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
8th Edition :  24 April 2018

Marine & Fisheries

Dark debacle in Balikpapan Bay
− Tempo Magazine, 22 April 2018
A broken Pertamina pipeline spilled the equivalent of 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the waters of Balikpapan Bay and caught fire. The spill has damaged around 7,000 ha coastal area, 60 km of beach, 34 ha of mangrove forest, 6,000 mangrove trees and 2,000 seedlings, 5 areas of seagrass beds, four areas of coral reef. Beside the ecosystem, the oil spill disaster resulted in the death of five fishers.  The investigation is aimed at MV Ever Judger vessel, which is suspected to have dropped its anchor in a forbidden area. In the release on Wednesday, Greenomics estimated the ecological damaged at US$8.27 billion (Rp110.428 trilllion).

Irreversible damage haunts Balikpapan Bay
− Gemma Holliani Cahya and N. Adri, The Jakarta Post 10 April 2018
Balikpapan Bay in East Kalimantan now faces what could be the most serious ecological threat ever a major crude oil spill disaster caused by a break in a Pertamina pipeline. “In many oil spill cases, … they almost never recover more than 20%,” Ahmad Ashov, toxin-free water campaign manager at environmental group Greenpeace told the Jakarta Post. “Once it happens, the impact is irreversible.” To clean up the oil, authorities in cooperation with Pertamina deployed oil spill containment booms and dispersants.  Ashov raised concerns over the use of dispersants, which only made oil more soluble in water and therefore more dangerous as it can be more easily spread and absorbed.

Minister Susi threaten to withdraw from Fisheries Law discussion
− [translated] Bisnis 6 April 2018
Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) Susi Pudjiastuti’s threat to withdraw from further discussion of the proposed new Fisheries Law angered some members of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR). Sjarief Widjaja, Director General of Capture Fisheries Capture at MMAF, representing Minister Susi, proposed 16 recommendations changes to be included in the revision.  "If the 16 points of recommendations were not considered in the discussion of the Fisheries Law, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, in this case representing the government, is prepared to withdraw from the discussion or cancel the limited revision plan of the Act," Sjarief said, reciting a message from Minister Susi. Some members of Commission IV viewed Susi's message as a threat.

16 recommendations for Fisheries Law Revision − [translated] Bisnis 4 April 2018 The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has made 16 recommendations for the new Fisheries Law:

  1. Fisheries business is closed to foreign capital
  2. Fishing boats, transport vessels, other support vessels must be manufactured domestically
  3. Transhipment of product from Indonesian fishing vessels to foreign vessels is prohibited
  4. Transfer or transhipment to vessels which directly export outside authorized ports is prohibited 
  5. Criminal liability for violation of the law shall be extended to business corporations
  6. Protection of human rights for fishery workers
  7. Recognition of the “right of the sea” and empowerment of communities to exercise that right
  8. Continued authorization to sink illegal fishing boats
  9. Prohibition on cartel business practices
  10. Fishing vessels of less than 10 gross tons (GT) are permitted to use more than one fishing gear
  11. International cooperation to comply with Indonesian rule, beside regional and international rule
  12. Prohibition on the utilization, exploitation, and/or trade in fishery genetic resources
  13. Government has no obligation to report the arrest of foreign fishing vessels to its country of origin
  14. Liability for violation shall carry higher penalties for business owners than for crew
  15. Criminal charges against corporations shall put the owner(s) or the boards, at fault
  16. The government shall be obliged to side with traditional and small (<10 GT) fishers

Indonesia has seized 26 fishing boats since January
− The Jakarta Post 13 April 2018 Since January 2018
Indonesia has already seized 26 fishing vessels allegedly operating illegally in Indonesian waters.  According to Nilanto Prabowo, Director General of Maritime and Fisheries Resources of the Ministry of Marine Affairs, 20 of the 26 vessels were Indonesian, three Vietnamese, two Philippine and one from Malaysia. The ministry also seized nine illegal fish aggregating devices allegedly belonging to the operators of the two Philippine ships, in Sulawesi waters on April 9.  Indonesia’s policy against illegal fishing had been “toned down” earlier this year, following public debate on the policy of sinking boats used for illegal fishing.  The government allowed the sale of some seized fishing boats after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the “previous tough policy” had shown Indonesia’s seriousness.

