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
22th Edition :  28 November 2018

Marine & Fisheries

Sorong pole-and-line tuna fishery first in Indonesian to win MSC certification
— Undercurrent News, 22 November 2018
PT Citraraja Ampat Canning (PT CRAC) has been certified as the first Indonesian fishery to meet the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard for sustainable fishing.  PT CRAC voluntarily approached the independent assessors DNV GL to review the sustainability of its fishery against the MSC standard. Comprising 35 vessels employing 750 local fishers, the pole-and-line skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery has been in operation since 1975 using anchored fish aggregating devices (FADs) to attract fish.  Based in Sorong, West Papua, the fishery exports to Singapore, Malaysia and Europe. DNV GL set six conditions to be met over the next five years, including adopting improved harvest strategies and harvest controls and ensuring international collaboration to maintain healthy tuna stocks. The Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) has agreed to support the fishery in addressing the certification conditions, including collaboration with other member states of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which are responsible for oversight of 60% of the world’s tuna catch.

Indonesia's boat-sinking policy gets green upgrade: No explosives involved
— Fadli, The Jakarta Post, 22 November 2018
Local authorities in the Riau Islands Province scuttled five Vietnamese boats used for illegal fishing. Unlike previous cases, the authorities opened holes in the hulls and employed weights to sink the vessels in order to avoid damaging the environment. The use of explosives to sink vessels arrested for involvement in IUU fishing has been criticized as a violation of international law and for damaging marine ecosystems. Dedie Tri Hariyadi, head of the Batam High Prosecutors Office in Riau Islands Province, said using explosives to sink boats in the past caused damage to coral reefs from fuel spills and other impacts. With the new method, it took an hour for each boat to disappear beneath the waves on Wednesday. “I hope these boats will become new habitats for fish and other marine life around Momoi Island,” Dedie said.

Indonesia launches pangasius brand to target Middle East
— Neil Ramsden, Undercurrent News, 14 November 2018
Indonesia has launched a pangasius brand to capitalize on the growing demand for the farmed fish in Middle Eastern markets. The Indonesian Catfish Entrepreneurs Association (APCI) launched the brand at the Seafex show in Dubai, in coordination with Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and supported by the SMART-Fish program of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Indonesian pangasius production has grown from just 33,000 metric tons (t) in 2006 to 437,000 t in 2016. Suhadi, APCI chairman, said Indonesian pangasius is farmed “using clean groundwater and in lower densities” than other producing countries. Pangasius ranks 6th in the National Fisheries Institute top ten list of favorite seafood species in the US, where it is also marketed as “Swai”, “Striped Pangasius “, and “Tra”. The United Arab Emirates was chosen to launch the Indonesian brand based on its potential as a gateway to other Middle Eastern markets, but APCI hopes to step up and tackle the EU or US markets in the future.

Licensing and cheap loans are key to fisheries growth, according to industry body
— The Jakarta Post, 15 November 2018
The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) has urged the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) to simplify licensing procedures and provide a new lending facility to help boost the fishing industry. Kadin representatives urged the government to draft policies supporting these initiatives under the 2020-2025 National Development Plan. Yugi Prayanto, Kadin’s Chairman of Fisheries and Maritime said the biggest problem faced by the industry was the slow licensing process for new fishing vessels, followed by the high lending rate, which made it costly to establish aquaculture farms. Kadin adviser Rokhmin suggested that the government create a dedicated maritime bank to provide loans to fishers and marine farmers with low interest rates and more relaxed requirements. Despite these problems, however, Kadin Deputy Chairman for Trade Benny Soetrisno praised the government’s efforts to improve Indonesia’s fishing industry.

Forestry & Land Use

Palm oil was meant to help save the planet.  Instead it unleashed environmental catastrophe
— Abrahm Lustgarten, The New York Times Magazine, 20 November 2018
The US Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 was intended to make the country energy independent and increase production of clean renewable fuels. It called for reducing US diesel emissions by 50% through increasing biofuel use from 18 million m3 to 140 million m3 by 2022.  To meet the hugely increased demand for biofuels, the US began importing palm oil from Indonesia, where banks were directed to provide more than US$8 billion in loans for new palm oil projects, including conversion of forest into new plantations. A 2008 paper published by Science, pointed out that carbon emissions caused by the massive deforestation and conversion of peatland soils in Indonesia would more than wipe out the supposed benefit of burning biofuels instead of petroleum diesel in the US, but nothing changed. The result was the destruction of millions of ha of forest and peatlands, incalculable losses of biodiversity and habitats across Borneo and Sumatra, and massive increases not reductions in global carbon emissions.

