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
12th Edition :  11 July 2018

Marine and Fisheries

Minister Susi reaffirms Indonesia`s commitment on coral reefs
− Rina Widiastuti, Tempo, 5 July 2018
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti conveyed Indonesia`s commitment to fulfill its responsibility to protect and manage coral reefs as one of the joint chiefs of the International Coral Reef Initiative ( <> ICRI) together with Monaco and Australia. Minister Susi explained that Indonesia’s commitment to marine affairs has not changed since the first World Ocean Conference (WOC) in 2017, the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) held in 2009, and the Our Ocean Conference (OOC) 2016 in Washington DC. Indonesia is set to be the host nation for the fifth OOC scheduled to be held in Bali on October 29-31, this year. 

Japan, Indonesia strengthen maritime ties amid 60th anniversary
− Daniel Hurst, The Diplomat, 29 June 2018
Japan will help Indonesia build new fishing port facilities on some of its remote islands, including sites on the southern edge of the South China Sea. The Yen 2.5 billion (US$23 million) grant was confirmed during the June visit to Indonesia by Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono. Kono and his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, agreed that the two countries would enhance cooperation in a range of fields, including “synergizing the Indonesia-initiated Indo-Pacific concept with the idea of Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy from Japan” through “strengthening bilateral cooperation through regional mechanisms,” the Indonesian statement said. The ministers expressed “concern over the occurrence of militarization in the South China Sea region” and discussed the prospects for negotiations on a code of conduct in the region to be completed in the near future. 

Japanese helicopter carrier to cruise South China Sea
− Nobuhiro Kubo, Reuters, 4 July 2018
Japan will send a large helicopter carrier to the South China Sea and Indian Ocean for a second straight year as it considers means to bolster its presence in the strategic maritime region with annual tours, two Japanese officials said. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s latest Izumo-class helicopter carrier, DDH-184 Kaga, will make stops in several Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, as well as at ports in India and Sri Lanka, said the sources who asked not to be identified. The Kaga will be accompanied by an escort ship, and may conduct ad hoc joint drills with warships from other counties in the region. Japan’s growing presence in those waters reflects its shared concern with the United States over China’s military presence in a region embracing trade routes vital to the two countries’ economies.

Maritime safety in spotlight
− Farida Susanty and Dyaning Pangestika, The Jakarta Post, 5 July 2018
Recent maritime accidents resulting in the deaths of hundreds of passengers have raised questions about maritime safety in Indonesia. Earlier this week, KM Lestari Maju was en route to Pamatata Harbor in South Sulawesi when it capsized, causing the deaths of 29 persons. This incident was only two weeks after the KM Sinar Bangun sank in Lake Toba in North Sumatra. Following the Lake Toba accident, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for an overhaul of the country’s maritime safety procedures. Authorities suspect safety procedures were violated in both accidents. Muhammad Yamin Jinca, a transportation planning expert from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, said many vessel operators ignored standard safety procedures. In many cases, he added, operators and harbormasters conspire to increase profits by allowing vessels to sail even when they fail to meet the safety requirements.

Adat Fisheries Zone declared in Raja Ampat, West Papua
— Ernes Broning Kakisina, Antara News Papua Barat, 10 July 2018
Nineteen kampung in Raja Ampat Regency, West Papua Province, have declared a Dampier Strait Indigenous People’s Fisheries Zone at a ceremony at Yenanas Batanta village attended by representatives of the West Papua Provincial Government, Raja Ampat Regency government, the Ministry of Marine affairs, Rare Conservation, and the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (USAID SEA) Project.  Kristian Thebu, Chairman of the Customary Council of the Maya People of Raja Ampat, noting that 80% of the Maya people rely on marine fisheries for their livelihoods, said the declaration expresses the commitment of the indigenous people of Raja Ampat to protection of their marine ecosystems and sustainable utilization of natural resources.  The zones will utilize the tradition of sasi to halt destructive fishing, damage to coral reefs, and limit illegal fishers from outside Raja Ampat.