Google satellite tracking is Indonesia's secret weapon in war on illegal fishing
− The Strait Times 20 April 2018
Partnering with Google, Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries is catching illegal fishing activity in real time, according to Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.  "They use Indonesian-affiliated companies and businesses and basically take their catch a few miles beyond the exclusive economic zone, where a refrigerated mothership is waiting." Ms Susi said. Indonesia last year became the first nation to share its Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) information with foreign partners to improve enforcement of fisheries laws and regulations. The new initiative instantly made nearly 5,000 previously invisible boats viewable online, according to Mr Brian Sullivan, manager of Google Ocean and Earth Outreach. Indonesia's VMS data was processed through the same algorithms used by Global Fishing Watch to produce a new set of analytics. These were then combined with raw satellite imagery to produce a detailed footprint of fishing activities in near-real time.

Indonesia’s elite divided on China
− Emirza Adi Syailendra, East Asia Forum 20 April 2018
There is an emerging consensus among Indonesia’s political elites that China poses a threat to the country, but disagreement persists regarding the nature of the risk and the best way to handle it. Beijing, however, appears increasingly inclined to acknowledge the conflict between the two countries in the Natuna islands. Indonesia’s elites need to find a way to harmonise their positions on China, before Beijing’s grip is too strong. However, the diffuse nature of policymaking in Indonesia discourages leaders from departing from the country’s status quo policies towards China. The status quo aims to allow Jakarta to try to have its cake and eat it too — that is, enjoy close relations with Beijing preserving Indonesia’s ‘honest broker’ role in resolving the territorial disputes through dialogue between China and ASEAN and maintaining strategic autonomy within ASEAN.

Public sea transportation in poor state
− Kompas 16 April 2018
Indonesia’s low-cost sea transportation fleet is aging, damaged and often lacks safety equipment. The bulk of the fleet is made up of relatively small vessels built on traditional wooden hulls of up to 500 gross tons (GT), propelled by a combination of engine and sail.  These vessels ply routes that are not easily served by larger modern ships and the small scale of the business is an obstacle to modernization. Ambo Tang, 42, who captains a ship serving the Kolonodale-Soyo Jaya route, said the profit margin was small. The ship earned Rp550,000 ($US 40) from passenger ticket revenues, while the fuel costs were Rp200,000 ($US 15), not including meals and other costs. Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the ministry was committed to improving infrastructure for small-scale sea transportation providers. This year, 100,000 sailors will be trained and the ministry has built 24 small passengers boat last year with plans to build 100 more this year.

Indonesia’s fishers turn to shark finning to satisfy demand for shark’s fin
− Amanda Siddharta, South China Morning Post 15 April 2018
Although shark finning is illegal in Indonesia, the activity is still widespread. Indonesia is reportedly the world’s biggest exporter of shark fin, followed by India. Shark fins can sell for between Rp1.5 million (US$ 108) to Rp3 million ($US 217), while meat sells for about Rp25,000/kg (US$ 1.8). Although much of the product may be sourced from legal shark fishing, an unknown quantity of fins come from shark finning, which often targets protected species. According to the Directorate General for Ocean Management at the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), most Indonesian shark fin is sold to Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Canada, Singapore, Peru, and Russia. Dwi Ariyoga Gautama, coordinator for by-catch and shark conservation at WWF Indonesia, says Hong Kong is the largest shark fin importer, followed by Singapore. Shark finning has also been observed around popular tourist destinations, including Komodo National Park in East Nusa Tenggara,and the Raja Ampat islands in West Papua.

Forestry & Land Use 

Call for revision of Forestry Law
− Commission IV, DPR 4 April 2018
The Vice Chairman of Commission IV of the House of Representatives (DPR), Viva Yoga Mauladi, has proposed that Law No. 19 of 2004 on Forestry be revised, claiming this legislation does not properly reflect the principle of control and management of forest. According to Yoga, implementation of the existing Forestry law has allowed many changes to the forest, for example, by providing for forest area to be converted to plantation or other uses. In addition, the current legislation inadequately addresses fire management guidelines and indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights.  Commission IV of the House of Representatives, together with the government, has agreed that revision of the Forestry Bill be included in the national legislation program (Prolegnas) for the period of 2018-2019, Viva said.

