Jokowi and the Haze: Symbolic removal of acacia (video), Indonesia's legal regularisation push, Companies have not paid fines / compensation

Editor's note: In view of the tragedy of the Sumatra-Kalimantan fire haze-smoke crisis of 2015 we have collected our thoughts on this complex issue by focusing tightly on the knotty issues at origin (the current sustainability model has yet to provide aggregate outcomes) : poverty and development policy, extension services, limited applied knowledge on peat development and management methods, and the role of various supply-chains in the fire-haze zones. Farmer issues focus:

14 Feb 2017:  Symbolic removal of acacia marks new era of peat related law enforcement by Foresthints - video

Symbolic removal of acacia marks new era of peat related law enforcement by Foresthints News Published on 13 Feb 2017 -- In a symbolic gesture, some of this newly-replanted acacia was indeed removed by the top officials of Indonesian MoEF at two locations in a pulpwood concession belonging to APP subsidiary, PT BAP, located in OKI regency - one of two peat restoration priority regencies situated in the province of South Sumatra (February 9, 2017).


Forest Hints News youtube:
  • Second video reemphasizes untrue claims unhelpful in preventing peat fires Pulang Pisau by Foresthints News
  • Video reveals threat of peat fires in 2017 - Pulang Pisau (Indonesian Borneo) by Foresthints News

10 Feb 2017: Indonesia wins cases against companies but none have paid fines / compensation

Indonesia - Government wins in forest fire case by Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post Jakarta | Thu, February 9, 2017 -- In the fight against deforestation and forest fires, the Environment and Forestry Ministry is on a winning streak, with the courts ruling in favor of the government in cases against companies. Still, the enforcing of penalties remains weak.... In its latest victory, the South Jakarta District Court found palm oil company PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ) guilty on Tuesday of illegally starting a forest fire to clear land in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra. The court ordered the company to pay Rp 466.5 billion (US$35 million), Rp 173.5 billion of which will serve as compensation for the burning of 1,626 hectares of land in its land concession and another Rp 293 billion to cover the rehabilitation cost for the burned land. The fine was lower than the ministry’s demand of Rp 754 billion.... However, none of the companies have paid the fines or compensation. The ministry’s law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, acknowledged that it was a challenge for the ministry to enforce verdicts. It takes time for verdicts to be enforced because the ministry has to wait for the official record of the verdict to be available, which can take months to more than a year. Moreover, there is no standard operating procedure for the enforcement of forest-related rulings. The ministry is pushing for the Supreme Court to issue a regulation on its judges to help with the enforcement of penalties....

7 Feb 2017: Indonesia's legal regularisation push - draft bill, 1.7 million hectares of smallholders, Eyes on the Forest on 1.6 million hectares converted and 26 companies using the wrong permits

NGOs Refuse Draft Bill on Palm Oil | National | Tempo.Co, 06 February, 2017 -- “The existence of the Draft Bill regarding palm oil could worsen the regulation since the draft bill legalizes violating acts in peat areas,” said the Advocacy Deputy Director of ELSAM, Andi Muttaqien, on Sunday, February 5, 2017. According to Andi, the Bill legalizes the palm oil plantation that is currently considered illegal. It is written in article 23 of the Draft Bill. The article regulates the

rights of cultivating palm oil on a land after acquiring a business permit. The plot of land that is referred to is mineral land and/or peatland.

1.7 million ha of farms on forest area legalised - news snippet -- Indonesia: Agriculture ministry filed a discharge status of the 1.7 million hectares of oil palm plantations owned by farmers. Because the land is indicated to be in the forest area. After discharge, farmers can manage land certification and legality. That way, farmers could then fulfill its obligations, including paying taxes. Moreover, the government has imposed a tax amnesty policy dapata used by farmers

NGOs Call Out 26 Palm Oil Companies for Illegal Operations in Riau - Jakarta. A number of palm oil plantations in Riau province have allegedly received under the table permits, according to a report by a coalition of environmental NGOs dubbed the Eyes of the Earth, or EoF. By : Ratri M. Siniwi | on 6:30 PM December 10, 2016 -- Earlier in 2014, the Forestry Ministry had converted 1.6 million hectares of forest areas into non-forest areas under a ministerial decree, but 26 companies have been found to be operating under the wrong type of license within the converted area as they are missing cultivation permits (HGU) and forest-estate release permits.....“We urge the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] to investigate the land swap scandals of a forest area covering more than 1.6 million hectares,” Woro Supartinah, coordinator for Jikalahari NGO which is a member of EoF, said in a statement on Thursday (08/12).According to EoF’s report, the majority of palm oil plantations within the converted area are operating sans proper permits and licenses and are not included in the Forest-Estate Release Progress Data 201, based on the book of forestry spatial data 2015..... WALHI, or Friends of the Earth Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that palm oil estates which operate without proper licenses or permits are corrupt and a form of tax evasion. “These plantations are not paying taxes, and do not have a tax identification number [NPWP]. We could lose up about Rp 170 trillion [$12.7 billion] in state losses,” Riko Kurniawan, WALHI executive director said on Friday....

Press Release 09 Dec 2016 Maraknya kebun sawit ilegal jadi pintu masuk pemberantasan korupsi yang tuntas di Riau  

16 Dec 2016: NGO reactions to Indonesia's new peatland regulations - 30% protection is not good enough, APRIL-RGE in spotlight; Malaysian state says no palm in swampy areas for fear of drying up land

Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law 9 December 2016

Dianggap tak Transparan, Greenpeace Putus Kontrak APRIL dan RGE  14 December 2016

Negeri Sembilan ‘No oil palm on swampy land’ 8 December 2016 -- Negri Sembilan, a major palm oil producing state, will no longer allow the palm to be grown in swampy areas and abandoned padi fields to prevent the state from “drying up”....

7 Dec 2016: Indonesia expands protection for peatland, Government Taskforce To Legalise HCV Guidelines, Destruction of the Amazon is speeding up 

Press release: - Indonesia's Peat Moratorium could benefit people, welfare and climate News story | Published: 2016-12-05  --

Govt Imposes Moratorium on Land Clearing of Peatland  07 DECEMBER, 2016 | 07:10 WIB

Indonesia just made a huge move to protect the climate By Chelsea Harvey December 6 at 4:50 PM

Indonesia expands protection for peatland  DEC 7, 2016 -- New law banning cultivation also covers concession land previously licensed to firms

For peat’s sake. Despite tough talk, Indonesia’s government is struggling to stem deforestation, But the weather is helping a little Nov 26th 2016 | HENDA, BORNEO -- a familiar story across Indonesia, where decentralisation has saddled local governments with more responsibility than they can handle. Most are simply unable to stop powerful interests bent on deforestation. Many do not want to: the financial and political benefits from allowing business to proceed as usual often exceed those from following national policy decided thousands of miles away in Jakarta. Sometimes the incentives are terrifyingly blunt: activists tell tales of attempts to enforce forestry laws being met by men with machine-guns.... Added to a lack of capacity is a woolly governmental structure that makes it difficult to know just where the buck stops, and easy for officials to pass it. WALHI, an environmental pressure group, has filed a lawsuit over deforestation in Central Kalimantan. Among the defendants are the provincial governor and parliament, as well as Jokowi and the national ministries of health, environment and agriculture—all of which have some role in forest policy. Mr Yudhoyono’s moratorium came from the forestry ministry (now merged with the environment ministry), but the agriculture ministry handles licensing for palm-oil concessions. Such divisions are replicated at the local level, and the various entities rarely co-ordinate with each other....

InPOP Update December 2016 - Government Taskforce To Legalise HCV Guidelines In Indonesia -- A landmark process between Ministries — with input from the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders — began in November to refine High Conservation Value (HCV) related regulations in Indonesia.... Once the HCV guidelines are officially recognized by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry under KEE, the taskforce will shift focus for them to be considered and adopted at the highest level of Indonesian law. This will require a constitutional revision in parliament know as an Undang Undang.

Destruction of the Amazon is speeding up — just when the planet can least afford it By Chris Mooney December 2, 2016 -- This means that since 2012, when deforestation hit a historic low after many years at high rates, it is now bouncing back again — and doing so at a time when researchers say protecting tropical forests, and allowing them to regrow, is one of the most effective short-term ways of fighting climate change. “This is a big deal,” said Daniel Nepstad, an Amazon expert and senior scientist at the Earth Innovation Institute. “It is the highest deforestation number since 2008. Compared to the lowest deforestation number, in 2012, it means an extra 150 million tons of CO2 went up into the air through forest destruction.”...

29 Sep 2016: Strengthening ISPO - InPOP's National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil, strict liability for fires and MOEF and BRG halt APRIL Group’s (PT RAPP unit) development

InPOP UPDATE September 2016 -- InPOP's National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil.... The first draft of the National Action Plan will be presented to stakeholders next month and released for public consultation in the coming weeks..... Suggestions for the National Action Plan, related to strengthening ISPO, include: prioritising the resolution of disputed land legality status for smallholders and companies, centralising licensing and permit procedures, socialising ISPO and its principles on sustainability in schools and community groups, preparing a trade negotiation strategy to gain international recognition of ISPO and increasing the capacity of the ISPO secretariat. Specific laws and regulations related to the palm oil standard will be reviewed by a task-force headed by the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs and open to multi-stakeholder input. 

Strict liability for fires? 

Editor's note: Indonesia Environment and Forestry Ministry (MOEF) is set to file civil lawsuits after Riau police dropped several cases. In four lawsuits, the concept of strict liability will be used in two cases. Peat and plantations policies has been publicly contested in Indonesia. Operations specialists point out that better implementation is needed. Also, Indonesian laws and regulations may be disjointed, for example, a concessionaire prosecuted under criminal and civil suits (for fire on peat) was ordered to hand over the land, but the agency involved had not prepared this mechanism.

More firms to be on lawsuit list by Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post Jakarta | Sat, August 13 2016 Companies can be held responsible for fires in their concessions, even if there is no proof that the fires were caused by them or their negligence. Strict liability was used by judges in their verdict against PT National Sago Prima (a subsidiary of PT Sampoerna Agro), ordered to pay a record fine of Rp 1.07 trillion (US$81 million); the government used the unlawful misconduct concept, accusing the company of violating Forestry Ministerial Regulation No. 12/2009, which states that concession holders are responsible for fires on their concessions.... A fire expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture reported that PT NSP was among 17 companies audited by the now defunct presidential working unit for the supervision and management of development (UKP4) in 2014. The audit found that none of the companies had passed the compliance test against Indonesian environmental regulations.  Most of them lacked adequate facilities and the infrastructure needed to prevent forest fires.

BRG/Peat Restoration Agency stops development 

Editor's note: MOEF and BRG halt APRIL Group’s (PT RAPP unit) development. basin development in Meranti, Riau on concern that it will drain the area, which is identified as peatland. RAPP must cease its activities temporarily until the hydrological mapping of the area is complete in about three months time.

RAPP vows to resolve Pulau Padang Peatland issue 12 Sep 2016

21 Sep 2016: Indonesia fatwa against forest burning to reinforce laws against it, study estimates 100,000 premature deaths from Indonesia fire-haze, financing deforestation 

FORESTS & FINANCE - The banks and investors exposed to deforestation risks in Southeast Asia - 

See more at:                         

Forest-burning is a sin, says Indonesian fatwa, 14 September 2016 -- Government officials said they hoped the moral impact of the fatwa would help reinforce laws against it.

Study Estimates 100,000 Premature Deaths From Indonesia Haze THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (STEPHEN WRIGHT)  September 19, 2016 — The study finds there is a high statistical probability that premature deaths ranged between 26,300 and 174,300. Its main estimate of 100,300 deaths is the average of those two figures. It predicts 91,600 deaths in Indonesia, another 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore. The researchers involved in the study say the model they developed can be combined with satellite observations to analyze the haze in close to real time. ....... ....

Study claiming 6,500 deaths in Malaysia due to haze refuted BY NICHOLAS CHENG 19 September 2016 -- Malaysia has refuted a Harvard and Columbia University study, claiming that the 2015 South-East Asian haze had caused 6,500 deaths in the country.   The study, which is expected to be published in the Environmental Research Letters (ERL) journal, also claims that there have been 100,300 premature deaths in the region from the haze; 91,600 in Indonesia and 2,200 in Singapore.  ... Deputy Health director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran was sceptical of the findings of the study.  “No such thing!” he said when contacted Monday about the paper.  “We had no deaths last year directly related to the haze,” he added. The numbers vastly contradict the official count, which only reported 19 deaths in Indonesia and none in Malaysia and Singapore. ...

5 Sept 2016: Environment Minister Condemns Hostage Situation Involving Palm Oil Company, WALHI to File New Police Reports Against Riau Forest Burners

Indonesia environment team threatened with death investigating haze Sep 5, 2016 -- By Bernadette Christina Munthe | JAKARTA -- Dozens of Indonesian men, suspected of being hired by an oil palm plantation company, threatened to kill environmental investigators checking on fires on Sumatra island, the environment ministry said. The incident illustrates the difficulties Indonesia faces tackling the illegal burning of vegetation to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations that causes clouds of smoke every dry season, which at times blanket the region, raising fears for public health and air travel.... The ministry said a group of up to 100 men detained seven investigators for about 12 hours on the weekend and threatened to burn them alive and dump their bodies in a river at an oil palm plantation in Rokan Hulu, Riau province..... The team was following up on satellite images showing "hot spots", or suspected fires, in a concession of PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) oil palm plantation company. There were "strong indications" the mob was deployed by the company, the ministry said in a statement. "With this incident, the investigation of PT APSL will become our top priority," Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said in the statement, referring to both suspected forest encroachment by the company and the detention of the team. "The environment ministry will investigate this and take strict action in accordance with the law," she said....A company official, contacted by Reuters on Monday, declined to comment.... 

Environment Minister Condemns Hostage Situation Involving Palm Oil Company By : Edo Karensa | September 04, 2016

Environmental Group to File New Police Reports Against Riau Forest Burners By : Alin Almanar | September 03, 2016

60% of forest fires in Kalimantan, Sumatra not on concession land by Francis Chan | The Straits Times/ANN | Jakarta  August 30 2016 -- Satellites detected almost 700 fires across Kalimantan and Sumatra last week, as the thick haze from land burning on the two Indonesian islands began blanketing the skies over Malaysia and Singapore.... However, the data from Global Forest Watch (GFW) also found that 60 percent of the fires were spotted outside concession areas that were not managed by plantation firms. GFW, an initiative of American think-tank World Resources Institute, produces detailed maps and analyses of forest fires around the world.... However, six plantation firms were singled out in the GFW analysis, showing "fire alerts", which Sutopo said represented actual fires, in eight concession areas managed by the companies. They include pulpwood firms Sumatera Riang Lestari (23 fires), Arara Abadi ( 15 ), Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper ( 12 ), Rimba Mutiara Permai (five) and Seraya Sumber Lestari (four), as well as palm oil company Karya Makmur (two).... Forest fires, mainly in Kalimantan and Sumatra, raged for more than three months towards the end of last year. The thick smoke caused more than half a million Indonesians to suffer from respiratory illnesses. At least 19 died.... However, the 697 fires recorded in Kalimantan and Sumatra from Aug 21 to Sunday marked a vast improvement when compared with the 5,724 fires detected over a similar eight-day period last year.....

Malaysia challenges the world over palm oil on peatland by Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post -- Malaysia is a “lone ranger” in Southeast Asia as it fights more or less solo against the majority of environmentalists’ views that palm oil trees should not be planted on tropical peatland as it is believed to severely affect the local environment and exacerbate global warming. Malaysia, the second biggest palm oil producer after Indonesia, is a home to 2.43 million hectares of peatland, 27.5 percent of which has been developed into palm oil plantation, while Indonesia with production of 23 million tons last year is a home to 16 million hectares of peatland with 1.6 million hectares of it developed.... Unlike Indonesia which prefers to follow the mainstream views of the environmentalists and has decided to launch a moratorium on new development on peatland since 2011, Malaysia fully supports its palm oil industry who have tried to prove that peatland cannot be classified as “sacred land”.... The Malaysian government established the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory (TPRL) in Serawak state to facilitate its scientists to conduct research on the economic and environmental aspects of peatland development. They claimed that they have managed to eradicate the negative impacts of peatland exploitation. However, their arguments were nearly unheard as they were inundated by the mainstream opinion of the environmentalists....

10 August 2016: WWF SVP on inability/unwillingness of local and national authorities

IPOP’s demise undercuts palm oil industry progress [commentary] 8 August 2016 / Dave McLaughlin -- Dave McLaughlin is the World Wildlife Fund’s acting senior vice president for sustainable food. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.-- This is the second in a series of commentaries about the disbandment of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). Read the first one here. Regardless of how conservationists and businesses feel about the effectiveness of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), its recent demise illustrates how government imposes a serious obstacle to meaningful change in the palm oil industry: the inability and in some cases, unwillingness, of local and national authorities to protect forests, workers, and communities. ....

8 August 2016: Riau focus - strategies post-haze

15 fire-linked firms escape prosecution in Indonesia’s Riau 28 July 2016 / Mongabay Haze Beat Environmental advocates decried the police decision to close cases against the companies, which Jakarta had listed in connection with last year’s haze crisis.

New initiative to further creation of a single map in Indonesia’s Riau 27 July 2016 / The World Resources Institute’s Riau One Map campaign aims to advance a government initiative in the country’s top palm oil-producing province.

Indonesia declares national park in top palm oil-producing province 27 July 2016 / Zamrud National Park encompasses an area inhabited by a variety of birds, fish and mammals in Riau on the island of Sumatra.

27 July 2016: Some cases are dropped, Indonesia focus on smallholder, Riau's new national park, policy tussle over moratorium with corporate sector, Singapore view post-IPOP

Cara BPDP Jaga Produksi Sawit Saat Moratorium by Pebrianto Eko Wicaksono 21 Jul 2016

Note: Pak Bayu says the moratorium decision of President Jokowi (if it comes into regulation) will be respected. Bayu, notes there are many estates that level of production is only one ton per hectare against a potential fo seven tons, blaming bad planting materials (seeds) in large part. Also, trees over 30 years old must be replanted. Bayu said for Jan-June 2016 the oil fund has raised to Rp 5.6 trillion, against this year's target of Rp 11 trillion. The realized oil fund levy for 1H2016 was lower than 2H2016's (July to December 2015) Rp 6.9 trillion likely because of oil exports have dropped slightly.

Riau Police drops probe into 11 firms linked to forest fires by Rizal Harahap | The Jakarta Post | Pekanbaru  July 20 2016 -- Riau Police reportedly have dropped investigations into 11 companies allegedly involved in forest fires in 2015, underlining the poor law enforcement of last year’s catastrophe that claimed five lives. The 11 companies were among 18 accused of having been involved in the fires. While two other companies have seen their cases brought to court, six other companies are still being investigated. Following the termination of the 11 investigations, the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari) environmental group has called for the dismissal of the Riau Police chief.

Indonesia suspends land-clearing licences of 27 firms over forest fires July 11, 2016  By Samhati Bhattacharjya -- Indonesia government has suspended land-clearing licences of 27 companies, which were found responsible for the land and forest fires, leading to the haze crisis last year. The Environment and Forest Ministry officials said that the decision was taken after the companies failed to prevent fires in their concession lands, which resulted in one of the worst environmental crises for South-east Asia in recent history. Apart from the sanctions, the ministry has also filed civil law suits against five oil palm companies allegedly responsible for some of last year's fires.... 

Dirjen Kementan: moratorium sawit harus dibarengi peremajaan tanaman 26 Juli 2016 -- Menurut dia, luas lahan yang dimiliki pengusaha sudah cukup besar karena selama ini terus ekspansi, sementara milik BUMN justru memprihatinkan karena sampai sekarang masih stagnan produksinya. Sedangkan kebun kelapa sawit rakyat harus ditingkatkan produktivitasnya.. Kondisi petani kelapa sawit, lanjutnya, kalau dibandingkan dengan petani kelapa sawit Malaysia yang bergabung dalam Felda masih jauh sehingga harus diperjuangkan lagi.

Note: Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture: oil moratorium should be coupled to replanting. Corporate areas are big enough and the conditio nof farmers an be improved (comparing to Malaysia's Felda).

Riau’s Zamrud forest named newest national park by Haeril Halim and Rizal Harahap   July 23 2016 -- The government on Friday celebrated World Environment Day (WED) by officially opening Zamrud National Park in Siak regency, Riau. The park aims to conserve the remaining forest and ecosystem against industry in the region, home to nearly 3 million hectares of palm oil and timber plantations for pulp and paper companies. The decision of the Environment and Forestry Ministry to upgrade the status of the 31,000-ha peatland forest, which has two lakes inhabited by endangered species such as gold arowanas, from a wildlife reservation to a national park aims to ensure it is not converted for industrial use in the future....

