President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has instructed ministers and regional administrations to halt the issuance of new permits for palm oil plantations.
The President also ordered a review of the existing permits amid deforestation concerns, said Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, an official from the Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister, on Thursday.
“From ministries to regents, [they all] have been ordered to review the forest permits for [palm oil] plantations.”
Prabianto said the moratorium had been imposed to reduce conflict, especially on plantations owned by smallholders and corporations inside natural forests.
“We are aware that many palm oil plantations are located within the natural forests according to [an Environment and Forestry Ministry] map.”
The presidential instruction, he said, was expected to boost the productivity of palm oil plantations and clarify the rights of smallholders.
A recent Greenpeace report claimed that 25 major palm oil producers supplying the world's largest brands were "known to have destroyed more than 130,000 hectares of forest and peat land since 2015, an area almost twice the size of Singapore”.
Responding to the report, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) deputy chairman Togar Sitanggang said Gapki had ensured that each of its member obeyed the law and prevented further environmental damages.
"In converting land into oil palm plantations, it has to be converted from a forest area to a non-forest areas, or areas for other use [APL]. Therefore, companies are allowed to do it legally. On whether to cut down trees, that is each company's [choice]," Togar said. (ahw)