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
18th Edition:  4 October 2018

Marine & Fisheries 
Indonesia overtakes Thailand, VIetnam in fishery products trade balance
— Muhammad Razi Rahman, Antara, 25 September 2018
Indonesia has overtaken the other ASEAN member states in terms of trade balance in marine and fishery products, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti said. According to the International Trade Centre (ITC), Indonesia`s trade balance in fishery products in March 2018 reached US$349,441, ahead of Thailand with US$120,564. Data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed Indonesia`s fishery exports in the first half of 2018 reached US$2.2 billion, up 12.9% compared to the same period last year. The ministry has also intensified its efforts to increase the country`s fishery exports to certain countries (such as Japan) by participating in the Japan International Seafood and Technology Expo (JISTE) this year. Earlier, Slamet Soebjakto, Director General of Fish Farming of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said regulations issued by the ministry did not hamper the export of fishery products, including those from the country`s outlaying region of Natuna.

US tariffs threaten to nullify red swimming crab’s sticker advantage over blue
— Jason Huffman, Undercurrentnews 27 September 2018
Now that president Donald Trump’s 10% tariffs on almost goods from China, have gone into effect, US red swimming crab importers and wholesalers must decide whether to pass the added cost on to purchasers. The situation will become tougher next January when the tariffs increase to 25% and the cost of red swimming crab (Portunas haanii) could approach the cost of blue swimming crab (Portunas pellagicus) from Indonesia and other Asian countries.  Many buyers might opt for the blue swimming crab, suggested Carlos Faria, part owner of Miami, Florida-based Blue Star Foods, which is deemed to have superior flavor and texture.  Another possibility is that the price of blue swimming crab, bolstered by increased demand, might increase too. Indonesia continues to be the largest source of blue and red swimming crab to the US, accounting for 1,181 tons worth US$36.4m in July, 44% of the total supply for the month.

Indonesian fish farmers get early-warning system for lake pollution
— M Ambari, Mongabay, 25 September 2018
In the wake of the latest mass fish death in Indonesia’s Lake Toba, in northern Sumatra, the government has published a predictive calendar to give fish farmers early warning of poor water conditions. The tool, available online and in printed form, ranks conditions on a progressive scale ranging from “safe” through “alert” to “dangerous.” Researchers attribute the mass fish die-offs to a sudden depletion of oxygen in the water due to a buildup of pollutants from aquaculture, agricultural runoff, and sewage from hotels and houses. Unfavorable weather conditions and unsustainable practices by local fish farmers have also been cited as factors. In addition to the calendar, the government has also recommended other solutions, including growing water hyacinths to absorb pollutants in the lake and additional reforestation efforts in the area.

In an Indonesian village, compressor diving for fish is a dangerous business
— Fathul Rakhman, Mongabay 27 September 2018
The Seriwe village on Lombok is known for the high number of men who have been paralyzed, or worse, by decompression illness (DCI) due to compressor diving, also known as “hookah diving”. The divers of Seriwe cannot afford expensive diving equipment such as gauges or dive computers.  Instead, they use makeshift rigs that do not even include depth gauges. Lured by the incentive to spend extended periods of time in deep water capturing fish, these men put their lives, and the livelihoods of their families, on the line.  When a diver from Seriwe dies or becomes disabled by decompression sickness, it falls to his wife to make up for the lost income. Herawati, a graduate of Australian National University who has researched Seriwe’s economy, said these challenges are exacerbated by gender norms which limit the ability of households to adapt.  The rewards of good money continue to outstrip the risks of death, injury, and poverty.

US $22m impact fund readies for dealmaking in Indonesia, Philippines
—Jason Smith, Undercurrentnews, 20 September 2018
The investment portfolio at the Meloy Fund I, LP, a US-based impact investor, currently consists of one deal: a $1 million loan to Meliomar, a Philippines-based fish aggregator, processor, importer and exporter. But following a US$5m investment from Dutch development bank FMO, Meloy is preparing for a spree of deal making in coastal fisheries sectors in Indonesia and the Philippines, Dale Galvin, Meloy’s managing partner, told Undercurrent News. Now that it has reached a total capitalization of US$22m Meloy has closed itself off to new investment. It plans to deploy its capital by lending to companies or buying stakes and will begin winding down those positions in order to be fully exited by 2027. The FMO investment is helpful, Galvin said, because it is “validation from an institution” that Meloy “has the pieces in place to build the sector to scale”.

