Palm oil moratorium on track, ministry urges all parties to get on board

(foresthints.news) - A draft presidential instruction and action plan on the palm oil plantation expansion moratorium were approved at a coordination meeting under the auspices of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy that took place on Tuesday (Aug 9) at the coordinating ministry’s office.

It was also agreed that the draft presidential instruction concerned must be finalized this week, no later than Friday (Aug 12).

“The approved palm oil expansion moratorium continues to involves the termination of land-clearing in still productive natural forests (which enjoy good forest cover) spread among existing palm oil concessions. In addition, there will be no more new palm oil permits, both in state and non-state forest areas," Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, told foresthints.news in an interview on Wednesday (Aug 10).

Awang added that the coordination meeting between the relevant ministers was a follow-up meeting to finalize the legal framework and action plan needed to properly implement the President's directive on a palm oil expansion moratorium announced in mid-April. He explained that his ministry would be relentless in its efforts to pursue the successful implementation of the moratorium.

“Before the meeting was held, Ibu Siti Nurbaya (Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister) told me that we have to go all out in our efforts. Don’t even think about using the word ‘retreat’. Let’s not allow the palm oil expansion moratorium to fail simply because it is affected by some unfounded arguments. We have to keep on the right path because the moratorium is an initiative and instruction from the President himself.”

He went on to say that the presidential instruction, which would serve as the legal framework for the moratorium, covered all the steps that need to be carried out by the relevant ministers as well as minister-level officials, governors and mayors/regents in implementing the palm oil expansion moratorium.

“Governors and mayors/regents are prohibited from issuing any new permits in non-state forest areas, and are also not allowed to permit land-clearing in existing palm oil concessions which still contain areas with good forest cover.”

The Director General explained that the inter-ministerial meeting highlighted the need to strengthen downstream industries and improve the productivity of the Indonesian palm oil industry, including by empowering smallholders to play a greater role in the Indonesian palm oil sector.

“In the meeting, Pak Nazir (Chief of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency) made a good argument about the strengthening of smallholders in the context of the palm oil expansion moratorium, and this argument is supported by a number of field-based case studies.”

He also gave some insight into the dynamics of the meeting, saying that there were naturally voices in favor of and against certain ideas and proposals. He pointed out, however, that in this particular meeting there was a consensus to act on the spirit and substance of the President’s announcement of the moratorium.

“Minister Siti Nurbaya underlined that the palm oil expansion moratorium represents an extremely important milestone for Indonesia, in terms of both addressing sustainability, social, environmental and good governance issues, as well as improving the palm oil business itself.”

Special attention for Leuser Ecosystem

Professor Awang further elaborated on the meeting, describing how Minister Siti Nurbaya made a request for the palm oil expansion moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem to be given special attention.

“This plea for special attention demonstrates just how serious our ministry is about implementing the palm oil expansion moratorium in the Leuser Ecosystem. In fact, the first area in which action was taken to follow up on the President’s moratorium announcement was the Leuser Ecosystem.”

He reiterated that the palm oil expansion moratorium was a purely government political decision made directly by President Joko Widodo.

In concluding the interview with foresthints.news, Awang made an appeal to those parties opposed to the moratorium to acknowledge the President’s decision and accept that the moratorium would be imposed in a concrete manner. “There is really no need to come up with all kinds of strange arguments aimed at thwarting a political decision made by the President.”