US$100,000 payment in East Timor bought freedom for Chinese fishing boats’ illegal catch
− Anne Barker, ABC, 30 June 2018
Conservationists cheered last year when East Timor authorities captured a fleet of Chinese fishing boats with thousands of dead sharks on board. But it has now been learned that a payment of just US$100,000 payment secured the release of the boat, crew and its million-dollar cargo. East Timor's former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Estanislau da Silva, told reporters in Dili there was no evidence the crew violated East Timorese law and that they did not find any protected sharks on board the boats. However, Sea Shepherd and others criticised the decision, which they said raised questions about China's pervasive influence in East Timor. The critics also questioned who received the payment. One source told the ABC there appears to be no receipt or record of the money being paid into the relevant government accounts.

Forestry & Land Use

Palm oil firms use “shadow companies’ to hide their links to deforestation
− Daniel Pye, Mongabay, 9 July 2018
A report by Chain Reaction research (CCR) charges that palm oil firms deliberately hide the true ownership of controversial assets without relinquishing control, resulting in deforestation on plantations belonging to the same ultimate owners as firms which pledged to refrain from clearing forest and peatland. When corporations began adopting “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NDPE) sourcing policies under pressure from civil society groups, these firms established side businesses controlled by family members and related parties in order to avoid losing control of assets that violated those policies. “[This] has allowed these growers to continue to deforest without serious ramifications, according to Chris Wiggs, an Aidenvironment consultant. The report focuses on Indonesia, Malaysia, and PNG, and names Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, Gama, Bintang Harapan Desa, and the Fangiono, Tee, and Salim family business groups among the culprits.

Executives of palm oil giant Wilmar resign a week after Greenpeace deforestation report
− David Fogarty, Straits Times, 5 July 2018
Two senior executives of the world’s largest palm oil trader, Singapore-based Wilmar International, resigned days after a Greenpeace report linked them to Gama Corp. an Indonesian firm accused of deforesting Indonesian rainforest. The CEO of Gama is Martua Sitorus, a Wilmar director and board member. Hendri Saksti, Wilmar’s country head for Indonesia, is Mr. Sitorus’ brother-in-law. The Greenpeace report accused Gama of clearing 21,500 ha of forest in Papua and West Kalimantan, and said Wilmar purchased palm oil from Gama, in violation of its 2013 commitment to halt deforestation across its concessions and palm oil suppliers. Wilmar denied management links to Gama, stating that as of June 20 this year it had ceased sourcing from suppliers associated with the Gama group.

Carbon emissions from Indonesia peatlands will increase despite emissions-reduction schemes
—Lahiru Wijedasa et al, Global Change Biology, 1 June 2018
Despite the 2011 moratorium on new licenses to clear land for forest plantations, fires on newly cleared forest and peatlands lands in Indonesia in 2015 produced more emissions than the whole of Europe. Indonesia’s new Peatland Restoration Agency has a mandate to restore 2 million ha of peat forest by 2020. However, the legacy of historical clearances of deep peat will continue to contribute 51% (4.43-11.45 GtCO2) of projected peatland CO2 emissions over the period 2010-2130. Of the country’s remaining peat forests, 45% is not protected. Conversion of all the remaining peatlands would result in CO2 emissions equivalent to 5.14-14.93 Gt or 0.7-2.3% of all anticipated global fossil fuel and cement emissions released over 1990-2010. Policy and legislation should now focus on conserving peat forests and restoring hydrological function on peatlands inside and outside existing concessions.

Interview: Deforestation detective rethinks how industry can help quell emissions
—Virginia Gewin, Nature, 18 June 2018
In 2015, National University of Singapore ecologist Lahiru Wijedasa warned about the risks of dangerous emissions from palm oil and timber companies’ in Indonesia’s peatland forests. Noting that smallholders accounted for 60% of the conversion outside original government designated areas, Wijedasa says once he might have argued for restoration of all peatlands, but now he understands how much smallholders depend on the land and that they clear forest for their livelihoods. Finding sustainable agriculture opportunities for smallholders could eliminate 51% of future emissions from peatlands, Wijedasa said, adding that company-owned forests are now among the better-managed areas. “Good companies are the best potential partners in conservation because they have the finances, enforcement ability and motivation to protect these lands. … This also offers a way for firms to atone for past deforestation in a country that desperately needs that help.” 