Indonesia Moratorium on New Palm Planting to Include Existing Plantations By : Bernadette Christina Munthe | July 19, 2016 -- The moratorium will cover around 3.5 million hectares, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, starting with 950,000 hectares that are being proposed by plantation companies for expansions.  Indonesia, the world's top producer of palm oil, currently has about 11.4 million hectares devoted to palm plantations.  Plantation areas that not used according to what is stipulated on their concession permits, and those indicated to have been transferred to new owners may be subjected to the moratorium, San Afri Awang, director general of forestry spatial planning at Environment Ministry told reporters.  "Existing palm plantation concessions which have productive forested areas will also be subjected to the moratorium," Awang said.....Indonesia's palm association said the move is inconsistent with a strong commitment to investors and introduces uncertainty into the regulations governing plantations. "If plantations that already have a decree to clear forested areas are included in the moratorium, it shows that legal certainty in Indonesia is not good, and this is a bad image," Eddy Martono, an executive at Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), told Reuters on Tuesday (19/07).... In April, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the areas already issued to palm oil growers could be more than twice as productive "provided they use the right seeds".  Gamal Nasir, director general at Agriculture Ministry told Reuters on Tuesday that no decision has been made yet on including forested areas inside palm concessions in the moratorium plan..... 

Post-IPOP: How Indonesia can lead in palm oil sustainability by Lee Chen Chen and Lau Xin Yi  Researchers at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs  Singapore | Tue, July 26 2016 -- the dissolution of IPOP in July, less than two years since it was launched, did not come as a surprise to industry observers.   Since its inception in 2014, IPOP had met with resistance from the Indonesian government and many local palm oil companies.   Dissenters had accused IPOP of infringing on Indonesia’s sovereignty and causing small-scale farmers to lose market access if they could not keep up with IPOP’s standards.   Various interests are clearly at play here. The importance of the palm oil sector to the Indonesian economy and smallholders’ livelihoods means that the country prefers to be in the driving seat in setting industry standards.   IPOP’s disbandment is a clear sign that its members lacked sufficient engagement with these key stakeholders. It has also increased the uncertainty surrounding Indonesia’s fire and haze problem...

17 July 2016: What is Singapore government's agenda? 

Haze of 2015: What is the Singapore government’s agenda?  BY TERRY XU JULY 14, 2016 -- At the height of the haze which engulfed the region last year, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) sent notices to the six Indonesian paper & pulp companies to request for information under Section 9 of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA): PT Rimba Hutani MasPT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood IndustriesPT Bumi Sriwijaya SentosaPT Wachyuni MandiraPT Bumi Mekar HijauPT Bumi Andalas PermaiAdditionally, paper giants Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) was issued notice pursuant to Section 10 of the THPA seeking information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. In short, Section 9 of the THPA requires companies to state what was being done to put out the fires within concessions and actions taken to immediately halt fires while Section 10 gives the NEA to obtain information from any company official whom the NEA may think may be considered responsible for the running of the company.While the notices were issued to paper and pulp companies, there were no notices issued to palm oil companies at all, despite several of which have clearly contributed to fires that have engulfed land concessions in Indonesia. This begs a question: Why is the Singapore government targeting only paper & pulp companies when palm oil mills and plantations have been equally liable for the haze which wreaked havoc in the region last year?...

7 July 2016: Of 2.6 million ha of peat restoration 50% responsibility of concessionaires, Indonesia Haze Crisis 2015 account for 97% of 1.2 billion tons CO2 equivalent emissions for the region that year 

New haze fears as palm oil firms ditch landmark Indonesia pact Tuesday July 5, 2016 - See more at:

Singapore to pursue firms over fires, despite Indonesian ire AFP | Sunday, Jul 3, 2016 - See more at:

Indonesia taking steps to prevent cross-border haze this year Source: Bernama -- JAKARTA, 27 June 2016:  This year, the air pollution crisis caused by the haze may not recur. This is based on Indonesia’s confidence that forest and oil palm plantation fires will be controlled, beginning this year, while it tackles at the same time the spectre of the haze haunting neighbouring countries annually. Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) chairman Joko Supriyono said the confidence was based on preparations being made by all parties – including the government, plantation companies and villagers in the oil palm plantation areas. “As fire is our common problem, GAPKI members have been asked to proactively assist the government to overcome the problem and villagers, advised to refrain from large-scale open burning.” In addition, he said Gapki would cooperate with the Indonesian government to monitor all hotspots, adding that GAPKI members were reminded not to resort to open burning..... He said, as an organisation representing palm oil entrepreneurs, GAPKI welcomed the directive of Indonesian president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) for the authorities to take stern action against any company carrying out open burning. Joko said GAPKI had also urged the authorities to take action against perpetrators of forest fires. “The forest and peat fires have been taking place for many years and recur every year, even before the growth of the palm oil industry. There are also laws that allow open burning to clear fields, all this has to be reviewed.” Recently, Jokowi ordered all authorities to carry out works to prevent the burning of forests and farms in the country, adding that they (the authorities) should be prepared to face the catastrophic forest fires in advance and make prevention a priority. The republic has set up a Peat Restoration Agency to carry out activities to preserve forests and ensure forest and farm fires do not recur this year. In addition, the Indonesian president has instructed all district-level authorities, including the army and police to monitor the fields.....

"A Lost Opportunity for Indonesia" RAN Responds to Dissolution of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. San Francisco. Today, Rainforest Action Network responded to the announcement made by six of the world’s largest palm oil companies to dissolve the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) group, an innovative platform designed to advance the environmental and human rights reforms needed to address the international controversy surrounding the rainforest destruction and labor exploitation associated with Indonesia’s palm oil industry. Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network issued the following statement. “IPOP was an important mechanism for Indonesian companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors by taking real steps to halt the rampant destruction of forests and peatlands, to end the widespread abuse of workers and address the long-standing conflicts resulting from the displacement of local communities from their lands for industrial scale plantations. IPOP’s dissolution is a disappointing step backward in the urgent fight to achieve truly responsible palm oil and is a major lost opportunity for Indonesia’s palm oil industry to maintain its stake in the global market. “IPOP’s former members, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas, Astra Agro Lestari, Asian Agri and Cargill, must now meet their responsible palm oil promises independently and demonstrate that they intend to follow through on the commitments made to smallholders, local communities, workers and customers across the globe that are demanding fundamental changes in the way the palm oil is produced....

Read more here:

Measuring carbon emissions

On land and in space, understanding the impacts of fires. To measure greenhouse gas emissions from the fires in maritime Southeast Asia in 2015, a variety of methods and expertise coalesced DEANNA RAMSAY   28 Jun 2016 -- The study’s authors determined that the carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 of 11.3 million tons per day were higher than those of the entire European Union, which daily released 8.9 million tons over the same period.....The widespread landscape fires in parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua last year generated noxious smoke and haze affecting millions – and international attention – and the team on the ground was the very first to assess the emissions from actively burning peatland..... “There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said King’s College London professor Martin J. Wooster, one of the study’s lead authors. The team used their measurements of ground-level smoke from burning peat to derive the emission factors, i.e. to understand how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane is released for a particular amount of tropical peat burned. Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were determined by combining the satellite measurements and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework with the newly determined emission factors from fires around Palangka Raya – one of the hardest hit sites. The researchers concluded that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.....“This sort of modeling has only been possible quite recently. When we saw the fires start in the region – knowing that it was an El Niño year – we were able to quickly start analyzing the situation, and we started contacting others who could contribute,” said study lead author Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who works on the CAMS framework. Wooster concurred about the clarity of their calculations because of fresh technologies....He said, “We found that this was the largest single fire event in terms of carbon emissions from Indonesia since 1997. We can much more confidently make our calculations because of the new satellite, modeling and field instrument technology that is now available compared to 20 years ago.”.... For David Gaveau, also a CIFOR scientist and study co-author, the fires in 2015 were different because they were primarily on drained, idle peatland. “In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” he said.... “The last year has seen the largest single year atmospheric carbon dioxide increase since records began in the 1950s, and we calculated that the fires burning in Indonesia made up a significant component of the increase over what is ‘normal’ in non-El Niño years,” Wooster said..... For Murdiyarso, good policy is key – and providing numbers related to the 2015 fires can help. With the Indonesian government’s Peatland Restoration Agency established following the fires last year, there is movement to avert future fires.......

Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study  29 JUN 2016 -- 28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning. Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period. The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso  and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

CIFOR's Fire and Haze page:

Fire carbon emissions over maritime southeast Asia in 2015 largest since 1997 by V. Huijnen, M. J. Wooster, J. W. Kaiser, D. L. A. Gaveau, J. Flemming, M. Parrington, A. Inness, D. Murdiyarso, B. Main & M. van Weele. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 26886 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep26886 Received: 01 February 2016 Accepted: 09 May 2016 Published online: 31 May 2016  -- Prior tropical peat EFs are somewhat different, being based on combustion chamber investigations and forming the basis for the peat EF description in the widely used Akagi et al. compilation19. The uncertainties in the derived EFs are mainly driven by an estimated 10% uncertainty in the carbon content of the burning peat (~55% for peat-only fires)..... Our fire carbon emission estimate for Sept-Oct 2015 represents the largest seen over the Maritime southeast Asia region since 1997, but still it is only a quarter of the most recent estimate11 for the Sept-Oct period of that El Niño year. We note that fire carbon emission estimates for 1997 are intrinsically more uncertain8,9,11,12 than our 2015 estimate, considering that neither MODIS nor MOPITT satellite observations were available before 2000. The more limited carbon emissions for 2015 are most likely associated to the combined effects of reduced burnt area and reduced burn depth. Based on GFEDv4 burned area11, the Sept-Oct estimated area of peatland burned is 0.8 × 106 ha (1997: 1.7 × 106 ha), implying an average loss of 42 kg DM m−2 in peatland (1997: 78 kg DM m−2), equivalent to an average burn depth of 26 cm (1997: 50 cm), see Supplementary Information D. Since many areas that burned in 2015 are known to have burned during prior El Niño’s, this indicates the possibility that peatland areas previously burned consumed on average less fuel per unit area. Fire mitigation and control measures may also have been somewhat more effective than in 1997 and also meteorological factors affecting fire extent, such as the level of precipitation preceding Sept-Oct5 and the normal onset of the monsoon by the end of October, were not as severe in 2015 as they were during the more prolonged drought of 1997 (Fig. S1).....From the evaluation of C-IFS-GFAS against MOPITT over the larger domain spanning from 70°E–150°E and 11°S–6°N, we found a high bias in the outflow region west of Indonesia, but not over Kalimantan and Papua (Figs S3 and S4). This led us to significantly downscale the CO emissions over Sumatra, which we believe is likely associated with uncertainties in GFAS regarding the land cover type specification....

Vast Peat Fires Threaten Health and Boost Global Warming. Largest blazes on earth smolder for months in Canada and Indonesia By XiaoZhi Lim on July 2, 2016

THESE FIRES ARE HUGE, HIDDEN AND HARMFUL. WHAT CAN WE DO? Smoldering peat gives off massive quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but the search for solutions is on. By XiaoZhi Lim, freelance science reporter based in Singapore.  June 28, 2016 -- June 28, 2016 — As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada. Unlike the dramatic wildfires near Fort McMurray, peat fires smolder slowly at a low temperature and spread underground, making them difficult to detect, locate and extinguish.  ey produce little flame and much smoke, which can become a threat to public health as the smoke creeps along the land and chokes nearby villages and cities. Although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth.”And although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth,” says Guillermo Rein, a peat fire researcher at Imperial College in the United Kingdom....The boreal forests are thought to contain some 30 times more peat than Indonesia. Because they can smolder for weeks and months, sometimes even staying active underground throughout cold northern winters, peat fires emit on average the equivalent of 15 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to Rein — carbon that took thousands of years to sequester.... Rein recently received a five-year, €2 million grant from the European Research Council to develop a peat fire early warning system. He is trying to characterize the heat fingerprints of peat fires by replicating small peat fires in the laboratory and using infrared cameras to record the heat emitted. He hopes to use his findings to calibrate satellites specifically for peat fires, just as some motion sensors are calibrated to detect infrared radiation unique to humans.....Rein is also collecting the gases produced from his experiments and analyzing them for patterns that could become telltale warning signs of a growing peat fire. For example, the ratios of carbon monoxide or volatile organic compounds to carbon dioxide can be used to tell the difference between emissions from peat fires and those from combustion engines or power plants. These patterns could then be applied to handheld gas sensors or gas analyzers placed in drones, airplanes or buildings in nearby villages and cities to help detect peat fires....Once found, one problem to putting out peat fires is that peat soil repels water when it gets very dry, says Watts.... Adding a fire retardant to the water might help make water more effective at this. One example is Peat FireX, a plant-based powder developed in 2012 by Steve Sinunu, CEO of Texas-based EnvironX Solutions. When dissolved in water, it disrupts the strong hydrogen bonds between water molecules, making it easier for the water to penetrate soil. As the solution moves into the soil, it coats the peat to protect it from fire....Earlier this year, the Indonesian government adopted Peat FireX as a weapon against peat fires, according to Steve Sinunu and an independent company in Singapore who helped connect EnvironX with the Indonesian government....

Ravaged woodlands - Stricken trees provide clues about how America will adapt to global warming—but little hope that it can be averted   Jul 9th 2016 -- The growth of wildfires is a worldwide problem, with even bigger burns elsewhere. Siberia, Tasmania, Canada and Indonesia have seen record-breaking fires in recent years. According to Greenpeace, fire consumed over 7m acres of Russian forest in the year to May 23rd (the Kremlin offers much lower figures). The area of Canadian forest burning each year has roughly doubled since the 1970s; a wildfire near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, which started in May, has turned 1.5m acres of forest and 2,400 buildings to ash. Now heading north through Saskatchewan, the fire is reckoned to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster.

Indonesia Moving Toward Tougher Stance On Contested South China Sea JUN 15, 2016  -- Indonesian President Joko Widodo called a strategically important meeting with his security and political affairs minister this week over how the normally neutral Asian archipelago should handle increasing foreign pressure on its maritime claims. The minister, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, learned from the Monday meeting that government leaders will “formulate an Indonesia stance on the conflict” in the widely disputed South China Sea while avoiding any statements that show disunity, Indonesia’s Antara News reported.... Those goals most likely mean Widodo’s administration will stiffen its stance on the South China Sea, a 3.5 million-square-kilometer ocean north of the vast group of islands. That’s because Chinese fishing and coast guard vessels increasingly turn up in Indonesian-claimed waters. Indonesia, like Malaysia, has tried to stay neutral toward China’s aggressive maritime claims because it depends on Chinese investment in infrastructure and orders for palm oil, a key agricultural product. Beijing rewards Beijing’s restraint by not getting publicly angry about upsets at sea.....

29 June 2016: 5 palm oil firms face lawsuit over forest fires, moratorium on firms with idle concessions

5 palm oil firms face lawsuit over forest fires -- Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, June 28 2016 -- The government is gearing up to take some of the alleged perpetrators of last year’s massive forest fires to court for the first time. However, an environmental organization has lamented the limited scope of the action in comparison to the profound damage caused by the fires. The Environment and Forestry Ministry is in the final stage of filing civil lawsuits against five palm oil companies allegedly responsible for some of the 2015 forest fires, a tragedy that has been called a crime against humanity as it killed 19 people, mostly children, and caused more than US$16 billion in economic losses. Amid public pressure, the government decided to hand down administrative sanctions to 23 companies suspected of being behind the land and forest fires last year. These companies had their land-clearing licenses either revoked or frozen for their failure to act to prevent the fires, which led to the worst pollution in the region for almost two decades. While the government has started legal action in response to the fires, it has not taken any cases to court yet....

Govt to put moratorium on firms with idle concessions, Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, June 18 2016 | 10:29 am -- Soon, palm oil and forestry resource companies will be forbidden from starting any activities on any of their concessions that are idle, as the government plans to expand a moratorium on peatland use in a bid to curb the annual land and forest fires. The government is currently revising Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2015 on a permit moratorium for primary forests and peatlands, which has been in effect since May last year. The moratorium on clearing primary forests and peatlands was first introduced by then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010 and was extended by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo through the Inpres last year. The original moratorium only banned permits to be issued allowing the use of peatland that has not yet been turned into concessions. However, following Jokowi’s instructions, the Inpres will be revised once again to impose a total moratorium  on the use of peatland, including land that has been turned into concessions but left idle. Jokowi called for a stronger moratorium because 10 people, mostly children, were killed by smoke pollution from last year’s fires....

West Papua - Sorong SEZ for processing palm and other resources

Indonesia to develop special economic zone in Sorong by Ayomi AmindoniAyomi Amindoni The Jakarta Post  June 14 2016;  Sorong Regent Stepanus Malak said that the development of infrastructure and facilities in the special economic zone would require Rp 5 trillion (US$373.9 million) in investment. Currently, there are 12 companies in the regency, including international oil and gas company Petrochina, as well as several companies from Japan, Korea and Australia. "The core business in the special economic zone will be palm oil processing, timber processing, fisheries, petrochemicals and oil refineries," he said.

Indonesia's biggest sago plant kicks off operation The Jakarta Post  January 1 2016 -- Perum Perhutani president director Mustoha Iskandar said that Papua had considerable potential for natural sago production. Good quality Papuan sago raja could produce 900 kilograms of sago from one branch, he said.... The plant's construction cost Rp 150 billion. The plant will hire 40 local workers to work in the factory and around 600 people to supply the sago logs.... In this way, Kais locals will no longer have to send their products to the Sorong market in Sorong, West Papua. The journey to Sorong could often take up to a week on a paddle boat. Gunarto, project chief of the management unit at Perum Perhutani, told on Thursday that the plant stands on five hectares of land while the sago tree forest stands in a 16,000 hectare concession, making it the biggest in the country.... He explained that the construction of the plant started in 2013. In the beginning of operations in January, the plant will only operate at 50 percent capacity. "We will have a full production rate in 2017," he said as quoted by The factory will produce 100 tons sago per day and is expected to produce 30,000 tons of sago products within one year. (rin)...

Match words with action on Papua abuses by Andreas Harsono  May 19 2016 President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has promised Papuans a change, beginning with “an open dialogue for a better Papua”. But aside from the release of a few political prisoners, there has been barely any signs of meaningful change on the ground in Papua.

15 June 2016: APP apologises for not handing over maps, Singapore cannot enter Indonesia's legal domain

Editor's note: In this complex issue with its international relations mix, the power of national administration for sphere of influence is strong. At the same time as facing regulatory upgrade, observers point to carrots for the business sector including Jokowi's tax amnesty. In related talk, some Indonesia-Singapore observers perceive a lack of real interest in pursuing an extradition arrangement at present. 

Indonesian businessman apologises for handling of info request from Peatland Restoration Agency The Straits Times - 1d ago JAKARTA - Prominent Indonesian businessman Franky Widjaja has apologised over Asia Pulp and Paper's handling of a request for information from Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). The country's largest pulp and paper company, better ...

VP Kalla: Indonesians will not be prosecuted by Singapore over haze By Reuters June 13, 2016

Singapore cannot enter Indonesia's legal domain

14 June 2016: Indonesia Peat Restoration Agency talks details about process

Peat Agency Chief addresses concerns of CSOs 2016-06-06 --Chief of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency, Nazir Foead, provided explicit details about the procedures and mechanisms to be followed in the peatland restoration process.... “We are now mapping all the maps, including where the peat domes will be situated, and then more detailed mapping to calculate and measure the depth of the peat will be performed. Based on this map, the peatlands, peat domes, depth and so on, we will assign zonation - where protection zones will be or where could be used for cultivation.”.... He took the opportunity to respond to concerns that have recently been leveled against the peat agency, specifically with respect to the replanting of acacia in peat domes and peatlands...

Peat expert dies from cancer after fighting Indonesian fires 12th June 2016 / Indra Nugraha... He died “because of the smoke,” added Kunin, a former student of Limin’s who later became his colleague. “Whenever there were fires, he was active in the field.” Half a million Indonesians suffered from respiratory ailments during the 2015 crisis, according to the government, which said last October that 19 people had died from the haze.  The long-term health effects of exposure to the toxic fumes remain poorly understood, but scientists in Palangkaraya measured “extremely hazardous” levels of ozone, carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia and formaldehyde in the city where the haze turned the air a noxious orange color.

Note: Readers who know Limin also note that he was "very very heavy smoker" too. He spent time in his career in NGO sector advocacy, and he was a forester by training.

12 May 2016: Min Env For stops forest conversion nationwide, Norway helps on peatland-friendly agriculture, Indonesia-Malaysia G2G on haze issue (not on province basis)

Entire process for new palm oil permit issuance ends: Minister - Environment and Forestry Ministry - nationwide extension of current moratorium area removes Papua and other areas from conversion -

Norway to develop peatland-friendly agriculture in Indonesia, MOEF 50 boreholes, US$67 million in grants for peat lands restoration - 

Transboundary haze issue will be tackled govt-to-govt BY MAZWIN NIK ANIS 12 May 2016.... Malaysia had planned to sign an MoU with Sumatra on transboundary haze this year. “Indonesia pointed out that the province alone cannot tackle the issue and help is needed from the government. That is why Indonesia feels that whatever instrument that we want to use to tackle haze must be done government-to-government, instead of with provincial authorities...

