Environmental watchdog Greenpeace Indonesia has responded to a statement from the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) and the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association (Apkasindo) that called on the government to take firm action against Greenpeace, which they said was harming Indonesia’s economy.
“To be clear, Greenpeace is not anti-palm oil, it is anti-deforestation," Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace Indonesia Global Forest Campaign, said in a statement to The Jakarta Post.
Apindo and Apkasindo made their statement in response to Greenpeace's rally on a Wilmar International-owned tanker transporting crude palm oil from a refinery in Dumai, Riau, to Europe. The ship was in the Bay of Cádiz in Spain when the activists boarded and unfurled banners that read “Save Our Rainforest” and “Drop Dirty Palm Oil".
The industry group said Greenpeace’s campaign had insulted the dignity of Indonesia with accusations of dirty palm oil.
Wilmar earlier urged Greenpeace to take “collaborative action” with the company if it wanted to improve the palm oil industry. It also said in a statement that Greenpeace did not take into account that palm oil was “the most efficient” vegetable oil.
Greenpeace said it was aware that palm oil was an important plantation product for Indonesia and that the crop was a more "efficient crop generally in terms of land use" than soybean or sunflower.
"If palm oil is banned, companies or governments might turn to other crops, which might replace palm oil's role in deforestation [or even worsen it] in Indonesia and elsewhere. We support palm oil from producers or palm oil companies that aren't destroying forests or exploiting people, and there’s plenty of palm oil that fits that bill," it went on.
Greenpeace noted that the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) was an example of a multi-stakeholder initiative from the most progressive palm oil producers and NGOs, including Greenpeace.
"POIG represents ‘best in class’ standards for palm oil production and properly addresses the environmental, social and human rights impacts of palm oil development. Local people shouldn’t have to lose their livelihoods over palm oil, but the current situation means the production of palm oil can result in land grabs, loss of livelihoods and social conflict," Kiki said.
Greenpeace argued that the economic benefits of the palm oil boom had fallen to a handful of already-wealthy individuals that control the big plantation companies.
The watchdog also noted that the Oil Palm Smallholders Union (SPKS) had filed a judicial review in April this year on a 2015 government regulation on plantation funds, specifically about subsidies for biofuel products. The union argued that regulation had failed to increase palm oil productivity as it was supposed to, and only benefited companies receiving biodiesel incentives.
In 2016, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) issued a report on the palm oil industry and showed that from August 2015 to April 2016, 81.8 percent of the biofuel subsidy totaling Rp 3.26 trillion was channeled to four companies: PT Wilmar Bionergi Indonesia (Rp 779 billion), PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia (Rp 1.02 trillion), Musim Mas Grup (Rp 534 billion), PT Darmex Biofuel (Rp 330 billion).
"Only a fraction of this amount has been spent on smallholders," said Kiki.
"It is these practices that insult the dignity of Indonesia, and palm oil traders like Wilmar jeopardize Indonesian palm oil commodities and the state economy in the long run. Greenpeace calls on the government to take firm action against these forest destroyers, and law enforcement is key,” said Kiki. (evi)