RSPO adopts total ban on deforestation under sweeping new standards
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 16 November 2018
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s leading certification body for ethically-sourced palm oil, has ordered a total ban on clearing forest by member companies. The previous standard banned clearing of primary forest, but it allowed cutting of secondary forests and peat forests with a peat layer less than 3 meters thick. The new standard prohibits any future land clearing causing deforestation or other damage, especially to peatlands and high carbon stock (HCS) forests, and bans planting oil palm in peat of any depth. “Adopting no-deforestation into the RSPO’s standards is an important step…” Greenpeace Indonesia’s Kiki Taufik said. “However, the new rules will take at least two years to come into effect, and right now numerous RSPO members are destroying rainforests with impunity.” The Rainforest Action Network’s Robin Averbeck questioned the effectiveness of the new standard, noting that “strong certification is meaningless without enforcement.

Palm oil supplier to PepsiCo, Mars and Hershey resumes deforestation in West Papua
— Loren Bell, Mongabay, 15 November 2018
PT Permata Putera Mandiri (PPM), a subsidiary of Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ) has cleared 450 ha of intact forest in West Papua Province since May 2018, violating well-publicized commitments of its customers to “not deforest, not develop on peatlands, and not exploit indigenous peoples”. In 2014, The Forest Trust (TFT) engaged with ANJ to address the deforestation, but the company determined it needed to clear the remaining forest in its concession to remain profitable. Facing a global boycott, PPM temporarily suspended forest clearing, but resumed deforestation once again in late 2017. Nestlé, Mars, Hershey and Johnson & Johnson are TFT member companies that listed ANJ as a supplier at the beginning of 2018. Of these, only Nestlé has confirmed it is actively working to remove ANJ from its supply chain. PepsiCo, though not a TFT member, belongs to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and continues to source indirectly from ANJ despite their NDPE (no deforestation, peat and exploitation) commitment.

Oil palm growers in Riau hit hard by price decline
— The Jakarta Post, 21 November 2018
Oil palm growers in Indragiri Hulu, Riau Province have experiencing losses following recent declines in the price of oil palm fresh fruit bunches. The current purchase price is only Rp600 (US$0.04) per kilogram, down from Rp1,300/kg in in September. At current prices, growers reportedly retain only around Rp250/kg from sales after paying workers to harvest the commodity. Joni Sigiro, a farmer, said he had been forced to sell fresh fruit bunches to middlemen because mills owned by palm oil companies were no longer buying. With such low prices, growers were not able to consider ways to improve productivity because they had no money to buy fertilizer. The Ministry of Trade had previously issued a crude palm oil (CPO) reference price for September of US$603.94 per metric ton (t), 4.46% lower than the August price.

Greenpeace: “We are not against palm oil, but against deforestation”
— The Jakarta Post, 25 November 2018
The Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association (Apkasindo) and Indonesian Employers’ Association (Apindo) have stated that Greenpeace’s recent protests had “insulted the dignity of Indonesia”. In Response, Greenpeace said it recognized that palm oil was an important plantation product for Indonesia and that it was “more efficient in terms of land use” than soybean or sunflower. “… Greenpeace is not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation,” Greenpeace leader Kiki Taufik, said, “we support palm oil from producers and palm oil companies that aren’t destroying forests or exploiting people, and there’s plenty of palm oil that fits that bill.” In 2016, Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) reported that 81.8% of the 2015 biofuel subsidy, which totaled Rp3.26 trillion (US$225 million), had been channeled to four companies: PT Wilmar Bioenergy Indonesia, PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia, Musim Mas Group, and PT Darmex Biofuel. “Only a fraction of that amount has been spent on smallholders,” Kiki said.