  • Malaysia, Indonesia to sign new MoU to tackle trans-boundary haze September 12, 2015

Indonesia takes aim at palm oil after forest fires By Kiki Siregar, AFP May 2, 2016

Pressure Builds on Snack Food Giant PepsiCo to Drop Conflict Palm Oil April 29, 2016  Rainforest Action Network and SumOfUs help rally 100,000’s of people calling on PepsiCo to take meaningful action to halt deforestation and human rights abuses in its supply chain

How effective will Indonesia’s palm oil permit freeze really be? 4 May 2016 / Mongabay Haze Beat Observers question the extent to which the newly declared moratorium, which also applies to mining licenses, can actually be enforced.

Indonesia moves to ban new palm oil plantations to stop forest fires 1 May 2016

25 April 2016: Reactions to Jokowi's palm oil moratorium, BPDP invests in Asian Agri smallholder replanting, EU Legal Timber System, call for coconut export moratorium 

EIA Asks Indonesia to Stay the Course With EU Legal Timber System - A villager cuts timber illegally at a forest in Aceh province in this April 25, 2007 file photo. The Environmental Investigation Agency has urged President Joko Widodo to maintain Indonesia's commitment to a process that seeks to ensure that only legal timber products leave the archipelago..... By : Muhamad Al Azhari | on April 19, 2016... The nongovernmental organization released a statement on Tuesday (19/04) – while Joko met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his business-focused European tour –  highlighting that in 1999, the UK and Washington DC-based agency led the way in exposing massive illegal logging in Indonesia's rainforests. "At that time, it was estimated that as much as 80 percent of [Indonesia's] timber entering trade was illegal," the EIA said in the statement. The EIA campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal logging, hazardous waste, endangered wildlife trade and the sale of climate and ozone-damaging chemicals..... It added that the European Union established in 2003 the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (Flegt) action plan, which refers to a series of measures that aim to ban illegal timber from entering EU markets. The measures also seek to address the root causes for illegal logging in a country, including a lack of transparency, poor governance, rampant corruption and poor accountability from those responsible for managing forests. "Key to the Flegt plan are voluntary partnership agreements, bilateral trade deals negotiated between a timber producer country and the EU to ensure only legal timber finds its way to the marketplace," the EIA's statement said. She said after more than a decade of negotiations, Indonesia is likely just "months away" from seeing the first Flegt- approved timber. Doherty said that while Indonesia has a lot of homework to do, the Flegt process will help ensure that forest crime can be addressed "effectively.".... "The president's statement last week confirming that there will be a moratorium on oil palm and mining permits, together with an audit of current permits, is a positive step in the right direction and if implemented properly, will also stem the conversion of natural forests to oil palm plantations and tackle illegality within the sector," she said....

Oil Palm Fund invests Rp 6.75 billion with smallholders by  April 21 2016... The Indonesian Oil Palm Estate Fund ( BPDP ) has invested Rp 6.75 billion ( US$512,530 ) with 155 farmers to help them replant their plantations in Siak, Riau. The farmers are partners of palm oil producer Asian Agri.... BPDP president director Bayu Krisnamurti said that was the initial portion of funds to be disbursed by the institution as part of government efforts to support the sustainable palm oil industry. In the first phase of a multi-year program, the BPDP plans to spend Rp 52 billion to replant 2,100 hectares of palm plantations. "Each farmer receives Rp 25 million per hectare. The money has been transferred to the receivers’ bank accounts," he said in remarks on Wednesday during the fund disbursement ceremony at the Mulus Jaya village unit cooperative ( KUD ). The fund disbursement, he continued, had been quite easy and took only three months to process. He warned the farmers not to misuse the cash for other purposes and asked the KUD and banks to supervise the utilization of the funds..... In its program, the BPDP aims to help farmers replant a total of 100,000 hectares of oil palm plantations per year. The program is reserved for smallholder farmers with plantations  of less than 4 hectares. Those participating must join the KUD for replanting..... Mulus Rahayu KUD chair Pawito Saring said the grant was allocated to help replant 310 hectares of smallholder farmers’ plantations.... "Each farmer has previously taken out a 13-year loan from Bank Syariah Mandiri worth Rp 51 million to replant a hectare of plantation. With the [BPDP] fund disbursement, the farmers only need to repay Rp 26 million to the bank," he said....

Review moratorium on oil palm plantations by Edi SuhardiEdi Suhardi, Vice President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil April 22 2016.... There are two key factors contributing to the organic decline of new palm oil plantation expansions. The first is its falling price. The most extensive new development took place in the period of 2007 to 2014 when the crude palm oil ( CPO ) prices ranged from US$600 to $1,200.... The second impediment is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s ( RSPO ) stringent standards for its members on developing new plantations. RSPO members from Indonesian palm oil growers control the largest concessions and operations on plantations....The high pace of new plantation development has fallen sharply due to the introduction of strict and stringent RSPO standards preventing plantation development on high carbon stock ( HCS ) areas and high conservation-value ( HCV ) areas and implementation of free, prior and informed consent, which became effective as of 2014......The sustainability standards, which RSPO members have fulfilled, have created an earnest impact to new plantation development in Indonesia toward an environmentally friendly and socially-sensitive commodity. All primary forest and peatland areas over HCS and HCV areas will be left intact.... But there are hundreds of palm oil companies who have yet to abide by such sustainability standards and still aim to develop on HCS or HCV areas.... This is where the government has to act to change the way these companies operate and to enforce such sustainability standards in operations, particularly in new expansions...

To fight haze, step up certification of palm oil firms. commentary. BY TAN YI HAN PUBLISHED: 10:00 PM, APRIL 22, 2016... When Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya was reported as telling Singapore to “focus on its own role in addressing” the transboundary haze instead of “commenting too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing”, it unsurprisingly led to angry rebuttals by readers in Singapore.... It is time for companies in Singapore that buy palm oil such as food outlets, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, to start by at least committing to go haze-free. Consumers can then play a part by supporting these responsible companies. We all can play our part to make Singapore haze-free....Tan Yi Han is from PM.Haze (People’s Movement to Stop Haze)

Indonesia: Palm oil lobby angry over Joko Widodo's move to limit slash and burn farming April 22, 2016 By Jacob J... Green organisations welcomed the proposal, but plantation industry is miffed over the president's move. "The president's suggestion of doubling Indonesian palm growers' productivity is easier said than done," Togar Sitanggang, a senior official at Musim Mas, told the Jakarta Globe. "The problem with productivity has been there for years. There is no budget for this," Sitanggang said, adding that it was not clear how companies will pay for better seeds. The report says smaller plantation companies will be harder hit by the new proposal while big producers like Sinar Mas Agro Resources, Astra Agro Lestari and Wilmar International could withstand the effect of the curbs..... Despite a moratorium on clearing primary forest and peat-land, the area under palm oil cultivation in the country increased by around 9 percent last year. Last month Singaporean officials said the country suffered losses of about S$700 million due to large-scale haze that enveloped the city state during 2015....

FACTBOX-The human and environmental cost of Indonesia's haze fires BY ALISA TANG

Indonesia Bans New Palm Oil and Mining Operations - Indonesia’s President Widodo vows to improve efforts to curb fires and deforestation By BEN OTTO April 15, 2016

Indonesia to Issue a Moratorium on New Palm Oil Concessions By : Dion Bisara & Tri Listiyarini | on April 15, 2016

Association calls for moratorium on raw coconut exports by Ayomi AmindoniAyomi Amindoni April 22 2016... The local coconut processing industry has urged the government to issue a moratorium on raw coconut exports in a bid to meet growing demand in the downstream industry. Amrizal Idroes, vice chairman of the Indonesian Coconut Processing Industry Association ( HIPKI ), said the local industry faced a shortage in raw materials due to rampant coconut exports and declining crop productivity.... The industry needed a total of 14.6 billion coconuts in 2015, while available supply was only 12 billion coconuts, according to the association's data. Indonesia produces coconut milk, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut cream.... “The supply shortage has caused production to decrease by 30 to 50 percent over the last two years,” he said in a discussion in Jakarta on Friday...

World’s wild tiger count rising for first time in a century  11 April, 2016.... The world’s count of wild tigers roaming forests from Russia to Vietnam has gone up for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted by conservation groups and national governments in the latest global census, wildlife conservation groups said on Monday. The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum...  India alone holds more than half of them, with 2,226 tigers roaming reserves across the country, from the southern tip of Kerala state to the eastern swamps in West Bengal, according to its last count in 2014.... Not all nations are seeing progress, though. While Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal all counted more tigers in their latest surveys, Southeast Asian countries have struggled. They are also behind the others in conservation measures, and do not yet conduct a tiger census on their own... .The global tiger count is based on data from 2014. Here is the tally broken down by country: Bangladesh, 106; Bhutan, 103; Cambodia, 0; China, more than 7; India, 2,226; Indonesia, 371; Laos, 2; Malaysia, 250; Myanmar, no data available; Nepal, 198; Russia, 433; Thailand, 189; Vietnam, fewer than 5....

Commentary: Palm Oil Politics Impede Sustainability in Southeast Asia - Indonesia has facilitated the inflow of Malaysian capital and technology. Malaysian companies control 25 percent of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. By : Rob Cramb & John McCarthy | on April 20, 2016... Indonesia and Malaysia are at the center of the world’s decades-long palm oil boom. Between them the two countries have planted more than 15 million hectares of oil palm, employ about 4 million workers, and produce 84 percent of the world’s palm oil. It is the biggest and fastest rural transformation the countries have seen. Palm oil, a vegetable oil used in many foods and other products, has come under fire for its role in deforestation, biodiversity loss and massive forest fires, as well as major social and economic conflicts. This has led to a rise in consumer activism and campaigns against unsustainable oil palm production, with many brands committing to purchase palm oil from sustainable sources only. While governments, civil society groups and industry roundtables are trying to address these many problems, the industry continues to create conflict as it moves into frontier zones with apparent impunity. Why is this?....This “oil palm complex” is managed by a powerful cross-country coalition of political and agribusiness interests. Despite the industry rhetoric, this coalition puts “profits” well ahead of “people” or “planet.”.... Three important but contradictory trends have emerged in the past two decades.... Domination of big plantations...Rise of smallholders....Is private regulation working? A third trend arises from the widespread failure of governments to regulate the excesses of the oil palm industry. Civil society groups and some large corporations have sought to bring about change though private regulation. In the past two years, transnational activism has achieved important shifts in the policies of major producers, buyers and end users of palm oil. Leading firms such as Cargill and Unilever have made commitments to cut their links to deforestation, peatland development and exploitation in the palm oil they procure. Thus there are some signs that the balance of power within the oil palm complex may have shifted in favor of more inclusive and sustainable outcomes. However, these commitments will have limited impact without major changes in accountability and enforcement within the two countries. This especially applies at state and district levels where the key land and profit-sharing deals take place... Moreover, the launching by Indonesia and Malaysia in 2015 of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries suggests that these governments and their domestic agribusiness allies are pushing back against the pressure from international NGOs and global corporations. They are emphasizing their “right to develop” and capitalizing on the acquiescence of their biggest markets – China and India – which have higher priorities than safeguarding Southeast Asian forests and livelihoods....

16 April 2016: Jokowi reportedly will order moratorium on new oil palm concessions, IPOP members alleged cartel behaviour, Eyes on the Forest report accuses large processor-traders of missing pledges

Editor's note: Implementation has been issue in many areas, due to illegal planting. An improved image for palm oil, will depend on how well the moratorium is fulfilled. Illegal product is featured in  the April 2016 Eyes on the Forest report (by Friends of the Earth -Walhi Riau, Jikalahari and WWF Indonesia) that discusses the problem of non-certification traceability, where investigative research (tracking FFB trucks and CPO tankers) has apparently shown illegal / "tainted" product has entered the pledged high sustainability traceable supply-chain of key processor-trader groups in Riau (a core haze zone).

'Zero chance of last year's haze happening again this year': Indonesian agency - The head of Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency says determination from the government, palm oil and pulp and paper companies, as well as the community will see that fires do not break out on peatlands this year.  By Liyana Othman 15 Apr 2016

DBS: Plantation Companies: Indonesia to issue moratorium on new palm oil concession

- Indonesian President reportedly will order moratorium on new oil palm concessions

- Indonesia’s KPPU to probe Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) for suspected “cartel” practices

- No significant impact on listed planters’ existing land bank, nor sustainability practices

Reuters reported last night that President Joko Widodo will issue a moratorium on new oil palm concessions to reduce its impact on the environment. The news article also said that the Agriculture Minister believes that Indonesia needs to invest in sugar, corn, and cattle, while oil palm concessions already issued could be more than twice as productive.... Separately, Indonesia's Anti-trust Commission (KPPU) also intends to investigate signatories of IPOP for suspicion of cartel practices. These include Wilmar International (WIL SP), Cargill, Golden Agri Resources (GGR SP), Astra Agro Lestari (AALI IJ), Musim Mas, and Asian Agri.... Point: We believe the moratorium affects issuance of new Izin Lokasi, typically offered by provincial governments and regencies. However, it is not clear what the term "concession" refers to (given the multitude of permits and licences involved in establishing an oil palm plantation). New regulations are not typically applied retroactively, in our view. 

Palm Oil Analyticis, 15 April 2016: Traceability problem linked to top palm oil firms - A study by Indonesian NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest (EoF) has identified palm oil sourced from illegal plantation in pro-tected Sumatran forest areas in the supply chain of some of the world’s top palm oil firms, including Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources, Royal Golden Eagle and Musim Mas. The study covered five conservation areas in Indonesia, including Tesso Nilo National Park, with fresh fruit bunches or CPO from illicit plantations in these areas appearing in the books of the named firms. This highlights the complexity in tracing sources of palm oil, as various independent mills and smallholders all sell their output to one of more of these firms, which may not have full traceability of product origin. All the named firms have pledged to practice sustainable environmental policies, but have little control or oversight over third-party operators. It is a gap that needs to be addressed and taken seriously, with the potential fallout being severe, as seen in the recent suspension of Malaysia’s IOI by the RSPO.

Companies with zero-deforestation pledges still using illegal palm oil - An investigation by Indonesian activists has shown that palm oil grown on destroyed tiger and elephant habitats is present in the supply chains of industry giants such as Wilmar, Musim Mas, and Golden Agri-Resources. CPO truck EOF By Vaidehi Shah  8 April 2016

Reports on illegal FFB bought in 2012-2015 via investigative research

Indonesian forest fire and haze risk remains high  By Nigel Sizer, Fred Stolle and Susan Minnemeyer  18 July 2013

10 Mar 2016: Indonesia peatland agency depends on donations, Infospot by APRIL Group on its 150,000 ha Riau peat forest project, where's KL haze from? 

Editor's note: KL notably hazy today and that's widely on social media. So wondering what's the source. Maps here:


Indonesia’s peatland agency depends on donations by Anton Hermansyah | March 08 2016; The agency has three sources of funding: the state budget, donations from other countries and local donations from the public or from companies through corporate social responsibility (CSR). The agency received around US$1 billion from the Norwegian government recently.... Formed in January 2016, the BRG is tasked with restoring two million hectares of peatland in four regions: Pulang Pisau in Central Kalimantan, Ogan Komering Ilir in South Sumatra, Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra and Meranti in Riau. Those peatland areas have repeatedly been affected by fire during drought.... Three more provinces, Jambi, West Kalimantan and Papua, are included in its operational area. - See more at:

Indonesia’s largest landscape-level  forest restoration project ongoing in Kampar Peninsula | Inforial | Thu, March 10 2016 APRIL Group has adopted a landscape approach in restoring 150,000 hectares of environmentally important peat forest in the Kampar Peninsula in Riau province, Sumatra, involving multiple stakeholders, including local communities. - See more at:

3 March 2016: Financial Times on the Indonesia "great land rush" and problems implementing the Norway-Indonesia $1 billion anti-deforestation deal

Editor's note: And not to forget that in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, that moves to liberalise the economy to boost FDI and DDI also resulted in major shift in concessionaires requirement on smallholder scheme development. As some senior managers in Indonesia oil palm tell it - they used to have to reserve 80% of their concession area for smallholders, but this was practically reversed and only 20% need be kept for smallholders. A major question on political and business will to change. Many do ask why regulations are regarded as an independent variable. In the world of political-business ties, many see regulations as a dependent variable. Also, it's great to see Indonesia deforestation indicator in relation to that in Brazil - please refer to FT graphic. Also, Greenpeace has released a new report on palm oil use and deforestation pledges. I've put in screenshots from the Greenpeace imagery on the topic - note the messaging on the health of children and babies, oil palm being planted on burnt land and orangutans losing their habitat in the peat-fire driven burning. World Bank reporting has also indicated suspicions about oil palm being planted on burned land, and views such activity as benefiting a handful of individuals; a viewpoint quite contrary to the current smallholder narrative.

The great land rush - Indonesia: Saving the earth  MARCH 1 2016 Financial Times; ... progress in Indonesia has been so woeful that Oslo has handed over only $60m, raising questions about whether even the most magnanimous efforts at stopping deforestation can succeed — and equally pressing concerns about climate change.... Brazil was well on the path to doing both some years before Norway’s $1bn offer materialised. Large swaths of land were put under state protection or declared indigenous people’s territory, and dozens of illegal loggers and land grabbers were caught and jailed.... Importantly, Brazil also had BNDES, the huge Brazilian development bank that manages the Amazon Fund, which raises money to help the country protect its forests; Oslo was happy to put its money there. A similar fund was envisaged for Indonesia in 2010 and the finance ministry has been working on its design. But that has not happened and the reason for the hold-up is revealing.... This came to mind as I listened to Kuntoro Mangkusubroto explain why there is still no permanent fund for Norway’s $1bn. He was formerly a senior official in the office of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and led a task force set up to bring the Norwegian forestry plan to life. “That is not Norway’s fault. It’s ours,” he said, when we met in one of Jakarta’s plush hotels. “I know this country well and enemy number one is corruption..... Brazil had corruption problems too, but Mr Pharo, Norway’s international forestry initiative head, said it had institutions such as independent public prosecutors who did a considerable amount to ensure forest protection laws were obeyed. There was also a conscious decision by the federal government to deal with the problem..... “That made a substantial difference. Illegal deforestation is still recognised by the government of Brazil as a key problem. But, generally, if you break the law the risk of being punished is very real. Impunity can no longer be taken for granted. In Indonesia, this process is just starting to happen,” he said...... 

Adding to the confusion, provincial and district governments gained more control over land use after the end of Suharto’s rule, and they sometimes issued permits that were in conflict with what Jakarta had approved. “That mess has helped to allow deforestation,” said Frances Seymour, a US forestry policy expert who in 2006-2012 ran the Center for International Forestry Research, which has its headquarters in Indonesia....... After Mr Mangkusubroto’s task force encouraged these groups to submit maps of their territories for the national mapping effort, activists went on to win an important Constitutional Court ruling, opening the door to recognition of indigenous people’s right to forest land previously claimed by the state.... “It’s kind of breathtaking that that would be possible,” said Ms Seymour, explaining that talk of indigenous rights in Indonesia was once considered subversive and this is just one example of how Norway’s $1bn initiative changed the debate in Indonesia. “It caused a tectonic shift in the politics of forests in Indonesia, which the Ministry of Forestry had had a pretty iron-clad grip on for the previous 30 years. It really shook things up.” But it is still far from clear when or if this will translate into an actual cut in deforestation...... Following the disaster, President Widodo took the unusual step of appointing a former World Wildlife Fund director to head a new Peatland Restoration Agency. Now he tells the Norwegians that he will ban the clearing and draining of undisturbed peatland from June 1, a move Mr Helgesen describes as a potentially “monumental” contribution — if it is implemented....

Jakarta to sue 9 more firms over forest fires linked to haze MAR 1, 2016; The Indonesian government is to take nine more companies to court over forest fires that led to the transboundary haze crisis last year. This takes to 19 the number of firms being sued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry over the environmental disaster... He declined to name the firms or say whether they are local or foreign, but he said that 23 other companies have been penalised over the illegal fires, including 16 that had their business licences suspended and three that have been permanently banned from operating in Indonesia.... The government sued BMH for 7.8 trillion rupiah (S$820 million) last year for clearing land in 2014 using the outlawed slash-and- burn technique, a method that often leads to uncontrollable fires which produce thick haze. But a Palembang district court ruled on Dec 30 that there was no evidence that BMH had deliberately started fires. Mr Rasio said the ministry had lodged its appeal in the South Sumatra provincial court following consultations with 26 legal experts....

Palm oil: who’s still trashing forests? Blogpost by Annisa Rahmawati - 3 March, 2016 at 3:451 comment; How 'clean' is the palm oil used by major brands around the world? Today, we're releasing the results of our investigation into which companies are keeping promises to stop deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil. Take a look now to see who's keeping up - and who's lagging way behind....