Tracking marine migrations across geopolitical boundaries aids conservation
—Autumn-Lynn Harrison et al, Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3 September 2018
The Leatherback Sea Turtle is considered critically-endangered species, facing a possible 96% decline by 2040, according to IUCN.  Saving leatherbacks in the Pacific will require extensive international cooperation, because the massive turtles may visit more than 30 different countries during their migrations.  The new study uses tracking data from 14 species of migratory marine predators, including leatherback turtles, blue whales, white sharks, Pacific bluefin tuna, Laysan albatross and others to show how their movements relate to geopolitical boundaries, providing critical information for designing international agreements needed to manage these species.  “These migratory species are a shared heritage,” author Harrison said.  “The first step to protect them is knowing where they are over their annual cycles and promoting international agreements to manage the threats they may face across several countries.

Forestry & Land Use

Indonesian president signs 3-year freeze on new oil palm licenses
— Mongabay, 20 September 2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signed a moratorium on new licenses for oil palm plantations.
The presidential instruction, signed on Sept. 19, will remain in place for no more than three years, according to the policy document. Environmentalists previously called on the president not to impose any limit on the duration of the moratorium, arguing it should remain in place until it achieves its goals. The policy appears to constitute a freeze on the entire licensing process for oil palm plantations in Indonesia. It explicitly applies not just to new requests for licenses but also to projects that have obtained some but not all of the permits needed to begin operating.  Since 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has released several tracks of land from Indonesia’s “forest estate” to oil palm plantation companies.

Indonesian president signs order to accelerate land reform
— Donny Iqbal and Lusia Arumingtyas, Mongabay, 25 September 2018
President Joko Widodo has signed a new presidential instruction on agrarian reform to accelerate a program aimed at reducing inequality in the control and ownership of land. President Widodo has previously pledged to expand community control over 127,000 km2 of land.  The government is targeting issuance of 7 million land certificates by the end of this year and 9 million more by year-end 2019.  The instruction reportedly calls for establishing a special task force on agrarian issues, to be chaired by the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, Darmin Nasution, with representatives from other relevant ministries. Dewi Kartika, Secretary General of the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), welcomed the order. “The final draft is quite adequate,” she said. Elsewhere at the Global Land Forum, farmers read a declaration calling for an end to “criminalization” of rural peoples who find themselves in conflict over their land with large companies.

Could mega-forest fires return to Indonesia in 2019?
—Joe Sandler Clarke, The Ecologist, 26 September 2018
Scientists are warning that 2019 could see the first major test of Indonesia’s new anti-fire measures, which some environmental groups have criticized for not going far enough.  Katia Fernandes, associate research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University has suggested that there is a high probability of an El Niño this winter. However, both because of its strength, or lack thereof, and the fact that it is due to peak in the middle of the country’s rainy season, from November to February, the impact of the coming El Niño is unlikely to be as dramatic as 2015. This summer, some parts of the country have seen significant blazes, with Indonesia experiencing a similarly dry summer to Europe. In August, daily wildfire CO2 emissions from Indonesia were at the highest level since 2015, according to researchers at Copernicus CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System.

Deforestation-linked palm oil still finding its way into top consumer brands: report
—Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 25 September 2018
A new report by Greenpeace says that palm oil suppliers to the world’s largest brands have cleared more than 1,300 square kilometers (500 square miles) of rainforest — an area the size of the city of Los Angeles since the end of 2015. Greenpeace said palm oil-fueled deforestation remains rampant in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia because global consumer brands like Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo continue to buy palm oil from rogue producers. These brands have failed to adhere to their zero-deforestation pledges and are poised to fall short of their own 2020 deadlines to clean up their entire supply chains from deforestation, Greenpeace has called for a transformation in the palm oil industry, particularly in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Moratorium shutters mines in East Indonesia
— John McBeth, Asia Times, 26 September 2018
Newly installed East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Governor Viktor Laiskodat has become the first provincial leader to order a moratorium on mining, on a chain of idyllic islands which still remain largely unaffected by the uncontrolled artisanal mining that has ravaged other parts of Indonesia.
Acting days after his inauguration, the lawyer-turned-politician indicated he would review more than 300 mining licenses already issued across Flores, Sumba and West Timor, islands better known for their sandalwood and tourism than their minerals in the archipelagic nation’s eastern reaches.  It is not clear what precipitated the move, but NTT civil society activists have long complained of damage to watersheds and agricultural land and say mining will only benefit a fraction of the province’s 5.2 million inhabitants.  What has been characterized as a moratorium, however, appears to fall short of a permanent prohibition. “We’ve been assured it is not the case of a total ban,” says one potential foreign investor.