Unified land-use map for Indonesia nears launch, but concerns over access remain
− Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay 19 April 2018
An effort by the Indonesian government to consolidate multiple overlapping and incompatible spatial plans created and used by different government agencies into a single map of land-use is finally nearing completion seven years after it began. But the project continues to be hampered by the very problem it seeks to overcome: bureaucracy. The one-map policy was initially slated for launch in mid-August this year. The Coordinating Ministry for the Economy Darmin Nasution has now decided to bring the launch date forward to early August, although no specific date has been set. The government, however, says access to the database will be restricted. The government is drafting ministerial and presidential regulations that will govern data sharing for the one-map policy. Darmin’s office says it will finish drafting the presidential regulation this week, before sending it to Jokowi to sign. More detailed guidelines will follow in the ministerial implementing regulations, Hasanuddin from the National Geospatial Agency (BIG) said.

Insight: Fair trade for palm oil, please!
− Iman Pambagyo, The Jakarta Post 20 April 2018
The palm oil sector in Indonesia provides livelihoods for 16 million Indonesians and is an important source of export revenues, worth US$19 billion annually. It is therefore not surprising that Indonesia has expressed concerns about an international trade war against palm oil. If the issue is the environment, then all vegetable oils should be treated equally.  Any attempt to target palm oil differently than other vegetable oils will be viewed as discrimination. We must look at the environmental issues holistically without targeting products or sectors.  Why is it that palm oil continues to be blamed as the main source of environmental and health problems? This is not an effective way of promoting free and fair trade. [The author is Director General for International Trade Negotiations at the Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade]

Indonesia-Malaysia palm council says UK supermarket misleads consumers
− Reuters 16 April 2018
British supermarket chain, Iceland, said last week that by end-2018 it would remove palm oil from all of its own-brand products, accounting for more than 500 tonnes of oil per year, due to concerns over rainforest destruction. Executive Director of The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), Mahendra Siregar, said in a letter addressed to Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland that their decision, and claims against palm oil, “[misleads] the consumers on the environmental benefits of other vegetable oils.” CPOPC said demand for vegetable oil continues to grow and that replacing palm oil with other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower oil, would lead to 10 to 20 times greater land use to produce the same amount of oil. Iceland, which specializes in frozen food and operates around 900 stores, said it has already removed palm oil from half of its own-brand products.

Indonesian billionaire using ‘shadow companies’ to clear forest for palm oil, report alleges
− Daniel Pye, Mongabay 11 April 2018
The Salim Group, owned by tycoon Anthoni Salim, Indonesia’s fourth-richest man according to Forbes, is reportedly linked either by ownership or association with two companies that cleared nearly 10,000 hectares of the protected rainforest. A new report released by Aidenvironment claims that the Salim Group, which includes Indofood, a joint-venture with brands such as PepsiCo and Nestle, relies on “shadow companies” to sidestep legal oversight. The report highlighted the complicity of major banks, such as Citibank, Mizuho, Standard Chartered, BNP Paribas and Rabobank, that finance the Salim Group. “This report provides clear evidence of shady business dealings and inaction at the highest levels of business, all while tropical rain forests continue to fall for Conflict Palm Oil,” said Gemma Tillack, forest policy director of Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which commissioned the research along with Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN). In response to the findings, Citigroup said it was cancelling all lending agreements with IndoAgri, the Salim Group’s agribusiness arm.