How palm oil companies have made Indonesia’s forest fires worse November 20, 2015 by Jamie Woolley; While companies and ministers try to apportion blame for what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster so far this century, oil palm saplings are already appearing among the ashes of the ruined forest..... Greenpeace researchers have found evidence that some palm oil and paper firms are stepping in quickly to profit from the devastation and establish plantations in recently burnt areas.... Yet figures show that deforestation is on the rise. Our research suggests ‘no deforestation’ commitments from both industry and government regularly being flouted, ignored and not enforced. However, the government has repeatedly massaged the moratorium maps to exclude land handed over to plantation companies, and this is exactly what happened in this case: the boundaries were redrawn so the PT ASMR land no longer fell under the moratorium. Our analysis suggests that between 2011 and 2013 nearly a fifth of deforestation occurred in areas covered by the moratorium. At the root of this is a lack of transparency about land usage and which companies have permission to develop which areas..... The Indonesian government has refused to release mapping data that would show what’s earmarked for industrial usage, and without that information enforcing the moratorium – as well as company ‘no deforestation’ policies – is all but impossible.... Elsewhere on Borneo, in West Kalimantan, lies a patch (if you can call 100 km2 ‘a patch’) of land under the control of palm oil producer ...... Recently cleared deep peat on its land in West Kalimantan was ravaged by fire in July, and just weeks later investigators witnessed excavators preparing this burnt land for planting....  Policies and decrees are only as good as the enforcement methods put in place to uphold them, and the evidence shows that for plantation agriculture in Indonesia these are lacking. And while companies and ministers try to apportion blame for what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster so far this century, oil palm saplings are already appearing among the ashes of the ruined forest....

2 February 2016: Ex-WWF activist Nazir Foead heads BRG, announces four districts for peat restoration effort focus, sanctions against companies will be firm

Editor's note - missed this economic calculus from World Bank, thanks to reader for pointing it out: 

World Bank environmental specialist Ann Jeannette Glauber also speculates on the economic calculus, if every hectare burned in 2015 were converted to palm oil: “So on the one hand US$16bil cost to the public, on the other hand, US$8bil– lots of money – to a handful of individuals.“

PEAT RESTORATION WILL FOCUS ON 4 DISTRICT 01 February 2016 by Infosawit;  Nazir Foead, Head of BRG (Peat Restoration Agency; former WWF conservation director, was sworn in 20 Jan 2016 by President Jokowi), announces that peat restoration efforts will focus on 4 districts: 

  • Pulang Pisau, Kalimantan Tengah
  • Meranti, Riau
  • Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), Sumatera Selatan
  • Musi Banyuasin, Sumatera Selatan

Regarding sanctions on companies that have been involved in forest fires, he stated... that law enforcement should be firm. "There should be a half-and-half, no bargaining" ..... Presidential Decree No. 1 dated 6 January 2016 sets out priority areas: South Sumatra, Jambi, Riau, Central Kalimantan , South Kalimantan and Papua*. *BRG notes that peat here is not as deep as in Sumatra and Kalimantan....

Nazir Foead, Mantan Direktur WWF, Ditunjuk Sebagai Kepala Badan Restorasi Gambut by  Qayuum Amri

25 January 2016: RGE's Tanoto writes on Indonesia fires at Davos WEF

RGE's Tanoto writes on Indonesia fires at Davos,

4 January 2016: Indonesia punishes 23 companies and 33 companies in process. Jokowi's Push for 2016 Tax Amnesty Plan seen as harmful for long-term compliance; World Bank reports "a few hundred businesses and a few thousand farmers seek to profit" from forest and peat fires to detriment of 10 millions. Greenpeace worries about tainted chain-of-custody and says "little evidence that corporate ‘No Deforestation’ commitments are yet having any effect on the ground."

Editor's note: Reports by World Bank and Greenpeace underline chain-of-custody and corporate interest concerns- a few hundred businesses. Greenpeace's report highlights the role on commodity traders and FFB trading (palm fruit ending up at major group's mills). Indonesian government's unprecedented move to revoke or freeze company licenses - 23 sanctioned and 33 in process at end December. Notable moves against companies, and likely new harder-line shift of NGOs and pressure on financial institutions against the fire-haze product supply-chain. The 2015 fire-haze episode was very bad and points to need for the existing NGO-corporate sustainability nexus to evolve. Also worth watching out for policy shifts at Greenpeace, as Kumi Naidoo stepped down in Dec 2015,

Jokowi's Push for 2016 Tax Amnesty Plan Kick-Off Seen as Flawed by Chris Brummitt January 4, 2016
; ... Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Jokowi, as the president is known, is under pressure to increase government spending on public works and boost faltering growth, which languished below 5 percent for much of his first year in office.... Indonesia had originally planned to implement amnesty in 2015. OECD: Amnesty will be harmful for long-term compliance... Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s government will start 2016 trying to get lawmakers to approve the country’s fourth tax amnesty since independence, a plan it says will lure back money stashed overseas to net an extra $4.4 billion of revenue this year... Bad move, say tax analysts, anti-corruption activists and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The quest for a short-term budget boost risks missing its mark and exacerbating the country’s perennial tax evasion, they say.

World Bank's "INDONESIA ECONOMIC QUARTERLY: Reforming amid uncertainty," December 2015: "According to the government, 2.6 million hectares of land burned between June and October 2015, an area four and half times the size of Bali. Man-made fires – more than 100,000 of them – were used to prepare land for agriculture and to gain access to land cheaply. The absence of controlled burning measures or sufficient law enforcement meant that the fires grew out of control, fed by drought and exacerbated by the effects of El Niño. This vast economic and environmental crisis is repeated year after year, as a few hundred businesses and a few thousand farmers seek to profit from land and plantation speculation practices, while tens of millions of Indonesians suffer health costs and economic disruptions. In 2015, fires cost Indonesia an estimated IDR 221 trillion (USD 16.1 billion)..." Page 18.

Greenpeace's "INDONESIA’S FORESTS: UNDER FIRE, Indonesia’s fire crisis is a test of corporate commitment to forest protection," some excerpts: Massive deforestation: Since 1990, one-fourth of Indonesia’s forest has been lost – 31 million ha... Fires: About 20% of fire hotspots detected during 2015 (to 26 October) occurred within pulpwood plantation concessions and a further 16% within oil palm concessions... From cleared and burnt rainforest, the tainted chain-of-custody....While commodity traders with ‘No Deforestation’ policies ... monitor risks around the mills in their supply chains, it is not until civil society organisations bring public exposure to problematic cases that real action seems to be taken to cut suppliers off....There is therefore little evidence that corporate ‘No Deforestation’ commitments are yet having any effect on the ground. In 2014 and 2015 (to 10 June) oil palm concessions accounted for about a fifth of FORMA deforestation alerts, similar to their share of 2011-13 deforestation..... In addition, unlicensed development for palm oil production is widespread and a major cause of illegal deforestation in some areas, with past evidence of palm fruit from illegal plantations ending up at major groups’ mills....

Indonesia punishes 23 companies for causing forest fires Associated Press, Jakarta, Indonesia | National | Wed, December 23 2015 - See more at:

Companies Found Guilty of Causing the Indonesian Haze to Face Consequences by Joanna Plucinska @joannaplucinska    Dec. 22, 2015; ...In an unprecedented move, the Indonesian government will either revoke or freeze company licenses if they are found to be directly involved. Three companies implicated in starting forest fires have already had their licenses revoked, causing them to permanently shut down.. “We have sanctioned 23 companies in total, ranging from administrative sanctions to license revocation, while 33 others are still in the process, they could have their licenses revoked too if they are found guilty,” Environment Ministry official Kemal Amas told AFP.

18 December 2015: RSPO press release - Indonesia concession maps to go online in 2Q2016 via WRI's Global Forest Watch website

RSPO press release - PALM OIL CONCESSION MAPS OF RSPO MEMBERS TO BECOME PUBLICLY AVAILABLE  KUALA LUMPUR, December 18, 2015: In response to the devastating land and forest fires affecting Indonesia every year, and in order to improve the monitoring and enforcement of its Principles & Criteria (P&C), the RSPO will publish its member's oil palm concession maps. This commitment stems from an RSPO General Assembly resolution of November 2013 which required RSPO members to submit maps for all their palm oil concessions, however the legality of this resolution has since been under challenge in Indonesia and Malaysia, which led to a freeze in implementation. After taking legal advice and extensive discussions with the key stakeholder in Indonesia and Malaysia, the RSPO can now confirm that it will publish all digital maps of its members oil palm concessions worldwide, except for Malaysia, where the legality of the public disclosure of concession maps continues to be ambiguous within the laws of the country. The RSPO will make this information publically available during the 2nd quarter of 2016 via the Global Forest Watch platform.... 

12 December 2015: Smallholders and CIFOR on restoration, Jokowi to oversee Indonesia peat restoration agency, Rp50 trillion over next five years to lay the groundwork for rehabilitation, photos of large-scale clearance of peatland forests, community dam activism in Central Kal. WALHI uses Wilmar data.

Smallholders at the heart of Indonesia’s zero-deforestation dispute - Government and business may find common ground in supporting small-scale oil palm farmers.  by Thomas Hubert

Restoration as a local solution with global benefits - Forest landscape restoration should be at the core of climate change strategies, Global Landscapes Forum hears.  by John Cannon 9 Dec 2015

Restoration: Developing countries are doing it for themselves - Developing countries will end up paying for most of their landscape restoration, says Nigeria's former finance minister.  Center for International Forestry Research 7 Dec 2015

Jokowi to oversee Indonesia peat restoration agency but details thin on the ground  26th November 2015 / Mongabay Haze Beat

Malaysia, Indonesia to harmonise palm oil certification  By OOI TEE CHING - 27 November 2015; .... Last week, at the Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Indonesia President Joko Widodo announced each country will contribute an initial US$5 million to kickstart CPOPC’s operations.... Yesterday, Indonesia Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla in addressing an international business gathering of 1,200 at the Indonesian Palm Oil Conference (IPOC) 2015, announced Indonesia will be restoring damaged forest and peatland ecosystem. Jusuf announced the government is setting aside Rp50 trillion, for the next five years, to lay the groundwork for rehabilitation. The first phase of restoration will cover two million hectares of forest and peatland. Fadhil acknowledged Jusuf’s remarks that the allocation is equivalent to the annual tax contributed by plantation companies to the government.  In preparation for climate change talks beginning November 30 in Paris, Indonesia and Mal aysia will highlight CPOPC’s long term plans in tackling the region’s haze problem. This will include better dissemination of facts and figures of oil palm planting on peat soil. CPOPC membership, under government-to- government framework, is open to all oil palm cultivating countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Thailand, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Uganda....

The Indonesian cost of Chinese palm oil Venkatachalam Anbumozhi, Jakarta | Opinion | Thu, November 19 2015.... Medical costs are difficult to calculate at this point. But in 1997, another year of major haze, forest fires in Indonesia exacted a short-term economic impact across the three countries of around $1.4 billion from air-pollution-related health costs. Deforestation today plants the economic blight of tomorrow. From 2000 to 2010, Indonesia saw its forests diminish by 500,000 hectares each year. 41 percent of Indonesia’s remaining forest land is considered degraded....Seeming to honor its agreement, the Indonesian government has opened 244 cases against illegal peat-burnings; is investigating 16 palm oil companies for their involvement; and recently extended its moratorium on forestry ministry licensing of peatland areas.But the Jokowi administration has acted ambivalently with regards to peat-for-palm arson in the past, and there’s reason to doubt its present investigations will reach their conclusions.In May 2011 the Norwegian moratorium was brought into effect. However, it contained numerous exemptions as a result of business lobbying. Projects whose applications were received prior to the presidential instruction can still proceed, as can projects related to mining.In 2013 the Indonesian government proposed six million hectares of degraded land (an area larger than the Indonesian province of Aceh) that could be used for oil palm expansion — enough to achieve the country’s national target of doubling palm oil production by 2020 without additional deforestation.In August the signees of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), which committed producers to industry-leading sustainability practices, were advised by the government to exempt small stakeholders from greener standards. - See more at:

Indonesia's Forests Up in Smoke - By : Ulet Ifansasti December 07, 2015 Fires on drained peatlands are a disaster, and have made Indonesia into a major greenhouse emitter. Indonesia’s fire crisis, the result of decades of wholesale forest and peatland destruction, has put Indonesia’s plantation industries in the global spotlight. Global consumer companies and traders must face up to their role in fuelling this disaster. Existing ‘No Deforestation’ policies and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) membership are not enough. ... The use of fire in agriculture is still common in Indonesia, particularly among palm oil producers that clear vast stretches of peatlands annually to make way for their plantations.  These practices have spurred residents from Paduran village, Central Kalimantan, to take action as they team up with Greenpeace, several NGOs and the University of Palangkaraya to shine a spotlight on rapidly receding water levels of the region's peatlands.; Note: photos include those on plantation highlighted here,

CIFOR DG’s Column - Climate isn’t everything … so welcome to the Global Landscapes Forum - Many solutions for a sustainable future are tied to landscapes and must meet local needs, while building on global talks....Landscapes, therefore, are places where many of our solutions for a more sustainable future must happen... The recent fire and haze crisis in Indonesia demonstrates why we need to take a broader landscape approach and a longer-term perspective. The mainstream media tend to characterize the fires as primarily issues of greenhouse gas emissions and nature conservation. While these are indeed critical, the fires really go way beyond. Health, poverty, food, rights, land tenure, law and order, and economic growth are all issues that come into play. Framing the haze crisis mainly around climate concerns is simply not accurate, especially for those closest to the scene that depend on these landscapes...

Meet the Indonesians taking climate action into their own hands Blogpost by Yuyun Indradi - 2 December, 2015 at 4:29 5 comments  Just over a year ago, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo of Indonesia - one of the biggest emitters along with the US, China and India - visited a local community affected by the forest fires and vowed to tackle the devastating crisis. But with parts of the country being blanketed in toxic smoke over the past few months, local communities, volunteers and activists can't damn stand it anymore! So they're taking action into their own hands.... Local villagers, NGO activists and volunteers build a community dam to block a canal that is draining peatlands for plantations in Paduran Village, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia. The province has been the epicentre of Indonesia's 2015 forest fires disaster...

Indonesia is burning - but how responsible is the palm oil industry? By Niamh Michail+, 24-Nov-2015 Indonesia’s forests are being ravaged by forest and peatland fires that are sparking a public health and environmental crisis – but how responsible is the palm oil industry?

GAPKI Wants Palm Oil to be Listed as a Strategic Commodity TEMPO.CO, 26 November, 2015 Jakarta - The Head of Indonesia's Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), Joko Supriyono, has asked Vice President Jusuf Kalla to list palm oil as a strategic commodity. According to Supriyono, the palm oil industry is a significant contributor to Indonesia's economic growth - for it provides jobs and livelihoods for at least four million Indonesians. Furthermore, continued Supriyono, the palm oil industry has played a significant role in helping the government to eradicate poverty and develop rural areas. Supriyono said that Indonesia's palm oil industry generates some US$21 billion in foreign exchange, and forms 13,4 percent of Indonesia's total exports - making it the second largest source of foreign exchange, only behind oil-and-gas exports...

Indonesian Paper Giants Commit Over $100M Towards Forest, Peatland Restoration December 8,  2015 by Hannah Furlong .... Amidst the bustle of COP21, Indonesian forests have received some pretty good news. After weeks of devastating fires, APRIL Group and Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), two of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies, have made strong reforestation commitments.... APRIL Group — which just this summer announced an end to deforestation as part of a new Sustainable Forest Management Plan — announced this week it would enhance its Riau Ecosystem Restoration (RER) project by doubling its size to include 150,000 hectares and investing $100 million over 10 years in peat conservation and restoration activities. The company claims it is the largest investment by a private sector company in a single eco-restoration project in Indonesia. ... and

Palm Oil Giant Commits to Help Indonesia Through Peatland Rehabilitation, Traceability November 17, 2015 by Hannah Furlong... On Monday, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, launched a peatland rehabilitation project in Indonesia and committed to 100 percent traceability to mill by the end of 2015. GAR’s Peat Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project will help develop fire prevention measures and long-term protection of one of the company’s concessions in West Kalimantan. This is the first time a project of this kind has been attempted by a palm oil company. GAR — which in 2014 pledged that all of the palm oil it produces, sources and trades would be deforestation-free — says this new project is an effort to demonstrate how businesses can combine conservation and economic development in practice. ...

World’s second largest palm oil producer makes sustainability pledge By Simon Pitman+, 18-Nov-2015 Golden Agri-Resources, the world’s second biggest producer of palm oil, has agreed to re-engage with The Forest Trust in an effort to improve its sustainability profile.

Palm oil producer launches peatland protection project in Indonesia By Michael HURLEY, 23-Nov-2015 A palm oil producer’s pledge to rehabilitate peatland in Indonesia will provide momentum for industry-wide change, it says.

Sign of optimism as Jakarta talks aim to stop smoke from forest fires BY JENNIFER GOMEZ Published: 23 November 2015 - See more at:
Illegally planted palm oil already growing on burnt land in Indonesia  by Kate Lamb 6 November 2015  Saplings growing on slash and burn land in central Kalimantan in an area public maps suggest has no palm oil concession, say Greenpeace. Burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings     Indonesian police designates a crime scene: Burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings, near the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary west of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. Photograph: Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace

NZ linked to destruction in SE Asia, Greenpeace says 12 November 2015 by Kate Gudsell - environment reporter  Greenpeace says a company which intends to use Otago fertiliser on its palm oil plantations is "very much linked" to destructive fires in south east Asia - a claim the company disputes,-greenpeace-says

Malaysia Govt has chosen new company to provide PM2.5 technology By:  Rajina Dhillon; ... “What we will have later is a machine that can measure sea water pollution and river water pollution in addition to air pollution,” he told reporters at a press conference at Sime Darby Convention Centre here today. The appointment of a new company comes following the expiry of current contract holder, Progressive Impact Corporation Berhad (Picorp) in 2016. Picorp recently said that it brought the PM2.5 technology from the United States and owned three of these units, which were currently in use. It added that the PM2.5 technology had been available in Malaysia for the past three years now. When asked to comment on this and why Picorp’s technology was not used, Wan Junaidi said the government already made its decision on a company. ...

Smear campaign against Indonesian palm oil underway: GAPKI, Jakarta | National | Mon, October 26 2015 - See more at: 

Data on Land Burning Based on Wilmar`s Presentation: Walhi  18 October, 2015 TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Zenzi Suhadi, a forest campaign manager at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said that Walhi’s data showing 27 companies that were allegedly involved in forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan was based on Wilmar Group’s presentation in Riau on July 2015. “So, it wasn’t a wild accusation. The data contains the list of subsidiary companies and CPO suppliers introduced by Wilmar that we verified on the field,” Zenzi told Tempo in a telephone conversation on Saturday, October 17, 2015. According to Zenzi, as one of the largest CPO companies in Indonesia, Wilmar should have been transparent in running its business and verifying its subsidiary companies and suppliers involved in production activities. Zenzi billed Wilmar’s commitment announced in 2013 that the company would not be involved in land and forest burning. Therefore, Zenzi questioned Wilmar’s commitment when the company denied its involvement with the suppliers as hotspots occurred Riau, Jambi, Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra. “As a go public company, Wilmar clearly has become a part of the suppliers. Therefore, we declared that Wilmar was involved,” Zenzi added...

Why India and China Are Key to Ending Asia's Haze by Adam Minter, Bloomberg | Updated: October 17, 2015

'It's not just haze, it's noxious smoke' 30.10.2015  - A look at Indonesia's forest fires - As Southeast Asia's haze crisis makes global headlines, DW speaks to CIFOR scientist Louis Verchot about the health and environmental impact of some of the worst fires Indonesia has seen in two decades. ...

CIFOR links:

30 November 2015: Poll by YouGov - most Asians blame Indonesian government and palm oil producers for haze, WWF ‘You breathe what you buy’ campaign targets regional consumers, The Jakarta Post on the "test of palm oil dominance"

Most Asians blame Indonesian government and palm oil producers for haze, less companies that use palm oil in their products, Nov 2015; .... In poll by YouGov of 7,536 people across the region from 17 to 23 November, 18 per cent said they thought palm oil-using companies, which include the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez and Kellogg’s, that produce household names such as Oreo’s cookies, Lays crisps and Lifebuoy soap, are responsible for the haze. Most people (63 per cent) said palm oil companies and the Indonesian government (62 per cent) are to blame. The survey did not ask respondents if they felt themselves responsible as consumers of brands containing palm oil. When asked who was to blame for starting the fires, 58 per cent said the palm oil companies, 48 per cent said farmers and 44 per cent suggested they were caused by the dry weather.... Green groups launched a campaign to pressure palm-oil using brands into switching to sustainably sourced palm oil just before the annual burning started in July. The ‘You breathe what you buy’ campaign asked Singaporeans to sign a petition pledging their support for companies that used haze-free palm oil. The campaign aimed for 50,000 signatures, and has of today has reached just over the 13,200 mark....

