APRIL loses legal basis for operations due to non-compliance 

(foresthints.news) - After receiving a number of letters containing warnings from the Indonesian authorities about its non-compliance with the new peat regulations, PT RAPP, a Singapore-based pulp and paper company belonging to APRIL, has ultimately had its existing 10-year work plan, along with its 2017 annual work plan, declared invalid as a legal basis for its on-the-ground operational activities.

This legally-based decision was taken by Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya - in the form of a letter signed by the Ministry’s Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono (Oct 6) - given that over a period of months, APRIL has demonstrated persistent reluctance to comply with the new peat regulations.

From a legal perspective, the operations of a pulpwood company are based on a 10-year work plan as well as an ongoing annual work plan.

The invalidation of both these work plans is tantamount to the APRIL company’s operations being declared illegal, until and unless a new 10-year work plan that complies with the new peat regulations is approved.

In other words, the APRIL company no longer has a legal basis for operating as its existing legal work plans are now considered illegitimate.

As previously reported by foresthints.news (Oct 1), the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry set a deadline (Oct 2) for PT RAPP to submit its revised 10-year work plan. However, as it turns out, the content of the revised work plan remains out of step with the new peat regulations.

Consistent with these developments, on the ground level, the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani conducted a ground-based inspection of one of the estates belonging to the APRIL company located in Sumatra’s Riau Kampar Peninsula landscape (Oct 5).

Roy explained that evidence uncovered during this field inspection demonstrates that PT RAPP continued to engage in business-as-usual practices by completely ignoring the new peat regulations, for example by controlling the water level in a way that contravenes the newly-revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo in early December last year.

Making matters worse, the director general also witnessed in person the ongoing replanting of acacia by the APRIL company in peat domes (peat protection zones) at a time when it was still trying to buy time before submitting its peat recovery plan to the ministry.

As of early October this year (Oct 3), the APRIL company has no further legal basis to carry out field operations such as those seen in the photos below, which were documented during the ministry’s inspection.

APRIL’s senior management public statements

In APRIL’s peatland regulation updates - which are the result of the company’s senior management discussions - covered in the Independent Peat Expert Working Group (IPWEG) summary report (Oct 6), the following is stated: “There has been no change in peatland regulations since the February 2017 release. There remains a need for the ‘definitive map’ to be ground verified”.

With respect to this statement, as also previously reported by foresthints.news (Jun 30), APRIL’s senior management really needs to review its own legal documents that have been submitted to the ministry.

For instance, the APRIL company’s legal documents state that 70% of its concession in the Pelalawan estate - the estate in the Kampar Peninsula landscape inspected by the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General - consists of deep peat which usually constitutes peat domes.

However, a LiDAR mapping-based analysis conducted by Deltares (2015) revealed that almost all of APRIL concessions in the Kampar Peninsula landscape, including Pelalawan estate, are comprised of deep peat.

Furthermore, APRIL’s senior management also claimed that “the process of the RKU (10-year work plan) revision by APRIL is still ongoing with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.”

However, given that this statement was published on the same date (Oct 6) that the ministry declared PT RAPP’s existing 10-year work plan to be an illegitimate reference for any field operations, the statement can rightly be considered out of date.