‘Saving the Rainforest 2.0:’ New report makes recommendations for improving forest protection
− Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay, 2 July 2018
After spending US$3 billion over the past decade to keep forests standing in the world’s major rainforest states, a new report from Rainforest Foundation Norway titled “Saving the Rainforest 2.0” seeks to identify key barriers to stopping the destruction of the world’s forests and offers recommendations for ways to combat deforestation more successfully. One top recommendation is for rich countries to scale up international development for forest-climate finance, and for Norway to commit to spending 4.5 billion Norwegian krone (US$561.4 million) more by 2021. The report called for changes in government procurement policies and import and tax regulations to ensure preference for no-deforestation products. Meanwhile, the chief action for forest countries to take is subsidy reform, and donor countries should make subsidy reform a condition of any post-2020 bilateral agreements signed with forest countries.

Malaysia, Indonesia should jointly repel EU pressure on palm: Mahathir
− Yuddy Cahya, Reuters, 29 June 2018
Indonesia and Malaysia should join forces to oppose pressure from Europe on the palm oil industry in the world’s top two producers of the edible oil, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on 29 June during a state visit to Indonesia. “European countries used to be covered with forests but they’ve cut them down and nobody argues with them about it. But when we clear land they say it pollutes the climate,” said the 92-year-old premier, who recently returned to power in Malaysia following a shock election victory. “Our palm oil is threatened by Europe, and we need to oppose them together,” Mahathir said at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The European Union, one of the two countries’ largest export markets for palm oil, has recently moved to curb its use of palm oil to meet climate goals.

Environment Minister launches forest fire SMS service
− Chitra Paramesti, Tempo, 4 July 2018
Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya recently launched a forest and land fire information system via SMS (short message service, which was developed in created in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and Informatics. Siti said the information system will also provide education for the community to prevent forest fires. Information on the number of hotspots and fire spots can be accessed at . Siti said that the system was developed to coincide with implementation of the 2018 Asian Games. Minister of Communications and Informatics Rudiantara said the SMS service will be available at no charge.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Indonesia's 1st Wind Turbine Power Plant Inaugurated in South Sulawesi
− Indonesia Investment, 2 July 2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo inaugurated the country's first wind turbine power plant in Sidenreng Rappang (Sidrap) regency in South Sulawesi on 2 July. The plant comprises 30 wind turbine generators with a combined generating capacity of 75 MW. The facility will be able to provide 900 VA supply electricity to 70,000 customers in South Sulawesi. President Widodo was also scheduled to inaugurate the Punagaya steam power plant (2x100 MW), owned by state-owned electricity firm  <> Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), and the Jeneponto Expansion (2×135 MW), owned by an independent power producer, on Monday (02/07). Muhamad Ali, Director of Human Capital Management at PLN, said the company is making efforts so that new power plants can immediately supply energy to local communities.

Freeport to settle final issue in divestment deal
− Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 5 Jul 2018
The government has for the fourth time extended the special permit for PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), the local affiliate of United States mining giant Freeport-McMoran, allowing the company to operate for one additional month while sorting out remaining divestment issues. “The company needs more time to sort out issues related to the environment with the Environment and Forestry Ministry” Bambang Gatot Aryono, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s Mineral and Coal Director said.  The Supreme Auditing Agency (BPK) has discovered ecological damage resulting from PTFI’s operations in Papua, including USD $12.95 billion in state losses resulting from the disposal of mining waste in bodies of water and forests, and USD $19 million in losses resulting from unauthorized use of protected forest areas.  Ministerial decree No 175/2018 stipulates a new standard for mining waste management and dumping.  Indonesia is close to concluding the deal with PTFI to divest shares which will make the government a major shareholder in the firm.

Legal fight over Bali coal power plant illuminates Indonesia energy dilemma
− Michael Taylor, Reuters, 27 June 2018
Bali residents have launched a legal battle to stop the planned expansion of the Celukan Bawang power plant in north Bali. The lawsuit, backed by Greenpeace, claims the expansion will damage the area’s fledgling tourism industry, and warns of worsening air and water pollution, crop damage and negative effects on wildlife at a nearby national park. PT General Energy Bali, the plant operator, and the company’s majority owner, China Huadian Corporation, could not be reached for comment. Jisman Hutajulu, a senior official at Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said that building additional coal or gas-fired power capacity in Bali is necessary in order to meet rising demand for electric power, but that the decision on whether to opt for more fossil fuel capacity or renewable energy is for local governments to make.