How the Tokyo 2020 Games are killing rain forests in Malaysia and Indonesia
− Andrew McNicol, South China Morning Post 8 April 2018
Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a US-based NGO, delivered a petition with more than 110,000 signatures, that called on Olympic authorities, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to end to the use of wood harvested from rain forests, respect the rights of indigenous and local communities, and adopt requirements for sourcing products that have a high risk of contributing to deforestation and human rights violations in the building of Tokyo 2020 facilities. The petition came after officials confirmed in February that at least 87% of the plywood panels used to construct the New National Stadium were derived from timber in Malaysia and Indonesia, home to 10% of the world’s remaining rain forests. The IOC said city officials and the Japan Sport Council – an extra-government organisation operating and managing the construction of the New National Stadium – are taking the issue “very seriously” and are “committed to increased transparency in the future,” but that there are valid reasons for using foreign wood, include cost, aesthetics, and earthquake preparation.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Why Indonesia's energy sector is so corrupt
− Asmiati Malik, The Diplomat 13 April 2018
The practice of corruption in the energy sector involves many rent-seekers, including actors in governments, politicians, and businessmen. And most of the time, these figures play in the safe zone, acting under regulations that either benefit or create opportunities for the mafia practices. According to Rizal Ramli, former coordinating minister for maritime affairs of Indonesia, the Law Number 22 of 2001 Concerning Oil and Gas (UU 22/2001) opened the door to mafia practices in the energy sector. For instance, UU 22/2001 did not set a limit on cost recovery. As a consequence, the costs of courting the elites began to be included into “cost recovery.” In practice UU 22/2001 enables corruption at shadow institutions such as SKK Migas, which has power to regulate, supervise and decide which company wins tenders to sell oil and gas. And since SKK Migas is a government institution, it is audited by the government auditor (BPK), allowing political bargains to happen within the organization.

Shell braces for upcoming fuel price control
− Viriya P. Singgih, The Jakarta Post 13 April 2018
Oil and gas firm PT Shell Indonesia, the local subsidiary of Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell, has stated that the government’s plan to regulate gasoline prices could negatively affect the sustainability of its business. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry recently announced a plan to revise Regulation No. 39/2014 on gasoline retail prices. Through the revision, all gasoline distributors in the country, including Shell Indonesia, must obtain approval from the ministry before increasing the price of gasoline in the general fuel type (JBU) category, except for jet fuel and industrial fuel. “The certainty of being able to sell gasoline in accordance to its actual [international market] price is fundamental to maintaining the investment climate and Shell’s sustainability in its fuel distribution business,” Shell Indonesia retail director Wahyu Indrawanto told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday

Editorial: Government market intervention
− The Jakarta Post 18 April 2018
Business leaders have been complaining about increased government intervention in the market. Business leaders say that while the government has been going all out to improve the licensing bureaucracy, it has created uncertainty with deep market intervention. Most recently, the government announced that fuel distributors can no longer automatically adjust fuel prices along with developments in international oil prices, even though the country depends on imports for more than 65% of its fuel consumption.  The problem is not simply the intervention itself, but that the interventions are designed without proper consultation with the business community.  Such consultations would have helped fuel distributors understand that the Constitutional Court’s 2004 ruling requires the government to approve fuel price adjustments to clearly demonstrate that the government, not the market, is setting fuel prices. This does not mean that fuel distributors should be denied a fair profit necessary for commercial viability and sustainability.

Indonesia to boost biodiesel exports, Malaysia expects to lose market share
− The Edge Market (Reuters) 19 April 2018
Indonesian biodiesel makers are gearing up to boost exports after the European Union removed anti-dumping duties on shipments from some producers in the country, but rival suppliers in Malaysia are bracing for a slowdown in the wake of the move. After legal proceedings at the European Court of Justice, the EU last month removed duties on biodiesel imports for 13 Indonesian and Argentine producers that had been in place since 2013. The move is set to be a boon for Indonesia, the world's top supplier of palm oil-based biofuel but is expected to hit Malaysian exporters hard as they lose market share due to higher costs in their smaller-scale biodiesel industry.
Traders estimate Malaysian prices for a tonne of biodiesel are typically US$30 to US$40 more expensive than Indonesian cargoes. Indonesia Biofuels Producer Association (APROBI) chair, MP Tumanggor, expects Indonesia to ship around 432,000 tonnes of biodiesel to the EU this year, up from virtually nothing in 2017.