Forest fires and smoke, a test of palm oil dominance by Adisti Sukma Sawitri, The Jakarta Post Published: 25 November 2015 7:35 AM The forest fire predicament has receded as rain started to fall in many regions in recent weeks. Will the government’s sense of urgency in tackling the annual problem also recede? One may fear so. Despite months of serious efforts to address the fires, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration hasn’t established concrete measures to stop the expansion of oil palm plantations through slash-and-burn practices, the main cause of the problem. It is not rocket science to understand why that is.... Indonesia is home to the world’s greatest extent of oil palm plantations, covering 11 million hectares of land and producing more than 33 million tons of palm oil last year, and generating jobs for millions of people. But as the industry grows, it has become too large to allow arbitrary expansion; damaging business practices, such as the burning method, contribute heavily to the smoke that has brought suffering to entire provinces and neighbouring countries. Consumer countries are stepping up action to encourage palm oil producers, including Indonesia, to address the environmental concerns of expansion, and the European Union has pledged to stop buying palm oil resulting from deforestation by 2020. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global body of plantation companies, refiners, consumers and environmental groups, has also set higher sustainability standards, including requirements of no deforestation, no peatland development and guarantees of indigenous people’s rights. There have been attempts to resist this pressure. The newly established Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries, which the Indonesian government initiated along with its Malaysian counterpart, aims to regulate production and prices and create standards that take into account the economic goals of producers. As its first move, the council has demanded that palm oil companies cancel their no-deforestation pledge, also known as the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. But for how long can Indonesia and Malaysia exclude themselves from the global trade?.... In the case of our forest fires, it will take more than social programs to ensure the welfare of local people; it takes better planning, a revolution in expansion practices to assure that the industry can support welfare in the short and long terms. Smoke is a test for Indonesia as a palm oil producer, a test to see whether it can take a leading position and boost the welfare of its citizens, who currently bear the brunt of environmental degradation and poor living conditions. With all the controls that the country has as a producing giant, the question is whether it wants to pass that test. – The Jakarta Post, November 25, 2015. - See more at:

Felda puts US$680 million Eagle High stake deal on hold  30 November 2015 1:58 PM; .....Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, the world's No. 3 palm plantation operator, has put on hold a planned US$680 million (RM2.8 billion) purchase in Indonesia after shareholders criticised the deal as too expensive and market conditions deteriorated, sources directly involved with the matter said. - See more at:

Editor: Some observers point to Felda/FGV - Eagle High being prominently part of the CPOPC announcement. So, the question is whether the new apparent "on hold" status of the deal will impact on any aspect of CPOPC.

26 November 2015: Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - The Habibie Center

Haze control and oil palm smallholders by Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin - article published by The Habibie Center; In view of the tragedy of the Sumatra-Kalimantan fire haze-smoke crisis of 2015 we have collected our thoughts on this complex issue by focusing tightly on the issues at origin: poverty and development policy, extension services (and limited applied knowledge on peat development and management methods) and supply-chains in the fire zones.

14 November 2015: Smallholders need more credit along with tougher regulations says farmer group

Indonesia's action on haze won't stop burning: palm farmers group Nov 12, 2015 By Bernadette Christina and Michael Taylor; Green groups and palm oil plantation firms say a 2009 law that allows smallholder farmers to use slash-and-burn practices to clear land for agricultural purposes is a key cause of the annual fires when the burning gets out of control. "Burning will still happen because the government hasn't changed the regulations," Mansuetus Darto, secretariat at the Indonesian Oil Palm Smallholders Union told Reuters on Thursday.... Jakarta has said it would review laws that allow farmers to burn up to two hectares (five acres), and last week sent letters to plantation firms and provincial governments demanding peatland conversion is immediately halted.... Previously, the government ordered four companies to suspend operations for allegedly causing forest fires and revoked the land licenses of three other firms.... Darto, however, said the government needed to implement stricter regulations  o stop burning and give smallholders, who account for 40 percent of Indonesian palm oil output, better access to credit so they could afford to clear land using best practices. His group has 48,000 members, mostly in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Using tractors, chainsaws or hand tools is the most environmentally friendly way to clear forest areas approved for development, say forestry groups, but these methods are more expensive and time-consuming than fires...Smallholder farmers have also been hit hard by a drop in palm oil benchmark prices, which touched a near six-and-a-half year low earlier this year. To help, the Indonesian government wants major palm oil companies to row back on their historic "no deforestation" pledges made last year. The government says the pledges hurt smallholder producers who cannot afford to adopt sustainable forestry practices and are blocked from the supply chain.... Darto rejected this and said that the real reason why larger companies were not buying from smallholders was due to weak palm prices, not the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP). The IPOP pledges made by major firms would in fact limit expansion to help bolster palm prices, while strengthening the relationship between his members and big plantations, he said. "IPOP will benefit the farmers," Darto added. "Companies won't expand their areas and this means they will instead increase cooperation with farmers to increase productivity."

Palm Oil from Freshly-Burned Land: Coming to a Grocery Store Near You by Nithin Coca on Friday, Nov 13th, 2015

3 November 2015: Looking back at Haze 2013 that triggered off Singapore action

Great haze II - the karmic winds of change? [report]


2 November 2015: Rains dousing forest fires, 2 million hectares burnt, 1/2 million Indonesians suffer respiratory illnesses, impacts and policy implications, and CIFOR articles. Some recommend re-wet of peat zones and restore to original vegetation, but how feasible is this on funding and socio-political front?

Editor's note: Some policy questions. How do you reduce current cultivation of peatlands - moving individual and corporate farmers away? Relocation and compensation? How do you restore degraded peatlands? Where is the funding? GAPKI - Indonesia palm oil fears smear campaign - is that a doctored image then?

On impacts

Rains Douse Indonesia Forest Fires to Curb Southeast Asia Haze  by Fitri Wulandari and Yudith Ho  October 30, 2015

Indonesia Fires Burn Estimated 2.09 Million Hectares: Agency  2015-10-30 03:55:16.967 GMT  By Fitri Wulandari  (Bloomberg) -- Forest and land fires from July 1 to Oct. 20  have burned est. 2.09m hectares of land in Indonesia, Parwati  Sofan, the head of environment and disaster mitigation at
Indonesia’s aeronautics and space agency, or LAPAN, tells  reporters on Friday....

Haze From Indonesian Fires Spreads - President Widodo cuts short his U.S. visit to manage environmental crisis that has enveloped the capital, Jakarta; By  Ben Otto   Updated Oct. 27, 2015 6:18 a.m. ET    JAKARTA—Indonesia’s leader cut short his U.S. trip Tuesday, opting to skip meeting Silicon Valley executives to help manage an environmental crisis at home caused by the worst agricultural fires in years. President Joko Widodo’s decision underscored the gravity of the growing disaster, as haze from the weeks-old fires spread in recent days to cover three-quarters of Indonesia’s territory, including the capital. It also has led to flight cancellations in Thailand and health warnings in the Philippines. Mr. Widodo, who on Monday in Washington signaled his country’s intent to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, was to travel to California to meet with executives from Apple, Google and other companies. His office said that instead he would depart for Sumatra or Borneo, the two hardest-hit islands at home.... More than 40 million people on Sumatra and Borneo alone were exposed to the toxic haze, the government said. More than 500,000 people in Indonesia have sought treatment for respiratory problems since the fires began in September....“This is an amazing crime against humanity,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster agency. He said it was unlikely the fires could be put out in the next two weeks.... Philippines President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that there was little to be gained in castigating Indonesia for the pollution. He said he would rather help them address the problem “rather than concentrate on apportioning blame.”.... Scientists at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research said the cost could reach about $14 billion in environmental damage, health costs, lost business and other factors.

Prolonged haze tortures kids Hasyim Widhiarto, Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, The Jakarta Post, Palangkaraya/Medan/Padang | Headlines | Tue, October 27 2015, 6:08 PM; Children are the most vulnerable in the midst of Indonesia’s ongoing haze crisis, which has severely disrupted their education and threatened their health.In Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, the local administration’s decision to close down schools for almost five weeks over the past two months has received a mixed reaction from teachers and parents.Susiati, who teaches first grade students at SDN 6 Pahandut state elementary school, said she had received complaints from several parents who considered the policy, aimed at minimizing negative health impacts from the thickening haze in the city, ineffective and detrimental to their children’s development. - See more at:

Policy issues - local legislative processes, peatland moratorium

Ambank news review: .... About 20% of the fires occurred in timber forests while another 20% occurred on plantation land. Indonesia expects improving rainfall to douse the fires by end-November or early-December. Indonesia may reclaim unused land concessions from forest fire areas.... Jakarta Globe quoted an Indonesian minister as saying that although revisions to the environmental law must be made, a designated taskforce on haze is unnecessary... Under the 2009 Law on Environmental Protection and Management in Indonesia, companies are allowed to burn two hectares of land to clear land.

Indonesia May Take Up to a Decade to Curb Annual Land Fires by  Sterling Wong October 27, 2015; Laws created at the local level needed to tackle issue. Widodo cuts short U.S. visit as haze engulfs Indonesia; Indonesia may take as long as a decade to permanently curb the plantation land-burning that sends choking smog across swathes of Southeast Asia each year, according to a research fellow at Nanyang Technological University. Although Indonesia has ratified a regional agreement committing it to act to reduce the smoke “haze” caused by the land fires, the law has yet to be enacted locally in its districts, said Jonatan Anderias Lassa, a research fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the Singapore university. “They need to bring down that law into local legislative processes,” Lassa told reporters in Singapore on Monday, adding that a division of resources between central and local governments was also required. “It hasn’t been done, and it takes five to 10 years to do that.”...Lassa estimates that an initial investment of $10 to $20 million could help the Indonesian government kick start the enactment of locally relevant legislation in the 211 affected districts on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan....

Indonesia's Widodo Talks Climate With Obama as Peat Fires Rage  by Angela Greiling Keane and Toluse Olorunnipa October 27, 2015; ... The fires have challenged Jokowi’s government and brought the issue of climate change to the forefront less than two months before a United Nations conference in Paris intended to conclude an agreement on global warming. Obama said Monday that large nations such as the U.S. and Indonesia must work toward the strongest possible emissions targets. Jokowi said Friday he would freeze new permits for development of palm oil on peat lands. Jokowi was to tout that action along with other steps he has taken to curb carbon pollution during his meeting with Obama, said Wimar Witoelar, a climate consultant. At the same time, the Widodo government has been avoiding using the term “climate change,” which is seen by many Indonesians as a “product of the West,” Witoelar told reporters....

Jokowi calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Fri, October 23 2015, 1:39 PM - See more at:

On partners to help on haze

US, RI partner to address forest fires, haze, Jakarta | National | Mon, October 26 2015, 6:37 PM; The $2.75 million assistance package from the US includes United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) funding to help the Indonesian government to expand their health care centers' ability to respond to haze-related respiratory illnesses. The funding will also be used to support Indonesia’s efforts to raise public awareness of hazards associated with haze in the country. - See more at:

Indonesia brings in Russian aircraft to tackle haze Edna Tarigan,, Jakarta | National | Tue, October 20 2015, 9:24 PM; Malaysia and Australia's aid to Indonesia in lending water bombing aircraft ended on Monday. So, Indonesia turned to Russia for more help to tackle the haze crisis.Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said on Tuesday that Bombardier aircraft from Malaysia and Hercules aircraft from Australia had returned to their respective countries."They have ended their five-day mission. There is only Chinook Mustang helicopter conducting water bombing in South Sumatra,” Sutopo said in a statement sent to on Tuesday.He said there are currently 11 helicopters and airplanes, ten from Indonesia and one from Singapore for water bombing and cloud seeding."To increase the water bombing efforts, the government brought in two units of amphibi aircraft Beriev Be-200 along with 20 crew from Russia. They will land on Wednesday morning in Palembang," he said, adding that Russian Embassy officials have arrived in Palembang.Sutopo explained that the the Be-200 plane is a legendary amphibious water bombing aircraft with a 12,000 liter capacity. Its ability includes taking water from rivers, lakes and the sea."Indonesia used this type of aircraft in the 2007 forest and land fires," he said. - See more at:

CIFOR articles

DG’s Column, Preventing fire & haze: sustainable solutions for Indonesian peatlands - What can we do to break the cycle of the haze over the long term? How might we address the underlying drivers and achieve sustainable solutions?  by Peter Holmgren @pholmgren 1 November 2015 about 10 hours ago; From a solutions perspective, we may set ourselves up for failure if we start by trying to answer the environmental concerns. It may be more constructive to view reduced impact on climate and environment as a great and much-needed co-benefit to solutions to health, poverty, food and governance issues....Solving the underlying factors will take time. Now is the time to decide on proper actions for the long term, before the haze and attention blows over.... At the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), we are discussing ways forward, together with partners. We have come to a few starting points with a common denominator that fire and haze need to be raised to a higher level and address development more broadly.... Going forward, we identify a range of essential direct outcomes we should strive for, including: •Drastically reduced conversion of forests into agriculture •Reduced use of fire in agriculture •Overall reduction of cultivation on peatlands •Improved opportunities for rural livelihoods and income •Improved markets and value chains for sustainable products •Restoration of degraded peatlands...

Indonesia on fire again … and again? The fires in Indonesia have made global headlines—but this is a decades-old, recurring problem that needs long-term solutions. by Suzanna Anderson 29 Oct 2015; The fires in Indonesia have been raging for more than two months, creating a toxic haze that has blanketed much of the country and spread across  neighboring regions. Rains in the past week have provided a little welcome relief, but the crisis is far from over. Most of the fires in Central Kalimantan are blazing in former peatland forests, which have been drained, cleared and burned for oil palm and agriculture, at large and small scales.  The dried-out peat ignites easily and burns underground; the fire then creeps along under the surface. Peatlands are made up of decomposed forest debris. They have been around for thousands of years and are home to thousands of plants and animals, including endangered keystone species such as the orangutan....

Video - Indonesia on fire. Join scientists as they visit the burning peatland in Central Kalimantan and describe the causes and effects. by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 30 Oct 2015

Life amid the fires and haze of Central Kalimantan - A visual journey through smoke-covered landscapes and villages by Center for International Forestry Research @cifor 27 Oct 2015 In Central Kalimantan, schoolchildren are missing classes, farmers are losing their harvests, and orangutans are losing their homes. The effects of the fires and smoke – among the worst seen in Southeast Asia in years – are far-reaching and devastating. During a trip to Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan in mid-October 2015, scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and their partners saw and documented just some of the ways that communities, wildlife, the environment and the economy are being affected. For the full album, visit our Flickr page: Fire and Haze, Central Kalimantan:

31 October 2015: Protecting peatland, Gapki - smear campaign against palm oil industry, pictures showing young palm trees planted on the newly burned forest are viral on social media

Protecting peatland – The Jakarta Post Published: 31 October 2015 8:02 AM President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s special instruction to the environment and forestry minister last week to stop issuing new licenses for peatland cultivation and to conduct an overall review of all peatland-use permits is a strategic part of the effort to prevent forest and land fires and the hazardous air pollution they cause. He also stated at the Cabinet meeting last Friday that damaged peatland must be rehabilitated, virgin peatland must not be opened for any purpose and all involved in the fight against forest and land fires must use the same map to prevent overlaps. To put it bluntly, companies can no longer convert active forests or peatland areas into monoculture plantations such as acacia for pulp and oil palm plantations... Recent research by forestry scientists at the Bogor-based Center for International Forestry Research (Cifor) found that the main cause of hazardous haze in Riau came from burning dried and deforested peatland, and not just the slashing-and-burning of forested areas, as commonly thought. The study found that peat swamps in their natural state were resistant to fire because they are damp underground, but can be highly flammable when they dry out and become degraded. Research by Greenpeace has also revealed that left in its natural waterlogged condition, peatland rarely burns. Untouched tropical rainforest is similarly fire-resistant. However, two decades of forest and peatland destruction by the plantation sector have turned parts of Indonesia into a giant tinderbox. - See more at:

A smear campaign against the national palm-oil industry is underway, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) has claimed, as pictures went viral on social media showing young palm trees planted on the newly burned forest. GAPKI’s head of land and spatial division Eddy Martono said that the smear campaign had been launched against the palm oil industry as it was the most profitable and economical vegetable-oil, with productivity level of six tons per hectare, far beyond the soy bean's productivity at one ton per hectare. "The smoke is still rising, but the palm trees have already been planted. This is very strange. Based on cultivation techniques, it is not possible to plant the young palm trees [on such land], as they would wither. Something is hidden, and I have no idea what it is," he said as quoted by on Sunday. -

See more at:

Haze: 3-day downpour clears the air over Kalimantan and Sumatra Oct 30, 2015 by Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja; Three consecutive days of rainfall over Kalimantan and Sumatra starting on Tuesday (Oct 27) have resulted in clear skies and cleaner air in the two regions.... A week ago, South Sumatra had 703 hot spots and Kalimantan had 905. The improved visibility was a relief for the local aviation industry which had to deal with thousands of flight cancellations and delays due to the haze.... Palangkaraya, for most of the day, remained under the 116 PSI level, the moderate range. It was a vast improvement from the four-digit readings that for weeks were the norm for the city in Central Kalimantan.

28 October 2015: Rains arrive (they were due end Oct / early Nov) and haze abates 

Rain in Indonesia Dampens Forest Fires That Spread Toxic Haze By JOE COCHRANEOCT. 28, 2015; Torrential rains overnight on Tuesday in the regions of Sumatra and Kalimantan — where forest fires have been raging for weeks, sickening hundreds of thousands of people — have significantly reduced the size and number of fires, said Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs. “I hope we have turned the corner,” he said in an interview. “If the rain continues over the next five days, we are past this.”...He said the number of “hot spots,” areas where satellite imagery shows heavy forest fires, had dropped to 291 on Wednesday from 1,578 on Monday because of the heavy rains...Seventeen Indonesian civilians have died from respiratory illnesses caused by the haze, as well as one firefighter in an operational accident, Mr. Luhut said....

Widespread shower activities in the region have helped to subdue the land fires in Kalimantan. However, some smoke haze was still observed in parts of Sumatra. Updated 7:46 PM 29 Oct

25 October 2015: Protests  in Medan and Riau - calling for arrest of big investors, Indonesia estimates 43 million people breathing in haze toxic fumes, Kalimantan residents plan class action suit, Jokowi calls peatland moratorium and hints at company crackdown, Singapore minister says "moral need to act decisively on haze," plantations talk about their effort to battle fires to Mongabay, legal considerations prevent state of emergency says Luhut

Protests against land, forest fires increase as haze worsens Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Medan/Pekanbaru | Archipelago | Sat, October 24 2015, 3:37 PM; ....Kristin Matondang of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency’s (BMKG) Medan branch said the haze blanketing Medan and surrounding regions came from Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra as no hot spots had been detected in North Sumatra.“At 1 p.m. the concentration of particulate matter [PM10] in Medan was 549.12 µg/m³, much higher than the normal concentration of 150 µg/m³,” Kristin said on Friday.The conditions moved some community groups to stage protests across Medan.The Alliance of North Sumatra People Against Haze, for example, staged a rally at Bundaran Majestik by conducting a theatrical performance entitled Burned Forest People.A similar rally was staged by dozens of activists from Satria Hijau (Green Knights) at Merdeka Square, demanding the government get rid of the haze.“We have been suffering for months because of the thickening haze,” said Fitri, a protester.Protests were also widespread in neighboring Riau province as thousands of university students, teachers and lecturers staged a rally at the governor’s office demanding an end to the haze problems. They urged the government to arrest owners of big companies operating in Riau alleged to be involved in forest and land fires in the region. “They are big investors that have destroyed forests in Riau. They have caused the haze in Riau,” Hendri Marhadi, a protester, said at the rally.Meanwhile, some 3,000 teachers in Pekanbaru grouped under the Teachers’ Forum Against Haze urged the government to declare the haze a national disaster as it had claimed lives. - See more at:

EvakuasiKami / Evacuate Us on Twitter

Indonesia haze: Child evacuation plan prepared  23 October 2015
Indonesia readies warships for haze evacuation The government has decided to send ships to haze affected provinces to evacuate victims, especially children and women, if necessary. POSTED: 24 Oct 2015 16:48...

Jokowi calls for peatland moratorium after 10 killed by haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Fri, October 23 2015, 1:39 PM; ...The president said that a one-map policy must be implemented to overcome the disaster as soon as possible, and at the same time reviewing concessions in all peatland areas.....“The government should fully protect peatland, including restoring degraded peatland,” Bustar Maitar, the global head for the Indonesia Forest Campaign in Greenpeace International, told to Greenpeace, the managing director at Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) Aida Greenbury said that the moratorium alone would not be a solution.According to Aida, the solution is a landscape approach, which use science to determine hydrology management and to ensure green growth while mitigating environmental risks and engaging and embracing the community in the supply chain, such as in agroforestry programs. - See more at:

Plantation companies challenged by haze-causing fires in Indonesia, 14th October 2015 / Rhett A. Butler, Six major plantation companies spoke with Mongabay about their efforts to battle haze-causing fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan...... (Mongabay notes that) Fire is a hugely complex issue and it involves the rights of local communities, illegal activity by small enterprises often with political links and fundamental complexities over land use rights, maps, ownership and protection.... (Wilmar says) While we are committed to No Burning, we recognize that slash-and-burn practices remain rampant among small-scale farmers and local communities. According to Global Forest Watch, research has found that majority of fires on agricultural land occur outside of oil palm concessions, and these are often managed by small companies and small-scale farmers. Clearing land by mechanical means cost significantly more, compared to using fire which is the most cost-effective way of clearing land for them. This often leads to uncontrolled fires that may inevitably spread to our plantations or those of our suppliers."