Conservation & Protected Areas

Coral exports ban: Threat or opportunity for sustainability?
− Lawrence Lilley, The Jakarta Post, 26 June 2018
The Indonesian government shut down all exports of coral in May following a synchronization of regulations between the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MoEF) the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF). Some stakeholders expressed concerns over the ban’s potential impacts on the supply chain for coral products. Shane Willis, president of Ornamental Fish International (OFI), said the ban would have a devastating impact on the coral trade market and industry in Indonesia. The move is also expected to affect Indonesian exporters of ornamental fish and their collectors, as well as coastal communities where capture of ornamental fish is an important form of livelihood for local fishers. However, MAFF’s Berny Achmad Subki said his ministry believed the ban was a necessary step to improve monitoring of the trade as part of an ongoing, nationwide assessment of sustainable natural resource use.

Police arrest two for killing elephant in East Aceh
− Mukhlis, Antara News, 3 July 2018
The police arrested two people for killing an elephant belonging to a local Conservation Response Unit in June. Head of East Aceh Departmental Police Senior Commissioner Adjunct Wahyu Kuncoro stated that the arrests followed investigations conducted by a special team. The police found the body of the dead elephant in Serbajadi on 9 June, and also seized elephant ivory measuring 120 centimeters in height. They believe that the suspects used poisoned fruits to kill the elephant.

Illegal wildlife trade continues to thrive
− The Jakarta Post, 5 July 2018
Indonesia’s wildlife trade continues rampant, with many endangered species openly sold in local markets and shops. Law No. 5/1990 on Natural Resource Conservation and the Ecosystem stipulates that the trading, keeping, distribution or killing of protected species is an offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment or Rp100 million (US$6,965) in fines. However, not only is the maximum punishment too lenient, but the law itself is rarely enforced. The law is currently being amended in response to demands that the penalties should be increased in order to deter wildlife traders. The Jakarta Post recently observed the sale of several protected exotic animals, such as myna and countless lovebirds, at the Pramuka market in East Jakarta. This and other markets in East and South Jakarta continue to sell such animals despite several raids by the city’s Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

Orangutan found dead with bullets, slash wounds
− Karana WW, Tempo, 4 July 2018
A 20-year-old male  <> orangutan named Baen was found dead in Tanjung Hanau Village, Central Kalimantan. The orangutan was submerged in water with seven bullet holes and slash wounds on its body. After initial examinations, it was concluded that Baen died from the bullet wounds and slashes on its body parts and limbs. There were also marks of rope ties on its legs, and one of its fingers was cut off. Adib Gunawan, the head of Central Kalimantan's Natural Resources Conservation Agency, said that the autopsy results suggested that the orangutan had been abused and killed two weeks earlier, adding that cases of abuse and slaughter of  <> orangutans are rampant. In January, two villagers from South Barito sadistically shot 16 bullets at an orangutan and stabbed the animal with machetes.

Flood protection by coral reefs saves billions of dollars annually
— Michael Beck et al, Nature Communications, 12 June 2018
Coral reefs serve as a natural flood defense along some 71,000 km of coastline worldwide. To quantify the value of this service, a Nature Conservancy team analyzed flooding scenarios, concluding that if reefs were to be reduced in height by just one meter, the annual expected damage from near-shore flooding would more than double to about US$7 billion. If coral reefs were lost, the expected flood damage from extreme 100-year storm events would increase by 91% to US$272 billion. The papers list Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico and Cuba as having the most to gain from preserving reefs, which are threatened by climate change. The paper provides a procedure for a process-based valuation of ecosystem services across an entire marine biome at (sub-)national levels.

Sea-level rise could overwhelm coral reefs
— Chris T. Perry et al, Nature, 21 June 2018
Coral reefs act as natural breakwaters protecting shorelines and   infrastructure from storms and floods. However, an assessment of coral reefs’ ability to continue growing upwards in the face of ecological degradation found that 16 reef areas in the tropical western Atlantic and 6 in the Indian Ocean were barely keeping up at present rates of sea-level rise (SLR), and only 9% of the 202 coral reefs assessed exhibited coral accretion rates sufficient to keep up with anticipated future SLR rates under even the most optimistic of the IPCC scenario projections for future greenhouse-gas emissions. Few reefs have the threshold coral cover level necessary to track SLR under the IPCC’s RCP4.5 climate change scenarios without sustained ecological recovery. Urgent action is thus needed to mitigate climate, sea-level and future ecological changes in order to limit the magnitude of future coral reef submergence.




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