Indonesia biodiesel output could jump 40% in 2019
— Emily Chow and Rajendra Jadhav, Reuters 27 September 2018
Indonesia’s biodiesel production could rise to 7 million tons in 2019, up 40% from an estimated 5 million tons this year, as the result of a new program to boost local biodiesel consumption, Musdhalifah Machmud from the Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs said in Mumbai. Indonesia launched an initiative in September requiring all diesel fuel to contain at least 20% biofuel content as part of efforts to cut Indonesia’s fuel import bill, support the rupiah, and increase domestic palm oil consumption. Palm oil is used as feedstock to make palm methyl ester, a component required to make biodiesel. Machmud projected that Indonesia’s palm oil output could surpass 40 million tons in 2019. She said Indonesia is seeking a reduction in India’s import duties on crude palm oil.  “We sent a letter in March, and we requested [this] again when the Indian prime minister visited Indonesia in May.”

Indonesia’s NDC bodes ill for the Paris Agreement
— Luca Tacconi, Nature Climate Change, 28 September 2018
The Paris Agreement seeks to hold global warming below 2° C by 2100.  However, Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by the parties imply a global warming of 2.6-3.1° C. Indonesia’s emissions from land-use change are among the three highest national estimates, and it is ranked as the world’s 8th highest global emitter.  Indonesia’s NDC appeared to pledge an unconditional reduction of 29% and a conditional target of up to 41% of the business-as-usual scenario by 2030.  However, Table 1 of the NDC shows a total reduction in emissions of 38% by 2030.  This could be regarded as technically consistent with “up to 41%”, but it seems contradictory for the main body to present a higher commitment that is immediately watered down in a little-noticed accompanying table. Indonesia’s approach bodes ill for the Paris Agreement’s capacity to deliver on its aim if other countries follow suit by scaling back their commitments.

Indonesia imports more fuel in 2018
— Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 27 September 2018
State owned energy holding company Pertamina’s oil imports stood at an average of 393,000 barrels per day (bpd) through August this year, which was 6% higher than in oil imports for the entire year 2017, imports averaged 370,000 bpd. The company’s official presentation, circulated among the media on Wednesday, shows that Pertamina’s gasoline imports stood at 316,000 bpd, or 83% of total fuel imports, while imports of gasoil and avtur (jet fuel) reached an average of 41,000 and 36,000 bpd, respectively. Together with Pertamina’s own production, Pertamina’s average total fuel supply reached 1.157 million bpd up to August, or 50,000 bpd higher than the average in 2017.  On 26 August, the price of global benchmark Brent crude was US$81.61, up 82% from US$44.82 per barrel in June 2017.

Conservation & Protected Areas
Rare Sumatran tiger found dead in Indonesia
− Phys, 26 September 2018
A critically-endangered Sumatran tiger was found dead after being caught in a hunter's trap on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an official said Wednesday. Locals told the conservation agency that a female Sumatran tiger had been seen on Tuesday caught in a boar trap set by a hunter in Muara Lembu village of Riau province. The officers scoured the area and found the tiger dead near a ravine, with rope from the trap wrapped around its belly. They believed the rope caused the animal's death. Local conservation agency head Suharyono said the death was especially regrettable because the tiger was an adult female expected to give birth to cubs. With fewer than 400 individuals in the wild, the Sumatran tiger is considered critically endangered as a result of high rates of habitat loss, high-levels of human-tiger conflict, and the continuing illegal trade in tiger parts.


Indonesia gains control of Grasberg mine
— Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, The Straits Times, 28 September 2018
The Indonesian government has signed a final and binding agreement to acquire a majority stake in the Grasberg mine in Papua, one of the world's largest gold and copper mines. The US$3.85 billion deal was signed by Indonesia’s state-owned mining holding company PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminum (Inalum) and Freeport-McMoRan, the majority owner of the mine with its partner Rio Tinto. Freeport-McMoRan CEO /Richard Adkerson said, “Freeport Indonesia (which runs the mine) will be owned 51% by Inalum and 49% by McMoRan.  By that point, Rio Tinto will not have any interest. The deal will most likely be financed by syndicated bank loans, but there is also a possibility of a bond sale, the government said. The deal came after more than a year of negotiations and followed a preliminary agreement in July. Politicians and observers have increasingly questioned the contract terms, which are seen as more favorable to the company than to Indonesia.

Papuans to get shares in Freeport buyout
— Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 26 September 2018
As PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminum (Inalum) secures loans to buy a majority stake in gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia following an agreement in July, the government needs to make sure the buyout will benefit Papuans, experts said. Inalum, representing the government in the Freeport deal, will acquire a 51% stake in Freeport Indonesia for US$3.85 billion. It plans to set aside 10% of the stake for two administrations, namely Papua Province and Mimika Regency. Priest Neles Tebay, an academic from the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Jayapura, believes local people should be involved in the decision-making processes at Freeport Indonesia. Inalum president director Budi Gunadi Sadikin said his company and the regional administrations will ensure local participation in Freeport’s deal by setting up special purpose vehicles (SPV), which are expected to take on a 25% share in the mine.




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