Is Indonesia's fire crisis connected to the palm oil in our snack food? by Lindsey Allen is the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network; ....Companies like APP are quick to accuse small farmers and villagers of lighting many of the fires. Even if that is true, the displacement of communities and the drainage of peatlands by large scale plantation companies is ultimately responsible for the allowing these fires to take place. Communities whose forest-dependent subsistence livelihoods have been disrupted by plantation development often turn to clearing what land they can find, using the only cost-effective method available to them: fire.  Solving this crisis is not about fighting fires. Extinguishing thousands of peat blazes across thousands of square miles of remote tropical landscape is hugely expensive and ultimately unfeasible. The only real solution is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The first and most basic change needed is a total halt to plantation development on peatlands and remaining natural forests. Peat swamp soil is the result of thousands of years of accumulation of organic material. Left alone, it is one of the most effective landscapes on earth for sequestering carbon. But when drained and ignited, it releases a carbon bomb into the atmosphere....

Luhut Pandjaitan: Kabut Asap Belum Jadi Bencana Nasional Jumat, 23 Oktober 2015 09:34 WIB;   “Kita tidak mau membicarakan tentang bencana nasional karena ini menyangkut masalah hukum. Tapi bisa kami pastikan penanganannya `all out`, mengerahkan segala sumber daya, sesuai perintah Presiden Joko Widodo”

Jokowi hints at company crackdown as Kalimantan residents prepare haze class action suit 21st October 2015 / Mongabay Haze Beat  • Residents in West Kalimantan have banded together to file a lawsuit against the government over pollution. • Jokowi has said companies need to take "greater responsibility." • An Indonesian resort plans to offer "more underwater activities" to manage the impact of annual pollution from fires and hotspots. ...Singapore’s education ministry is working with the health ministry and environment agency on revised education guidelines amid haze following a petition by a parent. The petition calls on the education ministry to ensure adequate filtration in classrooms, educate children in the correct use of N95 face masks and conduct non-essential lessons via e-learning..... The Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) said on Tuesday it had lobbied the government to provide assistance to the Indonesian companies being sued under Singapore’s transboundary pollution law. “This should be helped by diplomacy,” APHI’s vice chairman said. “Don’t let the companies be subjected to this alone.”...

Moral need to act decisively on haze, says Ng Eng Hen  Published Oct 25, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; ...The strongest motivation to resolve this year's transboundary haze crisis - statistically proven to be the worst in a decade - must be a moral one, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has said. And those who own or use the land for commercial purposes must bear responsibility for the fires raging over them, Dr Ng added yesterday, as he welcomed the Singapore firefighting assistance team that returned home after a two-week mission to Indonesia. ...  Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency estimates that more than 43 million people in the country are breathing in the toxic fumes from the fires,

The Trouble with Indonesia-Singapore Relations - Bilateral ties continue to face some familiar challenges.  By Barry Desker October 21, 2015

21 October 2015: South Sumatra residents $3.5 billion class action suit against plantation giants and world dominant palm oil trader Wilmar to come

Editor's note: Media has extensive coverage of haze including review of causes immediate and long-term. Public opinion in KL and Singapore is pretty poorly against the haze into the second month of high air pollution and locals disturbed by recent predictions this can last into early 2016. I had a quick look at found an official cited figure of 1.7 million hectares burning around 10 October. Question arises of whether palm oil sustainability spending has been poorly directed all these years.

South Sumatra residents to file class action suit against firms causing haze - The companies suspected of burning land and causing transboundary haze are Asia Agri, Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar, Sime Darby, and Asia Pulp and Paper. By Saifulbahri Ismail POSTED: 06 Oct 2015 19:39  UPDATED: 09 Oct 2015 10:26; JAKARTA: A group of Indonesian residents in Jambi, South Sumatra are in the final stages of preparing a class action lawsuit against five companies responsible for the forest fires that have caused massive air pollution in Indonesia and across the region. They are expected to serve notice to these companies this month....According to reports, thousands of people living in Jambi have developed respiratory infections after breathing the acrid air, while others have suffered lost income.... They are claiming a total of 51 trillion rupiah (US$3.5 billion) in losses."There are two kinds of losses: Firstly, losses that can be calculated to around 7 trillion rupiah, the companies have to compensate that. There is also the cost of recovering the land which has been destroyed, and we have calculated that to be 44 trillion rupiah," said Mr Musri.The Indonesian Forum for the Environment or Walhi, is helping the plaintiffs with their lawsuit. Walhi has conducted its own legal battle against companies and acknowledges it faces a challenge ahead...."Walhi won its claim during the forest fires which destroyed some 11.6 million hectares in 1998, and one more in 2000 in South Kalimantan,” said Mr Mukri Fatriani, an ecology disaster campaigner from Walhi. “From then on, 14 years have passed and we have not won any other claims." Walhi said that even though there are clear laws, these have not been enforced. Those taking the companies to court are confident of getting a positive result..... "The 2015 incident is different from earlier incidents. This year is extraordinary,” said Mr Musri. “Indonesia and our neighbours Malaysia and Singapore are directly affected. It wasn’t as bad before. So, this is what gives us energy to fight.... “Secondly, I’m confident that because this claim is from the desire of the community, we will try. If you ask what our chances are, the law has to improve to answer the haze problem objectively, and I'm confident we can win this legal battle."....


19 October 2015: Step-down on smallholder interest, illegal palm oil mills in Indonesia, Indon-Malaysia cooperation, Singapore haze clampdown (update)

Editor's note: Discussion in palm oil circles on the Indonesia-Malaysia cooperation intention and the call to water down IPOP and ISPO to accommodate smallholders (a significant portion without legal land tenure; and thus to regularize the independent mills and FFB dealers serving the smallholders).

The origins of the push is pointed out as the President of Indonesia's office and specialists agree that the traditional bureaucracies of Indonesia and Malaysia are not at the forefront of this new effort. What's different is that it comes with Indonesia impetus, whereas previous bilateral efforts petered out on lack of Indonesia interest. Unusually, it also came along with a corporate presence - FGV and Eagle High deal. Interesting in news reports is the Coordinating Maritime Minister of Indonesia being a prominent spokesperson of the palm oil G2G deal. The harmonization of ISPO and MSPO would not be an easy feat - one being mandatory and the other voluntary. And this seems quite mixed up in the apparent pressure on the giant plantations groups at IPOP assuring on buying from smallholders. Also, noteworthy is that Pak Dr. Herdradjat (ex Director of Estate Crops at Ministry of Agriculture) takes over Ibu Dr. Rosediana Suharto's role at ISPO quite suddenly.

Notable too is the issue "illegal palm oil mills" in Indonesia - notably 70 in Riau according to a news report. Question: While the big plantations slow under the sustainability spotlight, who is funding the smallholder push? Illegal mils (by definition independent mills are illegal in Indonesia) and FFB dealers (currently not regulated)? Jakarta experts say that these mills may have a license issued by provincial politicians or Bupati, but lack a national level license. It is notable in ISPO's presentation at PIPOC that it refers to this sector of independent/"illegal" mills. Critics of non-certification traceability have been asking what if they trace to illegal sources and what is the basis of their verification?

Singapore is moving very vocally to "haze-free" products in pulp and paper and also mulling how to resolve issues in palm oil certification of its products with active local NGOs moving on it. Banks are also being questioned on their role in funding palm oil expansion in Indonesia - notably a financing link to a plantation company caught up in the haze fires was disclosed. Singapore's very middle class population is becoming increasingly sensitized to palm oil on nutrition and air pollution worries.
source: Singapore Straits Times graphic on haze and health

This posting is a big review of one month's of headlines.

Notable reads

Forest encroachment by Gemal Abdel Nasser P. August 6 2015 Riau Province Legislative Council found 70 illegal palm oil mills in Riau,
Singapore legal experts set out legal parameters of transboundary haze pollution....  By Invitation - The haze, international law and global cooperation by S. Jayakumar and Tommy Koh Published Oct 6, 2015, 5:00 am SGT
Fire & haze in Indonesia: Research and resources 9 Oct 2015 ; Forest fires occur in Indonesia every dry season. However, the haze that spreads to other countries is no longer restricted to drought years, and has become increasingly frequent due to ongoing deforestation of peatlands – with profound health and economic impacts across Southeast Asia. There are no easy solutions. The complex factors involved in every fire mean the problem goes far beyond who actually lights the match. That’s why the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has collected its work on fire and haze in Southeast Asia. The new site explains the context, impacts and history of this ongoing crisis – drawing upon cutting edge science and research. See the full collection at

US-Canada model could hold lessons for haze fight Published  Oct 16, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Melissa Sim US Correspondent In Washington; When it comes to managing forest fires and the resulting transboundary haze, Indonesia and the region can learn from countries such as Canada and the United States, said experts in the field. The two countries often face transboundary haze issues of their own when smoke from large forest fires drifts across national borders, said Dr Nigel Sizer, global director of the forests programme at Washington, DC-based think-tank World Resources Institute. To deal with the issue, the two countries signed the Canada/ United States Reciprocal Forest Fire Fighting Arrangement (Canus), which lays out the conditions under which resources can be shared, how resources will be made available and what costs are involved, said Dr Sizer.

This is a deadly consequence of forest destruction by palm oil & paper companies. — Greenpeace UK (@GreenpeaceUK)...

New Palm Oil Council Abolishes 'No Deforestation' Pledge  Published 14 October 2015; The production of palm oil has long been criticized by environmentalists, mainly because mass land and forests must be cleared for its production. A new palm oil council is being established in Indonesia and Malaysia to create a joint set of standards for the industry, which will effectively abolish a previous “no deforestation” pledge made by major palm oil companies in the region, Reuters reported Wednesday.  Palm oil companies in Indonesia made the historic pledges at a climate change summit last year. After feeling international pressure to adopt better practices, some of the biggest palm oil companies in the region – including Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar International – signed the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. However, according to the Indonesian government these promises are hurting smallholders who cannot afford to adopt to the sustainable practices...

Indonesia to Stop Complying with European Union's Palm Oil Standards  12 October 2015 The Indonesian government will (temporarily) stop using sustainability standards designed by the European Union regarding crude palm oil (CPO). Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said the current strict standards of the European Union hurt the domestic palm oil industry, especially smallholders. Moreover, Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two largest CPO producers and exporters, are to set up a new intergovernmental palm oil council that will design new rules and standards regarding sustainable palm oil production....Last week it was announced that Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to set up the new palm oil council (called the Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries). This council aims to control the global palm oil supply, stabilize CPO prices and promote sustainable practices in the palm oil industry, partly by harmonizing existing standards of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO). Indonesia and Malaysia account for about 85 percent of the world's CPO output. Rizal is confident that demand for Indonesian CPO will not decline due to the moratorium on applying the European Union's palm oil standards. The Indonesian government will lobby the governments of China and India to use the palm oil standards that are to be developed by the Council of Palm Oil Producer Countries (CPOP)....

Editorial: Bold move in palm oil The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Mon, October 12 2015, 8:52 AM; The devil is in the details. This saying is quite relevant for Indonesian and Malaysian officials making preparations for the establishment of a cartel-like organization called the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) that both governments agreed on in Jakarta early this month.It was the first time that both countries, which control about 85 percent of global palm oil production but which have so far been competing fiercely against each other in the international market, agreed on concrete cooperation in controlling the palm oil market, which has been in a slump since last year.Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, who led the Indonesian delegation at the meeting with Malaysia’s Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Douglas Unggah in Jakarta last week, said the CPOPC would jointly promote the marketing of palm oil and its products, conduct palm oil research and development and harmonize the principles and criteria used for their respective certification of sustainable palm oil.Consumer organizations and international green campaigners that dominate the 10-year old Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) may immediately give a thumbs down to this new organization, given the disappointing performance of a similar organization, the International Tripartite Rubber Council, in propping up the market even though its three members — Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — control about 70 percent of world supply…

Only India and China Can End Asia's Haze  Oct 15, 2015 12:05 AM EDT By  Adam Minter - The thick haze that’s blanketed much of Southeast Asia for the last month carries the ashy remains of Indonesian forests and peatlands -- burnt in many cases to clear land for producing palm oil, the world’s most popular edible oil. It’s an annual occurrence dating back decades, and this year it’s particularly bad: According to one report, the 2015 fires have emitted enough greenhouse gases to rival Germany’s annual output of CO2. And they’re growing worse....

A new business model for palm oil? The recent haze in Southeast Asia has sparked renewed calls for alternatives to palm oil products. In this interview, Forum for the Future founder Jonathon Porritt tells Eco-Business why the industry - which is also provides thousands of livelihoods worldwide - needs a new business model, not boycotts.  By Vaidehi Shah Friday 16 October 2015

Les multinationales de l'huile de palme plus «vertes» que le gouvernement indonésien Par Claire Fages   Diffusion : lundi 12 octobre 2015

Hazy standards - Southeast Asia’s newest cartel is bad news for endangered animals and people who like to breathe by Steve Mollman October 14, 2015 ; This month Indonesia and Malaysia confirmed the imminent establishment of a palm oil cartel, which they’re billing as a way to ensure price stability and develop downstream industry. But a cartel could help the industry in another way: by allowing them to ignore calls to adopt more environmentally friendly production practices.

Palm oil in your grocery items could be from haze culprits by Jessica Lim Friday, Oct 9, 2015; PAPER products may just be the tip of the iceberg: Many grocery items here could come from plantations that contribute to the haze. In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times yesterday, Stefano Savi from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said that about half of the products on supermarket shelves here contain palm oil - from toothpaste and cosmetics to bread and frozen french fries.Mr Savi, the global outreach and engagement director of RSPO, a palm oil certification body, added that as much as 80 per cent of global palm oil is uncertified."While we are sure about the origins and the sustainability criteria under which 20 per cent of global palm oil is produced, we are not able to claim the same for the other 80 per cent," he said, adding that the 1,400 fires that happened in Indonesia in the whole of last month were within oil palm plantations. - See more at:

Singapore Banks Debate Rainforest Lending as Smog Blankets City  by   Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Christopher Langner  October 5, 2015 — 9:22 PM HKTUpdated on October 6, 2015 — 11:27 AM HKT. DBS says it's committed to enhancing its responsible financing. Wilmar says more banks are interested in sustainability issues..... The WWF said that, unlike regulators in Brazil and China, there are no “green” guidelines for lending in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Even so, Singapore’s regular pollution levels are less than one third the average experienced in China, statistics from the World Health Organization show. “Earlier this year, the association, together with several banks, formed a task force to develop a set of industry guidelines that will provide a framework for banks in Singapore to advance responsible financing through a more structured and transparent approach,” said Ong-Ang Ai Boon, a director of the association, adding that details will be announced Thursday. Its 158 members include the three largest Singapore banks and most international lenders operating in the city....“If companies involved in the haze -- either doing the burning themselves, or trading or buying commodities from operators using open burning -- find themselves shut out from certain pools of capital” they may act quicker, said Jeanne Stampe, a finance and commodities specialist at the WWF in Singapore.... DBS Group Holdings Ltd.’s Indonesian unit is the biggest lender to Jakarta-based palm plantation company PT Provident Agro, followed by Bank Mandiri, the company’s semi annual report shows. Provident Agro is the majority owner of PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo, which had its permit suspended last month pending an investigation into forest fires….

Palm Oil Producers Deny Role in Forest Fires, Cite ‘Zero-Burn’ Policy By : Jakarta Globe | on 3:45 AM September 23, 2015; Jakarta. The head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, or Gapki, on Tuesday came out in support of the country’s palm oil producers against allegations of causing the haze choking several regions, saying producers stand to lose from deliberately lighting forest fires and abide by a “zero burning” policy.  "[Members of Gapki] have implemented sustainability principles," Joko Supriyono, head of Gapki, said as quoted by Antara. He added that buyers of palm oil products demanded eco-friendly practices in the production and supply chain. Producers face heavy sanctions and risk having their permits revoked if found to be clearing land through fire, Joko said. "It is impossible for companies that have invested trillions of rupiahs to take the risk of having their permits revoked just because they want to save the cost of land clearing," he said. Joko cited data from Global Forest Watch, which found that between January and the end of August this year, fires in oil palm concessions stood at 16 percent of all land, as opposed to 65 percent of non-concession land. Separately, the secretary general of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Bambang Hendroyono, told Antara that the ministry had frozen the operating permits of three companies linked to forest fires. Tempirai Palm Resources and Waringin Agro Jaya in South Sumatra and Langgam Inti Hibrindo in Riau will have their permits frozen. The ministry also froze the permit of Hutani Sola Lestari in Riau province, which held a logging concession permit.

Indonesian peat fires endanger environment - Greenpeace 07 October 2015, 12:10 BST , Peat fires in Indonesia are threatening rare wildlife such as orangutans and causing severe air pollution and carbon emissions, environmentalists have warned.

Forest fires: Jakarta panel wants names  Published Oct 9, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Parliamentary committee orders ministry to name companies whose concession lands were burned illegally by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja  Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta and Amy Chew  Regional Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur

'Half of supermarket products in Singapore contain palm oil' Published Oct 9, 2015, There are 19 firms in Singapore with RSPO certification, including instant-noodle maker Tat Hui Foods and consumer products company Proctor & Gamble. RSPO does not track products of its certified organisations but Mr Savi, who is based in RSPO's headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, reckons only a handful of products here have its mark. The low take-up rate could be due to several reasons, he said. Palm oil typically makes up a small part of the formulation of a product, so few firms think it necessary to use sustainable supplies. Distributors who want to sell RSPO-certified products also need to get supplies from RSPO-certified mills and growers."Also, in certain markets, palm oil is not perceived positively, so companies won't want to emphasise that palm oil is in their products at all," he added. About a fifth of the world's palm oil is now certified by RSPO. The Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which has awarded its green label to over 3,000 products here, does not certify palm oil-based products here, but plans to do so by early next year..."Not many firms here have RSPO certification, so we are looking to move into that sector because palm oil is used in so many products," said SEC head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan.....

Haze: Sime Darby launches hotspot dashboard  Wednesday, Oct 7, 2015

Planters under fire over haze  By OOI TEE CHING - 26 September 2015 @ 10:06 AM PETALING JAYA: For the past month, there has been a steady stream of news of millions of people in Southeast Asia suffering from haze due to the peat fires in Indonesia. There have been criticisms of the Indonesian government despite the authorities’ water-bombing and cloud seeding efforts to beat the peat fire. The ongoing El Nino phenomenon is exacerbating the problem, creating conditions that fan the smouldering flames.

5 Things to Know About the Haze in Southeast Asia - Haze from forest fires in Indonesia is choking parts of the country as well as neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. It has intensified in recent days, putting air pollution at hazardous levels as well as disrupting flights and outdoor activities. In Singapore, schools have closed and exasperated officials continue to offer assistance in fighting the fires. The Indonesian government has said it is taking steps to deal with the problem. Earlier this week it suspended the operating permits of three plantation companies thought to be setting fires to clear land for agriculture, and revoked the license of another. 25 Sep 2015 1:55am By Sara Schonhardt

No Malaysian firms involved in open burning activities in Indonesia - The Association of Plantation Investors of Malaysia confirmed that Malaysian plantation companies practiced zero burning in field clearing work.  POSTED: 26 Sep 2015 00:00

Singapore Environment Council pushes for green procurement in public sector - The Singapore Environment Council is urging the public sector to switch to using environmentally-friendly office supplies, starting with sustainable paper products.  By Liyana Othman  POSTED: 29 Sep 2015 22:57

Hit companies where it hurts by Henry Barlow Oct 1, 2015, 5:58 pm SGT The contributors to the haze appear not primarily to be the larger oil palm plantation operators but relatively small estates, owning perhaps only one or two mills, or independent mills depending largely, if not exclusively, on fruit submitted from smallholders. Many such operators and smallholders have no wish to comply with sustainability principles. Could the Monetary Authority of Singapore instruct banks operating in Singapore not to extend financing and trading facilities to companies linked to mill owners who are not in compliance with agreed sustainability principles as required by the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards? These companies should also be required to provide independently certified reports that they have assisted all mill owners and smallholders submitting fruit to their mills in complying with the sustainability principles of ISPO or RSPO. Other central banks in he region could also adopt similar measures.

