Hard evidence exposes manipulation of pulp giant’s company letter enforcement

(foresthints.news) - A top executive of PT BAP, a company belonging to giant conglomerate Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), responded by letter in late January this year to two letters sent by Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry in early and late December last year, ordering PT BAP to remove all its newly-replanted acacia from 2015’s burned peatlands.

In the letter, the top executive wrote that the company had only cleared previously burned wood waste so that it would not form a biomass with the potential to fuel fires, thereby reducing the area’s vulnerability to forest fires while also securing burned areas from encroachment.

The burned wood waste consists of wood left behind after the harvesting of acacia prior to the peat fires of 2015.

“There are discrepancies between PT BAP’s letter and the facts on the ground. The burned wood waste they mention is actually spread around the burned concession blocks and the company has planted acacia in these blocks,” Professor San Afri Awang, a Director General at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, explained at a press briefing on the outcome of the ministry’s official inspection of the BAP concession (Feb 13).

The Director General pointed out that in stark contrast to the company’s claims, what it had done, by leaving large quantities of burned wood waste scattered around its burned concession blocks, in reality was to increase susceptibility to peat fires.

This is the second news report from foresthints.news as part of its effort to share the findings of the ministry’s inspection of the concession hit hardest by 2015’s catastrophic peat fires.

These photos demonstrate how burned wood waste still lies scattered around the burned PT BAP concession.

Manipulative letter

While at the PT BAP site (Feb 9), Professor San Afri expressed his deep concern over the strewn out burned wood waste from the 2015 peat fires, which clearly poses a serious threat in terms of the recurrence of peat fires in the APP concession.

“Just imagine if the ministry hadn’t checked the location? The ministry would have merely received this letter whose contents don’t match the facts on the ground. The letter from the top PT BAP executive is obviously manipulative,” he railed.

The Director General said that perhaps the company was unaware the ministry was going to conduct a field inspection, emboldening it to include such manipulative content in its letter to the ministry.

The following photos indicate the extent of the deception in the letter from the PT BAP executive. Burned wood waste from the 2015 fires can still be seen strewn around among the newly-replanted acacia in the PT BAP concession’s burned peatlands.

No best practices

Meanwhile, Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani, the Ministry’s Director General of Law Enforcement, described how he observed first-hand the cataclysmic scale of the 2015 peat fires in the PT BAP concession from the vantage of a helicopter.

“PT BAP should really have carried out a lot of changes in the wake of 2015’s peat fires. As it turns out, what we have witnessed today proves that no best practices have been implemented in this concession at all,” he said while at the PT BAP concession (Feb 9).

Roy was seen giving frequent directives in an assertive manner to the PT BAP team, including by asking about facilities for the monitoring of peat fires which should legally be in place. Upon inspection, such facilities were found to be unavailable.

After returning from the location, Roy promptly announced at a press briefing (Feb 13) that the ministry would enforce government-imposed sanctions, including demanding the removal of all acacia replanted in 2015’s burned peatlands as well as the restoration of these burned peatlands.

As previously reported by foresthints.news in its first news report on this matter (14 Feb), the ministry’s two director generals recently performed the symbolic gesture of removing newly-replanted acacia from PT BAP's burned peatlands.

APP's Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) does not classify the replanting of acacia in burned peatlands as a violation. Conversely, the Indonesian government legally prohibits such business-as-usual practices.

In late January this year, President Joko Widodo reiterated his position that there would be no compromises whatsoever when it comes to enforcing the law with respect to forest and land fires.

The President also gave a reminder of the huge economic and social losses brought about by 2015's devastating fires and stressed the importance of avoiding a recurrence.