National

New government regulation
threatens forest protection

New central government regulations will allow mining and palm oil plantation companies with regional licenses to buy their concessions in state-controlled forests.

The regulations, No. 60/2012 on forest conversions and No. 61/2012 on forest utilization, stipulate that mining and palm oil businesses that started operation before the enactment of the Law on Spatial Planning and Forest Utilization Permits in 2007 can own their concessions in state forests.

“Plantation and mining companies that have the privilege to acquire forested areas are only those who already have licenses from local governments before the [law] was issued,” Tri Joko Mulyono, the director of spatial planning at the Forestry Ministry, said recently.

“The new government regulation was issued to deal with the legal confusion caused by the 2007 law that capped how much state-controlled forest can be occupied,” Tri said.

According to Tri, the local licenses were previously approved by the Home Ministry and thus were legal.

“Just because the government issued this regulation doesn’t mean it will stop our efforts to protect the forests. It doesn’t mean that those companies can acquire the forests easily,” Tri said.

He added that the regulations, signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on July 6, stipulated that companies that wished to buy state forests in a province with a forested area comprising less than 30 percent of its total area would have to provide twice that amount in replacement land.

The Forestry Ministry said that it issued mining permits to operate in 335,751 of the nation’s 130.5 million hectares of forest in the first half of 2012.

Separately, Deddy Ratih of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said that the new regulations contradicted the 2007 law.

“[The law] was issued to deal with the spatial issue, so that regional governments could review all permits given to mining and palm oil plantation companies. The new government regulations negate that mandate and show the weakness of the ministry in handling the forestry problem,” Deddy told The Jakarta Post.

Deddy said that the regional governments should be given authority to make adjustments to the 2007 law.

“It’s the regional governments that should have to comply with the law, not the government. This shows that the Forestry Ministry has failed to perform its main function and has now become a conduit for those companies to violate the law,” he added.

Deddy said that the Central Kalimantan government, for instance, had issued more than 280 permits for mining and palm oil plantations companies that controlled 3.4 million hectares of mining sites and 3.7 million hectares of palm oil plantations in the province.

“Land conflicts in forested areas could escalate under this new regulation,” he said.

Dozens of residents have died in clashes between local residents and security personnel deployed to guard mining and plantation activities of both state-owned and private companies throughout the nation.

A 12-year-old boy was reportedly shot and killed in the latest clash between members of a National Police Mobile Brigade special operations unit and residents of Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra.

The violence started over a land dispute between residents and state plantation company PTPN. (nad)

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