Conservation & Protected Area

Environmental advocates take aim at proposed revisions to Indonesia's conservation act
− Basten Gokken, Pacific Standard 11 April 2018
The revision of the Natural Resources Conservation Law of 1990, was anticipated to help crack down on the illegal wildlife trade. The latest draft makes some moves toward that goal: it would ban the trade in species not mentioned on Indonesia's list of protected species but that are regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. But critics point to a longer list of problems. It makes no mention of online trafficking, it doesn't address the issue of giving endangered animal parts as gifts, and it doesn't upgrade sentencing guidelines for wildlife crimes. "This bill falls short of our expectations," Samedi, the program director at the Indonesia Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI). "It weakens the current law, which is already pretty weak."  On December 5th 2017, the parliament submitted a bill to the government for review. However, Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly told reporters on April 4th that the government would "hold off for the moment" on advancing the bill, as quoted by Kompas.

Destroying the world's natural heritage: 'Komodo is reaching a tipping point'
− Kate Lamb, Guardian 18 April 2018
In recent years local dive operators say illegal fishing has become rampant in Komodo National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site. While daily park entrance fees were raised almost 500% in 2015 to 175,000 rupiah ($US13) the number of marine patrols has only decreased.  On top of that, as word about Komodo spreads, tourism has grown rapidly. Destructive and illegal fishing combined with unsustainable tourism are putting huge pressure on Komodo’s precious ecosystem. Dr Fanny Douvere, coordinator of Unesco’s world heritage marine program, says there are numerous steps the heritage body can take to help preserve these areas.  If serious problems are detected at a Unesco-heritage listed site, they can be addressed by putting the site on its “in danger” list, which can help generate the attention and funding required to rescue a site in critical condition.

That python in the pet store? It may have been snatched from the wild
− Rachel Nuwer, The New York Times 9 April 2018
The popularity of exotic reptiles and amphibians has spawned an enormous illegal trade, conservationists say. Many reptiles sold as pets are said to have been bred in captivity, and sales of those animals are legal. However, many — perhaps most, depending on the species — were illegally captured in the wild. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has identified 18 instances in which animals are exported as captive-bred, but likely are not. Five cases listed by Cites involve Indonesia, more than any other country.  At least 80% of the 5,000-plus green pythons, for instance, annually exported from Indonesia as captive-bred were caught illegally in the wild, depleting some island populations, according to a study published in the journal Biological Conservation.  Officials are now required to prove that certain animals to be sold abroad are genuinely captive-bred. If they fail to do so, CITES may bar international trade in those species.


Indonesia’s beliefs win in court, but devotees still feel ostracized
− Joe Cochrane, The New York Times 14 April 2018
A landmark ruling in November by the Constitutional Court affirmed the rights of followers of traditional beliefs outside the six recognized religions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Confucianism). The ruling came amid signs of growing intolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, and objections from some Islamic groups.  Five months later the government has yet to implement the ruling, though officials say they are working on it.  Followers of traditional beliefs hop the ruling will end decades of unofficial discrimination that makes it hard to get permits to open gathering places, obtain marriage licences, get access to services like health care and education, or get military, police or civil service jobs.

Papuans celebrate womanhood in mangrove forest
− Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post 22 April 2018
Collecting clams in forest is special for the local women of Kampung Enggros, the oldest kampung in Jayapura. The 8-hectare mangrove forest is named the tonotwiyat or female forest. Before the women leave to collect clams, they pledge to never leave each other’s side while in the forest. Men are banned from entering the forests while the women are collecting clams. Men who break the rule will be sanctioned by local traditional law and will have to pay a fine. Men are only allowed to enter the forest to collect wood when there are no women, deemed to be the rightful authority of the forest. But, local women are now facing challenges from mounting trash, particularly plastic, coming from the city.  “We find more plastic than clams nowadays. We are so sad,” Meraudje said. “Back in the day, we needed only half a day to fill up our boat [with clams]. But these days, we work the whole day but barely fill up half the boat,” she added.

Jokowi agrees to drop 14 infrastructure projects, committee says
− The Jakarta Post 18 April 2018
The Committee for Acceleration of Priority Infrastructure Delivery (KPPIP) says President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has accepted its report on the evaluation of the National Strategic Projects (PSN), which recommends dropping 14 infrastructure projects worth Rp264 trillion (US$19.18 billion).The committee recommends maintaining 222 projects on the PSN list, from the initial number of 245. In the report to the President, the committee also proposed one additional program. The committee said the result of the evaluation would give certainty to the relevant parties in executing the projects that are maintained on the PSN list.




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