Jokowi distributes 1,300 land certificates in Central Lampung
—  Tempo, 23 November 2018
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo distributed around 1,300 land certificates in Central Lampung regency from the target of 264,000 certificates in Lampung province. The president said he had frequently heard about land disputes between communities and companies and between communities and the government. Jokowi explained there were still 126 million land plots that required certification to date, but he added that prior to 2014, only 46 million plots had been certified, so the government still had to issue 80 million more. Sofyan Djalil, Minister of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning (ATR), said his ministry would complete the certification process of all lands in the province by 2023.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

KPK points out loopholes in B20 policy
— Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 26 November 2018
A study by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) found indications of illicit practices in the implementation of the B20 biofuels policy, whereby biofuel producers and fuel companies fake sales and purchase agreements for fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) in order to meet the legal requirements for importing petroleum diesel.  The KPK said the practices were conducted between biofuel producers and fuel company off-takers of FAME, also known as Biosolar. The fuel companies could not obtain import quotas for petroleum diesel unless they had documentary evidence of biofuel purchases, which can easily be falsified. Another loophole was created by the government’s decision to exempt some institutions from the B20 policy on the rationale that their facilities could not be fueled with Biosolar. Those institutions included gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia and state-owned electricity firm PLN, as well as the National Police and Indonesian Military.

Clean energy: Jonan blames ‘disparities’ for slow progress
— Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, 16 November 2018
The government has acknowledged that clean energy is not an option for Indonesia today due to social and economic disparities which have impeded development of renewables. “Many regions of Indonesia have yet to enjoy the benefits of electricity,” Ignasius Jonan, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources noted, “[but] here we are already debating about the use of renewable energy.” However, former Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Kuntoro Mangkusubroto disagreed with the idea that renewable energy development would be too costly, arguing that data from other countries showed otherwise. Agora Energiewende, a German energy think tank, acknowledged that the initial cost of implementing renewable energy projects was high, but said that in Germany, the cost of electricity generated from solar or wind energy is now as low as US$0.04 per kilowatt hour, one cent lower than electricity produced from coal-fired power plants.

Auction for early stage geothermal development areas in West Sumatra, Indonesia
— Alexander Richter, Think GeoEnergy, 14 November 2018
Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) is auctioning a geothermal Preliminary and Exploration (WPSPE) Survey Area in West Sumatra Province. The site is WPSPE Bonjol, in Pasaman Regency, with an estimated capacity of 200 MW and a land area of 7,441 hectares. Ida Nuryatin Finahari, ESDM Director General of Geothermal Energy, is optimistic that the block will be heavily sought by investor, because the eight WPSPE previously auctioned were subsequently sold in full. Ida said the implementation of the offer will last for 1 month. After exploration is complete and a Geothermal Permit is issued, the auction winner will be expected to conduct a Pre-Transaction Agreement (PTA) with Indonesia’s state-owned electric power company, PT PLN (Persero).

Activists urge South Korean funders to stop lending to Indonesia coal plants
— Hans Nicholas Jong, Mongabay, 16 November 2018
Environment activists in Indonesia have called on South Korean funders to withdraw loan support for new coal-fired plants in western Java that they warn will be the most polluting in the country.  The Suralaya power complex, about 100 kilometers west of Jakarta, already has eight coal-fired plants in operation, accounting for 3,400 MW or 18% of the total generating capacity for the islands of Java and Bali. The government now plans to add two more 1,000 MW plants. Financing costs, estimated at US$1.67 billion, are expected to be covered by loans from the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM), the Korea Development Bank (KDB Bank) and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-sure). Satellite data analysis reportedly shows that Suralaya currently emits more nitrous oxides (NOx) than any other power facility in Southeast Asia. Greenpeace Indonesia energy campaigner Didit Haryo said the group had sent an open letter appealing to the South Korean institutions to “immediately withdraw” funding for the project.

Indonesia`s target of electrification set at 99.9% in 2019
— Tempo, 25 November 2018
The Indonesian government has targeted an electrification ratio at 99.9% in 2019 with a larger contribution from renewable energy sources. Data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) shows over the past eight years the rural electrification ratio rose from 67.2% to 98.1%, with the ratio rising to 72.0% in Papua, the country’s most undeveloped region. Indonesia’s overall energy mix is dominated by fossil fuel, with coal accounting for 58.6%, natural gas 22.5%, oil 6.18%, and renewables around 12.7%. To increase the electrification ratio while boosting renewable’s share of total energy to 23% by 2025 would require support and cooperation from developed countries, according to Rida Mulyana, Director General of New and Renewable Energy, who explained that this support could be in the form of funds, technology, and/or other inputs. Mulyana identified Germany as an important partner of the Indonesia government in development of renewable energy.