Palm Oil Association Rejects Forest Burning Claims 22 September, 2015 | 16:24 WIB  TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) rejected claims that the palm oil industry caused the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. "The biggest downside was being accused as cause of the fire," said Gapki ChairmanJoko Spriyono, in a press conference, Tuesday, September 22. He claimed that Gapki is commited to zero burning policy or without burning. However, Joko said the fires are inevitable in the hot weather with strong winds. This is a result of the concession bordering with shrub areas. "The land we are often exposed to fire sparks,” he said. Gapki suggested that the government and Parliament to revise Law No. 32 of 2009 on the Protection and Management of the Environment. In Article 69, paragraph 2 of land burning is allowed with a maximum area of ​​two hectares. There is also a Government Regulation and Regulatory Governor that allow people to set fires to clear land. Head of Agricultural and Spatial Gapki, Eddy Martono said there needs to be changes in legislation. “At least there must be a clear SOP (Standarad Operational Procedure)," said Eddy. A Singapore-owned company is suspected as a cause of forest fires in Indonesia. This was stated an official of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry…

Widodo checks up on efforts to tackle forest blazes in Borneo, Updated: 11:00 PM, September 25, 2015 JAKARTA — Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is heading to Borneo and Sumatra islands to check on efforts to stop forest blazes that are causing pollution across the region.

Cloud hangs over enforcement of anti-haze law  Published Sep 18, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; Inadequate policing in Indonesia, lack of data on land ownership and usage cited as factors

Fighting haze - Boycotting palm oil products not a long-term solution Published Sep 17, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Boycotting palm oil products is not only impractical, but it could also be counterproductive ("To resolve haze woes, boycott palm oil products" by Mr Eric J. Brooks; Tuesday). Oil palm is the highest-yielding edible oilseed crop, with yields of up to nine times that of other oilseeds, like soya and rapeseed.

New disaster chief for Indonesia Published Sep 8, 2015, 5:00 am SGT  2-star navy officer's appointment comes as govt steps up fight against raging fires - Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday swore in retired two-star navy officer Willem Rampangilei, 59, who was previously a deputy to the coordinating minister for culture and human development, and in charge of disaster impacts and social affairs.

16 October 2015: REDD and peatland burning

Can REDD save Indonesia’s peatlands from burning?   By Chris Lang 14 October 2015

14 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry

4 October 2015: Zahid - Jokowi Indonesia’s 3-year plan to combat haze deemed too long, need to improve haze pollution measure, haze kills millions of chickens reduces vegetable production in Malaysia, haze reaching Philippines?

Editor's note: Solutions unlikely to be rapid; note the intractable haze problems also noted in northern ASEAN haze belts too.

Southeast Asia's Haze Explained 1:16 - with Greenpeace footage,'s%20Haze%20Explained

source:, accessed 2.55pm, 4 October 2015. Note: Basis of reporting in Malaysia is PM10 and Singapore and Indonesia uses PM2.5. Also the headline measure use different lagged averages of hourly data. The differing Singapore and Malaysia measures can result in different headline data for very close neighbours, thus northern Singapore is rated dangerous while across the Causeway it is rated moderate (Aqicn website, accessed 5.53pm):

API reading in Palangkaraya over 2,000 - Bernama, Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 5:05:17 PM; JAKARTA: The residents in Palangkaraya, capital city of Central Kalimantan now may not be able to breathe easily as the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading in the province has exceeded 2,000.... Meanwhile in Jambi, the API reading is still at hazardous level although it  has decreased from 800 this Sunday morning to 400 this afternoon. - Bernama..

Ahmad Zahid: Indonesia’s plan to combat haze deemed too long  by nadirah h. rodzi  Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 12:23:41 PM....Last Tuesday, BBC reported Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he needed time to tackle the forest burning, and that his citizens were also victims of the haze that is affecting the region. In the report, Joko said it would take three years for results to be seen from efforts to end the huge annual fires, as it is "not a problem that you can solve quickly"...

Malaysia should follow Singapore in use of technology to measure haze pollution, Zahid says By Ida Lim Sunday October 4, 201512:19 PM GMT+8 - See more at:

Malaysia can follow Singapore method to measure air quality, says Zahid BY RAM ANAND Published: 4 October 2015 12:08 PM It is not wrong to adopt Singapore's method in reading the air quality, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today, adding that egos must be set aside as the situation caused by forest fires worsens. "We could get the new equipment. But until we implement the reading with the new equipment, we can at least follow their (Singapore) guidelines," he told reporters today after an event at the Al-Hijrah TV station in Kuala Lumpur today....
 - See more at:

Haze choking Malaysian farms as chickens, vegetable production affected, Oct 2, 2015, 8:51 am SGT... PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The haze in Malaysia is affecting business at farms that rear poultry and produce vegetables as chickens die by the millions in a month and farm produce dwindle, with consumers set to be the biggest losers....He added that this was a big issue every year and that at times the mortality rate could rise up to four million of the 50 million that are produced in a month in peninsular Malaysia.... "Chickens are more sensitive to the haze than humans. They have respiratory problems and become weak. We have to give them vitamins. When they are weak, they are slow to grow and that is not good," said Loo, who is also a farmer....  "Many farmers try and keep the breeder chickens that are meant for culling alive so they can lay more eggs. But even hens become weak during the haze and lay fewer eggs," said Loo.... Sarawak Livestock Breeders Association chairman Lee Jin Chiaw said that egg production has dropped by about 2 per cent. In Johor, the owner of Lew Brothers Poultry Farm Sdn Bhd, Lew Kim Huat said that egg production at its two farms in Ulu Tiram and Layang had declined to about 5 per cent since the start of the haze. "Our hens are becoming restless and weak,'' he said adding that about 28,000 of the 700,000 birds also died due to suffocation, about twice the usual number of deaths.....

Philippines’ week-long haze suspected from Indonesia Updated: Sunday October 4, 2015 MYT 8:23:23 AM; MANILA: The Philippine island of Cebu suffered its seventh straight day of haze, the weather bureau said, as South-East Asian countries battle pollution suspected to emanate from illegal fires on Indonesian plantations. Monsoon winds blowing northeast from the Indonesian blazes towards the direction of the central Philippines could have carried the smog, state weather forecaster Romeo Aguirre said....

28 September 2015: Kalla: no more new land, no more peat. Luhut assures it takes haze seriously but Kalla said no need to apologise, Singapore clamps down on five companies, oil palm planters point to good practices, but CIFOR reports on lucrative illegal market for pulpwood and oil palm areas to small investors, the Tesso Nilo case

Editor's note: CIFOR's report on illegal clearance for smaller-scale crop land deals is rather reminiscent of the Malaysia Kelantan flooding problem. Forestry specialists report that rather than offering a large concession to one company (with more patient capital) to do a sustainable timber project (with long rotation cycle for selective timber harvest); policy makers decided on very small scale land allocations. We hear that this resulted in rapid land clearance with slow or low investment to replant. When adverse weather hit (very heavy rains) the upland damage contributed to rather devastating flooding. This sounds rather similar to the illegal peat zone clearance mentioned by CIFOR below done on a small scale. The large plantation concessions do not have reason to burn, especially with many under major voluntary pledges. The difference in fire hotspot occurrences in the different zones points to the difference. Specialists also note the major problem of apparently unchecked small-scale encroachments on the Tesso Nilo forest reserve (In 2005, just over 70,000 ha forest now down to just under 22,000 ha forest in 2014 and blanketed in hot spots during the 2014 season. Who's operating the Tesso Nilo reserve?*). Clearly, the report of the uptick in deforestation for Brazil and Indonesia point to problematic issues. In conversation with another analyst, we reckoned on income targets under lower commodity prices likely pointing to the need for larger small farm areas (for many crops).

*The Tesso Nilo case (it's creation reported here, and exemplifies the unexpected complexities of the Sumatran haze and its blame game. WWF is involved in Tesso Nilo but says the ultimate authority is the Ministry of Forestry. Here, WWF blames companies; But maps show rapid deforestation and haze hotspots rampant in Tesso Nilo reserve zone. This article discusses the issue, "As massive deforestation continues in Sumatra’s Tesso Nilo, Indonesian lawmakers pin blame on ‘foreign’ NGOs," 25th March 2013 by Diana Parker ... Indonesian lawmakers criticized the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for its inability to stop deforestation in Sumatra, accusing the group of trying to destroy Indonesia’s reputation abroad and hurting the country’s......In addition to an insufficient response from the government to tackle the problem, WWF data showed that the lack of protection against encroachment by former permit holders before the area became a national park adds to the problem of rapid deforestation in Tesso Nilo. Corruption among local government officials and traditional leaders also contributes to deforestation and encroachment in the park....

 VP Kalla said the government would improve Indonesia’s land governance by halting the issuance of permits for converting natural forests into industrial forests....“no more new land to boost production.... no more exploitation of peat land..."

Planters under fire over haze;.... "Oil palm planters who carry out proper peatland development and water management at their estates should be given a pat on the back for preventing the spread of peat fire. Instead, what we see is a stab in the back of planters. Such false allegations are sinful," Daud said. "Do you know that professional planters practising modern agriculture invest a lot of money in heavy machinery to clear the land, compact the peat soil and dig up a maze of trenches? "This is to compress the peat soil and keep it moist so that the oil palms can grow properly and yield to their potential. Incidentally, this process makes the soil less flammable and retards fire from spreading underground," he said.Most of the oil palm estates in Riau are matured and bearing fruits. "So, why would planters want to set fire and destroy their oil palms?" asked Daud, adding the maze of trenches filled with water at peat area, which are transportation routes in the estates is doubling up as fire barriers, too. When asked to comment on satellite pictures showing many hotspots across Sumatera and Kalimantan as indicative of fiery blaze within plantation concessions, Daud replied, "we must take note that in Indonesia, 20 per cent of the land bank is under the plasma scheme, of which smallholders occupy scattered enclaves within the estates."  He noted that one must not discount the possibility that fire-causing haze could have been started by the local communities for shifting cultivation of cash crops in these enclaves....

Lucrative illegal market for crop land a key cause of fires: Researcher CIFOR  Published 5 hours ago by David Fogarty Assistant Foreign Editor; Dr Purnomo said there is a well- established market for abandoned or conflict land, with land cleared by burning fetching a premium. Using excavators and other heavy equipment to clear the land is costly and time- consuming. "You need to understand that the fire and haze create a lot of money. Quite a lot of money. There is a market for burned land and also it is a way for cheap and quick land preparation for HTI (pulpwood) and oil palm," he told The Straits Times in an interview last week. "Because if you grab the land, the forest - it can be concession land or state land - you can sell it. My research shows that the price is around eight million rupiah (S$800) per hectare. But if you burn that land, the price will increase," he said. "Some people can claim that land and can sell to the network of people. And the buyers can be someone in Jakarta, Bogor, everywhere... It can be 10ha, 20 or even 100ha." Data shows mid-level investors can come from places outside Indonesia, such as Malaysia, he added. According to Dr Purnomo, the price per hectare is US$665 (S$950) after the land is slashed and cut. If the land is burned, the price goes up about US$200 per hectare: a more or less 30 per cent rise. "There is a market for people who mostly prepare for oil palm. You can imagine if they grow the oil palm, after three years, then the price of that land can reach US$3,077 per ha," he said, basing his research on land prices in Sumatra's Riau province.

George Monbiot is wrong to suggest small farms are best for humans and nature - Monbiot has criticised ecomodernism for endorsing agricultural modernisation, but this is the way to feed a growing urban population and free up land for rewilding by Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger and Linus Blomqvist Friday 25 September 2015 13.25 BST

Singapore clamps down on five firms over haze - Legal action started; govt leaders also speak out against Indonesian officials' comments by Chang Ai-Lien and Audrey Tan, Published Sep 26, 2015, 5:00 am SGT; ...Naming the firms for the first time yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that the haze was a man-made problem that should not be tolerated. "Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy," he said...yesterday served Singapore-listed firm Asia Pulp and Paper a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions. Four Indonesian companies - Rimba Hutani Mas, Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and Wachyuni Mandira - have been told to take measures to extinguish fires on their land, not to start new ones, and submit action plans on how they will prevent future fires.
Under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at $2 million, for causing unhealthy haze.....

Indonesia gives assurance that it takes haze very seriously: DPM Teo Chee Hean Published Sep 27, 2015, 8:21 pm SGT by Lee Min Kok; SINGAPORE - Indonesia's Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan has assured Singapore that the country is taking the haze very seriously and will be deploying more troops to deal with forest fires. In a Facebook post on Sunday (Sept 27) evening, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said he had received a phone call from Mr Luhut earlier in the day to discuss the matter....
Indonesia VP Kalla reiterates that Indonesia does not need to apologise to neighbours over haze  Published Sep 25, 2015, 8:02 pm SGT

International media

How you can trade Southeast Asia's haze by Nyshka Chandran Wednesday, 23 Sep 2015 | 9:57 PM ET; ....The price of palm oil has rallied 7 percent in the past fortnight as a cloak of smog, combined with unusually dry weather, disrupts supply in key Southeast Asian producing countries, and analysts say the gains are set to continue....

Something from a reader, from a different perspective...  This is what happens when Harrison Ford meet Indonesian Minister of Forestry  by notfoundher  

25 September 2015: Haze smog spike up, health concerns and studies, severe El Nino to worsen regional haze woes to mid 2016?

Editor's note: Have been in Singapore in recent days, to see the headline measure go over 350. A specialist told me it went over 1,400 in Indonesia. Singapore shops selling masks, discussions of which type is better and more comfortable. Two days ago, I was at MPOC's El Nino talk. We're in severe El Nino expected to last to mid 2016. That does not bode well for the haze problem.

Singapore schools close for first time as haze hits hazardous levels  by joanna seow AND lester hio
Don't judge the haze by sight or smell by Linette Lai Friday, Sep 25, 2015; one of the best ways to determine how unhealthy the air is in real time is to look at the one-hour PM2.5 levels published by the National Environment Agency (NEA), say experts.Understanding the hazeTypically, two types of particles make up the haze.There are the coarser ones, which the human body is mostly equipped to filter out. These particles are large enough to be trapped by the nasal passages or end up being passed directly through the body.The bigger worry is the PM2.5 pollutants - so called because they are no larger than 2.5 microns, or one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair.These can become trapped deep in the lungs and are tiny enough to pass through linings into the bloodstream.Long-term exposure to these particles on a regular basis has been linked to increased risk of death from heart and lung complications such as lung cancer or heart disease. - See more at:

Fast food chains suspend delivery service in Singapore due to haze Updated: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 9:08:34 PM

Singapore air quality 'very unhealthy' over Indonesia fires  Updated: Thursday September 24, 2015 MYT 6:03:32 PM; The city-state, which prides itself for its clean environment, has been cloaked in the haze in varying degrees for about three weeks, the worst such episode since mid-2013. But Southeast Asia's worst bout with haze was in 1997-1998 when the smog caused an estimated $9 billion in losses in economic activity across the region.  The haze situation has been made worse this year by an El Nino weather system, which produces tinder-dry conditions in Indonesia and increases the risk of fires. Under pressure from its neighbours to stop the annual haze, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has pledged to crack down on companies and individuals behind the burnings, which are a cheap but harmful way of clearing vast tracts of land for plantations. During a visit to the haze-affected islands of Borneo and Sumatra this week, Widodo called on local communities to do their part in helping contain the scourge.  .... Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency told AFP that 2,081 fire "hotspots" were recorded in the worst-affected region of Indonesia's Kalimantan and 290 in Sumatra on Thursday....

22 September 2015:  Reuters - Indonesia starts legal action against 4 companies linked to South-east Asia haze

Reuters - Indonesia starts legal action against 4 companies linked to South-east Asia haze - Updated: 3:01 PM, September 22, 2015; JAKARTA — Indonesia has ordered four companies to suspend operations for causing forest fires which have sent smoke across a swathe of South-east Asia, an environment ministry official said today (Sept 22)....

20 September 2015: In recent one week 3% hot spots on palm oil (48% on pulpwood plantations, 48% outside of concession areas).  Giant companies plan for more community efforts, point to need for One Map approach and points to problem of government "dishing out licences"

Editor's note: Industry people are keeping an eye for this on reporting - Global Forest Watch link

Haze puts Indonesia pulpwood plantations in a hot spot By Andrea Soh Sep 18, 20155:50 AM Singapore; Only 3 per cent of the hot spots between Sept 7 and Sept 14 were seen on oil palm concessions, according to data from the Global Forest Watch (GFW) programme by Washington-based advocacy group World Resources Institute (WRI); no such data was available in 2013, but palm oil firms had been widely blamed by the Indonesian government and non-governmental organisations..... But while palm oil firms have gotten off relatively easily this time round, paper and pulp companies have come under heavy fire as 48 per cent of fire alerts were found to be on pulpwood plantations by GFW in its recent analysis....What has emerged thanks to GFW's data is that smallholder farmers are behind many of the fire spots - 48 per cent of fire alerts were seen outside pulpwood, logging and palm oil concessions. And even when they are in concessions, these are sometimes carried by wind and topography from outside the concession areas, said plantation firms....  for APP, which manages concessions covering 2.6 million hectares - or almost 35 times the size of Singapore - in Indonesia. "The fires are usually started by illegal activity by individuals, whether inside or outside of our concession areas, usually to open land in order to claim the area. These practices are unfortunately very common, and occur not only in areas managed by companies but also in various protected forests managed by the government," she said. The root problem, said the unnamed plantation firm executive, is rural poverty. "It is much easier for them to set fire to clear land than to use other mechanical means ... it's a way of life."..Recognising this, many companies have started community engagement programmes - on top of placing fire-fighting brigades, some numbering in the hundreds, and infrastructure in their concessions.... Golden Agri plans to start involving the community in several concessions in jointly managed conservation plans in the near future. "This will involve a holistic approach on managing the land and conserving forests which will also help mitigate fire incidents," said the spokesman....There are efforts being made toward a One Map initiative. Golden Agri, which supports the initiative together with WRI and other palm oil majors, said this is scheduled to begin in the near future in Riau, and that consultations with multi-stakeholders are currently ongoing as a preparatory step. But some doubt that it will be completed any time soon, given the lack of political will. "It should have been done a few years ago," said the senior plantation executive. "If Indonesia had a comprehensive One Map of the whole country, detailing exactly where the peat areas, the protected areas, and the high biodiversity areas are - and they can do it if they want - then the government can simply not give out peatland and high conservation value areas (to plantation companies)." "But the government keeps dishing out licences like that," he added, "perhaps because they want to earn money."


18 September 2015: 7 Firms, 133 People Named Suspects in Indonesia Forest Fires - Associated Press, Record fines against  concessionaires on the rise? House asks for budget revision to combat haze

Editor's note: Sadly, the peatsmog haze has been an annual occurrence (sometimes more than one episode) and the question is whether anything can be done about stopping it before it hits its 20th anniversary in a couple of years. For palm oil, despite studies that show a lesser (although still significant at around 20%) cause than other types of concession (timber, pulp & paper) and ex-concession areas i.e. smallholders and others, its association remains high in the public perception. The blame game is heightening. As expected, the onus for companies shifted a while back to responsibility in stopping fires. We broadly expect companies not to be fire starters given the dangers to their business assets. Indonesia news also indicates heightened attention to studying economic losses as well human tragedies (including death of children and fire fighters). From the tone of Indonesia news and policy maker comments, it seems likely that corporate business present in these zones will have to face increased regulatory and legal exposure. For all the corporate money spent on sustainability (HCV, HCS consultants, IT systems for traceability, stakeholder relations more focused on individual companies), one has to take a step back and wonder at the "what if" of a more strategic collective resource effort to effectively address the peatsmog crisis that still continues to have its grip on palm oil. The "it's not me" approach to crisis management has severe limitations and we daresay has little influence on policy makers in countries increasingly deciding on how much palm oil they want their permit in their food system. By all accounts, trade experts fear that nutrition decisions may be influenced by other considerations - and the annual peat smog crisis may cloud many decisions.

7 Firms, 133 People Named Suspects in Indonesia Forest Fires By The Associated Press ·JAKARTA, Indonesia — Sep 17, 2015, 11:12 AM ET; Indonesian police said Thursday they have identified seven companies and 133 individuals suspected of causing forest fires that are spreading choking smoke and polluted air across parts of western Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. National Police spokesman Col. Suharsono said 27 more companies and 85 individuals are still under investigation by police in six provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan on the Indonesian part of Borneo.  President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered law enforcement agencies to take "stern actions" including revoking forest concessions and blacklisting those responsible for the fires so the haze does not occur again. "We are ashamed because we should be able to prevent it easily by using all our efforts and ability," he said. Slash-and-burn practices destroy huge areas of Indonesian forest every summer during the dry season, creating haze that angers surrounding countries. The fires are set to clear land for farming, corporate development or oil palm plantations. Suharsono, who uses a single name, said the suspects include general managers and operational managers of companies. He said some suspects had been arrested but did not say how many. In Pekanbaru, the capital of peat-rich Riau province, police arrested the general manager of PT Langam Inti Hibrido, a palm oil plantation company. Suharsono said the suspects will be charged with violating the Environment Law and Forestry Law, which carry maximum penalties of 15 years in prison and a fine of about $700,000. Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya said her office is preparing civil actions and administrative sanctions against nine corporations. The sanctions include termination of activities and suspension or revocation of licenses....

