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CSOs respond to Indonesian pulp and paper industrys demand for special treatment

( - The Indonesian pulp and paper industry has asked the Indonesian government for various additional facilities, such as tax holiday and a relaxation of the regulatory regime, in order to improve the industrys competitiveness and support its expansion. The demand was made by Tony Wenas, a top executive of PT RAPP, a giant pulp and paper company owned by APRIL, as reported by the Bisnis Indonesia daily.

Responding to the demand for special treatment, Greenpeace Indonesia Country Director Longgena Ginting said that even though the haze crisis had not been completely resolved, the pulp and paper industry was now demanding special facilities, including various forms subsidization from the government.

"In reality, the pulp and paper industry, including the palm oil sector, should be able to show that their businesses are responsible and sustainable, and specifically focus on preventing more forest fires in the years ahead," Ginting said in Jakarta on Thursday (Feb 4), when asked by for his views on the pulp and paper industrys demand.

Ginting said that pulp and paper industry needed to show they were responsible by, among other things, running their businesses without destroying forests and helping to develop the commitment to zero deforestation, both in Indonesia and every other part of the world in which they operate.

"Operating their businesses based on the zero deforestation model would be their key advantage on international markets. We can no longer rely solely on the cheap production of paper and palm oil products, while ignoring environmental destruction and the fate of generations to come, said Ginting.

He said that the current trend towards sustainability in the forestry and plantation industry continued to gather pace, both in the international and domestic markets.

"The demand by some industry players for the government to provide further facilities, including subsidies to justify expansion, could make President Jokowis commitment to reducing national carbon emissions more difficult than ever to realize," Ginting warned.

Improve sustainability

WWF-Indonesia CEO Efransjah said he supported the deregulation and streamlining process so as to strengthen the competitiveness of the Indonesian pulp and paper industry, both in the ASEAN Economic Community and on the global market.

"However, the key issue is to focus on the principle of sustainability, which has now become the norm for businesses at the global level. Indeed, the Indonesian pulp and paper industry must be willing to improve its level of sustainability so as to enhance its competitiveness on the global market," he told in Jakarta on Thursday (Feb 4), when asked for comment on the pulp and paper industrys demand.

He further said that the expansion of pulpwood plantations so as to increase revenues and employment was not objectionable in itself.

"However, does this have to be at the expense of our remaining natural tropical forest, which is diminishing all the time?" he asked.

Efransjah said that the role played by civil society groups, working with local communities, in engaging in dialogue with Indonesian pulp and paper industry players was of the utmost importance in ensuring the adoption of strategies that put the interests of people and future generations first.

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