or shot them to death, local police chief Christian Rony said. The four men skinned the bears and cooked their meat. ''They also distributed the meat to other villagers” Rony said, adding that police had seized a gun as well as airgun pellets from the suspects.

Do environmental advocacy campaigns drive successful forest conservation?
— Mike Gawokecki, research by M. Fernando Tomaselli, Mongabay 29 March 2018
Collaborative research into conservation effectiveness reviewed 34 studies and papers and found that the scientific evidence is weak for claims about the effectiveness of environmental advocacy campaigns. The researchers, who spoke with experts in forest conservation and advocacy campaigns, found no evidence that advocacy campaigns can independently drive long-term forest conservation on their own, though they do appear to be valuable in terms of raising awareness of environmental issues and motivating people to act.  Of all the types of conservation interventions that were examined for the Conservation Effectiveness series, advocacy campaigns appear to have the weakest evidence base in scientific literature. The Conservation Effectiveness series is a collaborative investigation and research program between Mongabay (Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki) and Zuzana Burivalova from Princeton University




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