Conservation & Protected Area

Dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had ingested '6kg of plastic'
—  BBC News, 20 November 2018
The carcass of a 9.5-meter-long dead sperm whale washed ashore in Wakatobi National Park in Southeast Sulawesi with nearly 6 kg of plastic waste in its stomach, including 115 drinking cups, 4 plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flop sandals, as well as plastic bags and pieces of hard plastic. "Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful," said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia. Because of the advanced state of decay, it was not possible to determine whether the plastic had caused the whale's death, she added. Five countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand — account for 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans, according to a 2015 report by Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and the Environment.

Rare Sumatran tiger rescued from beneath shop in Indonesia
— Phys, 17 November 2018
A rare Sumatran tiger trapped for three days in the crawl space beneath the floor of a shop on Burung Island in Riau Province has been rescued and transported to a rehabilitation center, according to an Indonesian official. The 80-kilo animal was treated by veterinarians for minor injuries to its legs and cracked canine teeth. Video footage showed the tiger lying on its belly between two concrete foundations, unable to move. There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and environmental activists say incidents of conflict with people are increasing as their natural habitat is rapidly deforested.

Flooding forces elephants to enter residential area in Riau
— Strait Times, 20 November 2018
Flooding forced a herd of 11 wild elephants to flee their natural habitat and enter plantation areas near a residential compound in Kampar regency, Riau province. The elephants had reportedly eaten and destroyed a cassava plantation, young oil palms and other plants before they went into hiding in the partly wooded area. The head of the Riau Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BBKSDA), Heru Sutmantoro, said the plantations were in what had originally been the natural habitat of the wild elephants, who typically moved from place to place in the area between Pekanbaru, Kampar and Siak. He said the 11 elephants were members of the same family, consist of adult females, juveniles and a calf. The team had drawn up a plan to drive the elephant herd to Minas in Siak regency or to Koto Garo in Kampar regency by using firecrackers and [the sound of] cannons.

'Deep pockets' only: Prepare to pay US$500 to visit Komodo National Park
— The Jakarta Post, 22 November 2018
The East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) administration reportedly plans to raise the entrance fee to Komodo National Park to at least US$500. NTT Governor Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat said that “[Komodo dragons] are highly unique, but sadly they come cheap.” The governor added that the park had to maintain a certain degree of prestige as it was the only place in the world where people can see the dragons in their natural habitat. “Only people with deep pockets are allowed,” the governor said. Viktor said he also expected to set a higher fee, starting at US$50,000, on recreational vessels entering Komodo National Park. Previously, the government planned to limit the number of visitors to Komodo National Park in a bid to maintain ecosystem stability following a fire in August which razed grasslands. The number of monthly visitors to the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rose from 8,626 in January this year to 14,217 in April.


Supreme Court increases sentence for gold mine critic
— Dyaning Pangestika, The Jakarta Post, 23 November 2018
The Supreme Court has sentenced Heri Budiawan, a critic of gold mining in Banyuwangi, East Java, to four years in prison, which was far longer than the 10-month sentence originally handed down by the lower courts. Heri was arrested in September 2017 for allegedly displaying a banner with a hammer and sickle logo during a rally to oppose the operations of a gold-mining company in the Tumpang Pitu Mountains in East Java. The director of the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Wachid Habibullah, who assisted Heri during his trial, questioned the court’s decision to extend Heri’s sentence, arguing that accusations of communist sympathies were often used to criminalize environmental activists. Heri is not the first environmental activist to be imprisoned for defending the rights of locals against mining and infrastructure developments. Data from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) revealed that as many as 50 environmental activists faced criminalization in 2017.

Six activists detained for staging rally on board palm oil tanker: Greenpeace
— Ivany Atina Arbi, The Jakarta Post, 18 November 2018
Six Greenpeace activists were reportedly detained on board the tanker Stolt Tenacity in Cadiz Bay near Spain for staging a rally against forest destruction in Indonesia. The vessel, which is owned by Wilmar International, was transporting crude palm oil from a Riau refinery to Europe. The activists unfurled banners reading “Save Our Rainforest” and “Drop Dirty Palm Oil” before being detained by the ship captain. Based on Greenpeace’s investigation, palm oil suppliers to Mondelez destroyed roughly 70,000 hectares of forests across Southeast Asia over the past two years. Mondelez responded in a statement saying it has prioritized suppliers meeting sustainability criteria that enable retailers and customers to trace the products back to the originating mill, and noting that Mondelez had excluded from the supply chain as a result of breaches. Wilmar called the protest was a criminal act of trespassing and vandalism as well as a safety risk to the activists and Wilmar staff on board the vessel.




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