The Jakarta Post
The government will impose a moratorium on the issuance of all forest-exploitation permits as part of its effort to slow down the country's rapid deforestation rate.
The moratorium was announced on Friday by the newly installed Environment and Forestry Minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, following a meeting with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the Home Ministry and the National Land Agency (BPN).
'In this four-to-six month period, I have ordered all echelon-I officials in the Environment and Forestry Ministry to halt the issuance of permits that allow the exploitation of land for corporation purposes,' she said at KPK headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
The moratorium was issued to support an order from President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo to tackle permit-issuance problems, which were often abused for mining or plantation purposes, Siti said.
President Jokowi has also ordered all services related to the issuance of permits to be brought under one roof.
'The President's order is for permit-issuances to be fair, accurate, clear and accountable, which means that the procedure is clear and the result is certain,' said Siti.
She added that the government would continue issuing permits for forest exploitation once the new system was in place.
'We will halt issuance of all permits until the integration process is completed to the President's satisfaction,' Siti said.
Environmental activists, however, were not impressed by the move.
Kiki Taufik from Greenpeace Indonesia said on Friday that the new moratorium was nothing new, as the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had actually imposed such a moratorium in 2011.
In 2011, Yudhoyono signed a decree suspending new concession permits for two years.
The moratorium was extended for another two years in 2013 and was expected to expire in May 2015.
The suspension applied to primary forest and peatland in areas designated as 'Conservation Forest', 'Protection Forest', 'Production Forest' and 'Other Uses of Land'.
'So if the new moratorium is for six months at most, then we think it's far from what the public wants because even the last moratorium was extended twice but was still lacking,' Kiki told The Jakarta Post.
He said that even under the current moratorium, rampant violations persisted, included the burning of peatland for commercial purposes by forestry firms and palm oil companies.
'So a moratorium is supposed to provide complete protection for peatland. [Thus,] there should be no more peatland that can be opened,' Kiki said.
The current moratorium, Kiki added, also contained loopholes that could be exploited by both the government and private firms.
'While no new permits can be issued, the [Environment and] Forestry Ministry can still issue permits to convert the land from 'Protected Forest' to 'Production Forest' and from 'Production Forest' to 'Other Uses of Land,' Kiki said.
Citing an example, Kiki said in 2013 the Forestry Ministry approved the Aceh administration's request to convert protected forest to non-forest zone through spatial planning bylaws.
Kiki called on the current government to come up with a more comprehensive work plan.
Ministry spokesman Eka W. Soegiri, however, said that the new moratorium was not merely an extension of the current policy.
'Now the moratorium applies to all kinds of permits, including permits to convert forest area,' he told the Post.
Eka also said that the ministry would ensure that the new moratorium would not adversely impact the forestry industry.
'The moratorium is for permits that will expire soon, so that they can't be extended,' he said.
Unlike the moratorium imposed by Yudhoyono, which covers only primary forests and peat lands, the new ban will cover all forest areas in the country.
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