Top officials investigate extent of palm oil company's peatland violations

(foresthints.news) - Recent monitoring performed by Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry (Nov 22) has revealed that land preparation and the development of new palm oil plantations in peatlands burned last year have been taking place in a concession belonging to a listed company. In response to this, two top officials from the ministry moved quickly by instigating a further on-the-spot investigation in the concession concerned on Saturday (Nov 26).

The concession of the listed company is located in Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency in the province of South Sumatra, one of four peat restoration priority regencies designated by President Joko Widodo in January 2016.

Two director generals of the ministry concluded from the results of the field investigation that PT DGS, a subsidiary of PT. Tunas Baru Lampung Tbk (TBLA), has failed to comply legally with the terms of its permit granted by the ministry in 2012.

TBLA is a supplier to ex-IPOP signatories, such as Asian Agri, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas and Wilmar International.

Another example of this company's lack of compliance is that it carried out new land preparation in burned peatlands, a practice prohibited since early November last year. On this basis, the two top officials stressed that the ministry will increase its level of law enforcement against the company.

These were the views put forth by the two director generals in question, San Afri Awang and Rasio Ridho Sani, in person to foresthints.news at the concession location (Nov 26).

The following photos derive from the on-the-spot investigation process conducted by the two director generals which was documented directly by foresthints.news.

San Afri said that given that the majority of the company's concession forms part of one of the peat agency's targeted peat restoration areas, he would be asking the peat agency exactly what peat restoration efforts have been undertaken in this location.

"Actually, the peat agency should have performed this monitoring and uncovered the violations perpetrated by PT DGS with regard to taking advantage of burned peatland areas," the DG remonstrated.

He underlined that the ministry has to be fair in looking at the situation on the ground by considering two aspects in parallel.

"The first aspect is that law enforcement must be upheld for violations committed by the company. In parallel, of course we will also check on what peat restoration efforts have been conducted by the peat agency there," Professor San Afri explained.

18 excavators

The professor emphasized that it was certainly odd to see 18 excavators operating in last year’s burned peatlands across the company's concession, most of which falls within the peat agency’s targeted peat restoration map.

These photos form part of the findings of the thorough investigation conducted by the two director generals.

“The peat agency has to perform its duties and functions in accordance with the presidential regulation that established it. The peat agency should be able to direct peat restoration efforts involving concession areas. Its plans and arrangements must be measurable,” he said.

The ministry's monitoring efforts, according to Professor San Afri, have been carried out as part of the duties assigned to it by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya in evaluating peat restoration work in accordance with the aforementioned presidential regulation.

One of main considerations of the presidential regulation issued by President Joko Widodo to form the peat restoration agency was the need to ensure the acceleration of peat restoration efforts after last year's devastating peat fires.

A significant part of the peatlands burned in these fires were situated in concession areas, especially in pulpwood and palm oil concessions.