Malaysian company investigated over forest fires, says Indonesia Published: 17 September 2015 7:26 AM - See more at:

Why oppose zero deforestation? Agus P. Sari, jakarta | Opinion | Tue, September 15 2015, 3:36 PM; There are two remarkable characteristics of the current IPOP. First, it is indigenous to Indonesia, and second, it was developed by the private sector in the absence of government regulation. The critics apparently missed those points. First, the IPOP was accused of submitting to pressure from foreign companies. Yet it is a voluntary commitment that is above and beyond market expectations.Our palm oil industry used to be criticized, sometimes boycotted, by overseas buyers. To unlock critical markets, the industry must respond directly to the sustainability challenge.One way for private companies to respond is through employing sustainability standards. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a standard developed through a multi-stakeholder process, was considered a breakthrough. A domestically-created standard was seen as more tenable to the government’s Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). Largely a certification for legal compliance, ISPO was immediately embraced by the industry. Yet until today only a few companies in Indonesia are ISPO-certified. All signatories of IPOP are also signatories of ISPO.The Consumer Goods Forum and the Tropical Forests Alliance 2020 lobbied for a better standard. Fortunately, they gained political support from the highest levels; then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened their first conference in Jakarta in July 2013. Indeed, pressure from the palm oil market has been real. But instead of only responding to (overseas) market pressure, IPOP went further than that.The critics also say the industry still needs to be expanded and that a zero deforestation commitment may hinder such an expansion. This is simplistic and unfounded. First, with better landscape and industrial management, the plantations can deliver annual palm oil growth to 40 million tons by 2020 without expanding existing plantations, as shown by a World Bank study....The writer is an observer of environmental and sustainability issues. He was formerly deputy chair of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Management Agency. - See more at:

Record fine against plantation company upheld Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sun, September 13 2015, 1:32 PM;... The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by palm oil company PT Kallista Alam and ordered the company to pay fines totalling Rp 366 billion (US$25.6 million) for illegally burning large swathes of the Tripa forest in Aceh, a verdict that many hope could set a precedent for future law enforcement against agro-forestry companies.The Environment and Forestry Ministry, which filed the lawsuit against PT Kallista Alam back in 2012, said the ruling was unprecedented, especially the size of the fine ordered in an environmental case. “As far as I know, nothing has been as big as this,” the ministry’s law enforcement director-general Rasio Ridho Sani, told The Jakarta Post... “We hope it becomes a reference for judges hearing cases in Palembang against PT Bumi Mekar Hijau and North Jakarta in the case of PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa,” said Rasio.With regard to PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa, the ministry has filed a civil lawsuit at the North Jakarta District Court against the company, demanding Rp 119.88 billion in fines for damaging the environment and Rp 371.12 billion for the recovery of the area. In a bigger case, the ministry has also filed civil lawsuits with the Palembang District Court in South Sumatra against PT Bumi Mekar Hijau for allegedly causing fires in 20,000 hectares in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra. It has demanded the company pay a fine of Rp 2.6 trillion for damaging the environment and Rp 5.2 trillion for its recovery. Both trials are currently ongoing.“It’s the biggest lawsuit we’ve ever filed,” Rasio said, adding that the lawsuit would reimburse the state Rp 7.8 trillion if it was successful. “So, I hope the judges handling these cases can learn from the Supreme Court’s verdict [on PT Kallista Alam].”PT Bumi Mekar Hijau is a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper. It has concessions amounting to 250,370 hectares in Ogan Komering Ilir. Based on data from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), most of the locations of fires in the province are on the company’s concessions.The ministry has been actively suing plantation companies for causing forest fires since 2013. The companies use the slash-and-burn method to open up forest areas as it is so cheap. “We are preparing to file civil lawsuits against five other companies. Maybe next week we will do so,” Rasio said. - See more at:

House asks for budget revision to combat haze Dandy Koswaraputra, | National | Thu, September 17 2015, 3:31 PM; The House of Representatives urged the Indonesian government to review next year's state budget to get extra funds, up to Rp 10 trillion (US$714 million), in order to combat forest fires. House member Herman Khaeron said that the state budget for the Environment and Forestry Ministry was quite insignificant, Rp 6.7 trillion in 2015, and decreasing to Rp 6.3 trillion in the 2016 state budget. “We need extra funding, at least Rp 10 trillion, to cope with forest fire disasters alone,” Herman told on Thursday.He said the funds aimed to build infrastructure and public awareness through holding training sessions in which local people fully understood how to handle such disasters instead of deploying military or police troops to extinguish forest fires. “I regret that the government does not seem proactive in preparing for the situation,” Herman asserted, adding that he appreciates the forestry ministry's efforts to provide fire extinguishing equipment.According to Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, around 52,000 hectares of land in Sumatra were ravaged by fire, while 138,000 ha in Kalimantan were scorched....Herry Purnomo, a scientist at CIFOR and professor at Bogor Agricultural University, said that Indonesia would likely suffer $4 billion in losses this year, relating to agriculture production, destruction of forests, health, transportation, tourism and other economic endeavors.A 2013 World Bank report shows the total financial loss from forest fires in Riau province at Rp 20 trillion ($1.4 billion).Herry added that Malaysia and Singapore, as smog-affected countries, should be more responsible in dealing with forest fires by issuing regulations and law enforcement for their citizens’ companies operating in Indonesia. - See more at:

Punish forest fire starters: The Jakarta Post; ....Two children in Jambi died last week of respiratory infection, almost certainly due to constant exposure to smoke from forest fires. Haze from the fires has also prevented thousands of children from attending school, delayed or cancelled flights and dragged economic and social activities to a halt in Sumatra and Kalimantan. In Sukabumi, West Java, a fire fighter died of exhaustion and smoke inhalation while battling a wildfire in Cikepuh sanctuary last week.....

Ecocriticism and the haze crisis Donny Syofyan, Padang, West Sumatra | Opinion | Thu, September 17 2015, 3:36 PM, The writer is a lecturer at the School of Cultural Sciences at Andalas University, Padang. - See more at:

Sumatra, the suffering paradise Delita Sartika, Victoria | Opinion | Thu, September 17 2015, 4:25 PM, The writer is a lecturer at Jambi University studying at Monash University in Victoria, Australia. - See more at:

16 September 2015: 40 individuals and Provident Agro unit charged for fires in Riau, Malaysia affected schools closed until further notice, 13 airports closed in Sumatra and Kalimantan

13 airports closed in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Jakarta | Archipelago | Wed, September 16 2015, 12:20 PM - See more at:

Provident Agro unit - Police Charge Oil Palm Company Over Sumatra Forest Fire By : Jakarta Globe | on 16:39 PM September 14, 2015; The company has been identified as Langgam Inti Hibrida, an joins 40 individuals charged with setting 37 forest fires in Riau province, according to Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tedjo, a spokesman for the provincial police....Established in 1998, LIH is based in Riau’s Pelalawan district and is 99.8 percent owned by publicly lited Provident Agro. The company was also cited earlier this year by district environmental officials for improper waste management.
Malaysia - Ministry orders schools to remain closed until further notice

15 September 2015: 3 Peninsular Malaysia states close schools on haze, Indonesia to share names of companies, Malaysia and Singapore companies blame game, three studies on fire causes point to complex picture and smallholders role

Unhealthy API in 33 areas nationwide, schools closed in 3 states, KL, Putrajaya Published: 15 September 2015 8:15 AM - See more at:
Indonesia to share names of companies causing forest fires Published: 15 September 2015 8:31 AM - See more at:
Malaysia, Singapore should take responsibility for fires too, says Indonesian expert Published: 15 September 2015 9:06 AM - See more at:

Jokowi wants land clearing by burning of forests to stop from next year Published: 7 September 2015 10:03 PM - See more at:

Erik Meijaard: Get Your Facts Right on Indonesia's Haze Problem, By : Erik Meijaard | on 18:52 PM September 07, 2015 Category : Opinion, Columns, Front Page ... So I say it again, just in case there is someone out there willing to listen. Studies of fire and haze in Kalimantan and Sumatra firmly point towards small-scale farmers and other under-the-radar, mid-scale land-owners, rather than large companies as the main cause of fires and haze.... A study published in August 2015 in the journal Environmental Research Letters clearly shows that on Sumatra 59 percent of fire emissions originate from outside timber and oil-palm concession boundaries. These non-concession-related fires generated 62 percent of smoke exposure in equatorial Southeast Asia (primarily Singapore and Malaysia). In Kalimantan, non-concession fires play an even bigger role. Fires outside concessions generated 73 percent of all emissions and 76 percent of smoke affecting equatorial Southeast Asia.... These findings are in line with similar results based on more detailed studies in Riau and published in Nature in 2014. In Riau, 52 percent of the total burned area in 2013 was within concessions. However, 60 percent of these burned areas were occupied and used by small-and medium-landholders.... And another scientific publication on the causes of Indonesian forest fires showed that, even 15 years ago, when oil-palm companies were involved a lot more frequently than now in land-clearing with fire, rural communities were a dominant cause of fires in both Sumatra and Kalimantan.... The key point is that the fire and haze problem in Indonesia is complex, with multiple actors playing a role. Focusing on large concessions alone, which the Indonesian government and also non-government organizations seem to do, is not going to do much to reduce the problem.... If the president wants “no more forest fires next year,” his government needs to get realistic about real causes and think about how to address these effectively. Anyone who has ever spent time in Kalimantan or Sumatra during the dry season knows that burning land for agriculture, for hunting, or just for fun is a favorite pastime of many. Most districts have laws in place that prohibit this kind of burning, but the big issue is that no one pays any heed to these laws and consequently they are largely ignored.....
Studies mentioned:

13 September 2015: Haze back with vengeance, Indonesia accepts Singapore's offer to fight forest fires

Indonesia accepts Singapore's offer to fight forest fires POSTED: 11 Sep 2015 16:45; Indonesia has accepted Singapore's offer to fight the ongoing forest fires in Sumatra.

The haze is back with a vengeance - The air quality in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia tipped into the unhealthy and hazardous ranges this week, as the haze from Indonesia's forest fires worsened. Why does this issue persist, despite the many high-profile forest protection pledges made by companies and governments?  By Vaidehi Shah Thursday 10 September 2015

Red tape hampering efforts to deal with forest fires The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Mon, August 31 2015, 3:47 PM; The government knows how to solve the problem of forest fires but has yet to implement the solution, a senior Environment and Forestry Ministry official has said.Nur Masripatin, the director general for climate change with the ministry said that the government would continue conducting feasibility studies before taking action.... CIFOR recommends the government allocate a higher proportion of the national budget for fire prevention. Currently the budget for forest fires reserves 90 percent for fire fighting and preparedness and 10 percent for prevention. The institution suggests the government also allocate more toward peat land restoration.CIFOR found in research conducted in 2014 and 2015 that 70 percent of forest fires in Indonesia are caused by the draining of peat lands for agriculture use. “Allocate a large part of the national budget to restore peat lands to hydrological equilibrium. The government may use rehabilitation funds or the commodities export tax to pay for peat land restoration on a large scale,” David Gaveau, a landscape scientist of CIFOR said.Nur said that she agreed with the proposal, but added that, at least in the next two years, the government should still allocate more for fire fighting effort. “For example in Jambi, we still need Air Tractors,” she said. - See more at:

Political economy of fire and haze: Moving to long-term solutions By Herry Purnomo Wednesday 2 September 2015; CIFOR scientist Herry Purnomo outlines a multi-pronged strategy for tackling deforestation and forest fires in Indonesia; Between 1980 and 2000 – a timber logging boom. Illegal logging followed – so, another boom in the 10 years from 2000, and then the palm oil boom came after that. Pristine forest was severely logged and turned into degraded forest. What was left was slashed and burned, made ready for oil palm and wood plantations of different scales. This landscape transformation provided benefits and costs to various actors. But fire and haze were also part of the landscape transformation. Under President Joko Widodo, the Government of Indonesia has committed to reducing – or even zeroing – fire incidences in Indonesia. And although some improvements have been made, fire and haze continue....

Eye on Jokowi and Indonesia palm oil: Indonesia finance and health ministries mull sugar tax, Scorecard Mixed as Indonesia's Jokowi `Drifts' in First Year, PT Bank Mandiri - commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth as the commodity boom is over

We'll keep an eye on Indonesia's new President Jokowi's view on palm oil and other related key economic issues and top level policy / regulatory issues.

Jokowi and 2015 Haze: Step-down on smallholder interest, Indon-Malaysia cooperation, Singapore haze clampdown

30 November 2015: Indonesia finance and health ministries mull sugar tax

Indonesian Sugar-Tax Talk Chills Drinks Industry - Health concerns may prompt curbs on the growing taste for sweet beverages in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, By Ben Otto and Anita Rachman  Nov. 27, 2015; .... Finance officials in the world’s fourth most populous nation have asked the health ministry to study whether sugary drinks, including soda and Indonesia’s most popular bottled drink after water, tea, constitute a health threat, said Suahasil Nazara, head of the ministry’s Fiscal Policy Agency. That would make such drinks eligible to join an excise list of high-bracket tax items comprising tobacco—one of the country’s biggest tax contributors—and alcohol. ...Indonesia has taxed some sweetened beverages in the past under a luxury-goods tax, but stopped the practice in 2004. The taxes crippled drink makers, according to the local Beverages Industry Association, which said sales of sweetened beverages have averaged double-digit annual growth since taxes were lifted....

Should There Be a Tax on Soda and Other Sugary Drinks? Supporters say it is an effective way to cut obesity. Critics say the health benefits are far less than claimed. July 12, 2015

22 October 2015: Scorecard Mixed as Indonesia's Jokowi `Drifts' in First Year, PT Bank Mandiri - commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth as the commodity boom is over, Scandal-Hit Malaysia Risks Lost Decade. Sarawak asks for more than "palm oil, palm oil, palm oil" 


Scorecard Mixed as Indonesia's Jokowi `Drifts' in First Year by Neil Chatterjee Updated on October 20, 2015 — 3:00 PM HKT; Jokowi behind targets on growth, infrastructure, inequality. Some progress on bureaucratic reform, step backwards on graft....His popularity among voters and investors has fallen in a year marked by slowing economic growth, policy u-turns and controversy over appointments. Widodo, known as Jokowi, said on his Twitter account Tuesday that the past year was about laying foundations and the first step was often the hardest. “His first year in office has been characterized more by drifting through, rather than a seamless execution of a meticulously thought out master plan,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore....Consumer confidence fell to more than a six-year low in September, in a country where domestic consumption makes up over half of the economy, and foreign direct investment has stagnated. A series of recent stimulus measures have amounted to tinkering rather than fresh cash or major structural reforms. “There is no evidence of a strategy to turn around the economy,” said Paul Rowland, an independent Jakarta-based political analyst. “Tweaks won’t do it unless they add up to a more coherent strategy that unshackles domestic and foreign investment.”...“The decision to rearrange a number of ministries also ate up a lot of time while new senior bureaucrat positions were filled, and it’s arguable that was unnecessary,” said Keith Loveard, head of political risk analysis at Jakarta-based security company Concord Consulting. “However, one year on there is a sense that the ship of state is settling on a steady course.”...INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT. Jokowi pledged to build 30 new dams, 15 airports, 24 ports, and 3,258 kilometers of railroads among infrastructure plans. After a slow start, there are signs some projects are starting to get going. The government opened the taps for a Chinese-built dam in August and state companies agreed terms with China for a new railway to Bandung this month. Jokowi attended a ground-breaking ceremony for a $4 billion coal-fired power plant that he said would start after years of delays. Yet the Japanese investors in the project say they have not fully acquired the land they need.... FIGHTING CORRUPTION. Jokowi vowed after wining the July election to cut corruption by 70 percent by building new systems, such as electronic tax collection, and the remainder by adding staff to the anti-graft agency known as the KPK. This issue has perhaps been the biggest disappointment for his supporters. The KPK named Jokowi’s choice for police chief a suspect and the police retaliated by investigating the agency’s commissioners, leading several to step down. Since then, there have been few high profile arrests by the agency.... INEQUALITY. A “dangerous” level of inequality threatens the world’s fourth most-populous nation, Jokowi told Bloomberg in February. The economic slowdown isn’t helping. Around 43,000 workers in Indonesia lost their jobs between January and September, the Bisnis Indonesia newspaper reported. The country’s poverty rate was 11.25 percent in March, up from 10.96 percent in September before Jokowi took office....

Analysis: The effect of commodity price changes on Sumatra and Kalimantan Mamay Sukaesih, Jakarta | Business | Wed, October 21 2015, 5:45 PM; .... Our analysis has revealed that commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth in the future. The main reason is simply that the commodity boom is over, implying that they can’t rely on commodity-based development anymore. One of the alternatives is to promote resources-based industries such as manufacturing and adding the value of goods that have been produced in the regions. PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk. - See more at:

Sarawak has to industrialise: CM 22 October 2015 by Patricia Hului BPO Newsdesk; ...In an interview with Bloomberg TV Malaysia, ‘Spotlight on Sarawak: Playing Catch-Up’ broadcast on its website Oct 21, the chief minister addressed the need for the state to industrialise, diversify its agricultural sector and increase infrastructural development....On the need for the state to industrialise, the chief minister said that Sarawak was no longer satisfied with only producing raw materials as in the old days. “We want to process these products ourselves so that we can retain the added value.” About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s economy is reliant on commodities, but contribution from manufacturing, construction, services and other industries is on the increase. “I have decided no more timber licensing, no more plantations. For the time being, give ourselves a respite and then perhaps eventually we will depend on our industry.” .... On the state’s palm oil industry, Adenan is looking to diversify the agricultural sector in Sarawak. “Food production is very slow and now we insist on palm oil, palm oil, palm oil. It’s good, but why can’t we grow other crops for production, food crops and so on,” he said, foreseeing increased interest in this area coupled with Sarawak’s availability of land for food production. Read more:

A Case of Brazil Blight? Scandal-Hit Malaysia Risks Lost Decade by  Shamim Adam October 16, 2015 — 6:00 AM HKT; Meet Malaysia, the new Brazil. Nearly felled by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, the Southeast Asian nation recovered to become a global commodities juggernaut, known for its stable government and investor-friendly policies. Now, with its premier enveloped by a multi million dollar funding scandal, Malaysia risks being infected with the kind of economic malaise that has struck its emerging market counterpart in South America....
Ringgit Falls as Malaysia Faces Oil-Revenue Pressures in Budget  by  Y-Sing Liau Updated on October 19, 2015 — 5:21 PM HKT  Budget will be ``one of the most difficult'': PM Najib. China growth beats forecasts, but still slowest since 2009.

19 October 2015: Greenpeace - Indonesia's new emission target a step back, other policy flip-flips, seeking dilution of sustainability pledges and policies for smallholders, illegal palm oil mills, Singapore haze angst targets pulp & paper, palm oil and banks

Indonesia’s new emissions target actually a step back: Greenpeace The new target might seem like an improvement over Indonesia’s previous commitment to cut emissions growth by 26 per cent over projected business-as-usual levels by 2020, but it actually represents a regression, Greenpeace says.

Jakarta’s baffling rail flip-flops - Indonesia’s handling of the bidding for its first high-speed train, with reversals and mixed messages to Japan and China, added to the confusion foreign companies face as the government courts them to boost southeast Asia’s largest economy; Indonesia picks China to build high-speed rail project   Ben Otto  | The Wall Street Journal  | October 02, 2015 12:00AM
China, Japan baffled by Indonesia bullet train decision Saturday, 5 Sep 2015 | 3:23 AM ETReuters; ...Indonesia's 11th-hour decision to scrap plans for the nation's first high-speed railway has sown confusion among top investors China and Japan, potentially undermining the strong foreign investment that has been a rare economic bright spot. China and Japan had been battling over the multi-billion dollar contract, until it was abruptly pulled in what appeared to be the latest in a series of regulatory flip-flops and erratic policy-making moves under President Joko Widodo. Indonesia's chief economics minister was left to explain to the two Asian giants on Friday the reason why Jakarta decided at the last-minute that the bullet train project was the wrong option for Southeast Asia's largest economy. "It looks like a sudden move because the recommendation was made after a review of both proposals," Teten Masduki, presidential chief of staff, told Reuters. "But the recommendation is in the best interest of the country."  .. Tokyo and Beijing had lobbied heavily for the $5 billion contract, each sweetening the terms of their bids up until Monday's deadline. Analysts believed that whoever had won would likely have been the front-runner for future high-speed rail projects in Asia, including one linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore....
Jokowi and 2015 Haze: Step-down on smallholder interest, Indon-Malaysia cooperation, Singapore haze clampdown


9 September 2015: Jokowi to Discuss Drought, Wildfires With Key Aides, KPK leadership to fight natural resources corruption

Jokowi to Discuss Drought, Wildfires With Key Aides  Jakarta. By : Novy Lumanauw, Arnold Sianturi & Radesman Saragih | on 02:53 AM August 31, 2015; With the end of the dry season not nearly in sight due to this year's El Nino, wildfires raging out of control and parts of the country barely coping with thick smoky haze, President Joko Widodo is looking for solutions. Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbabya was set to meet the president on Monday, along with key climate change advisers such as special presidential envoy Rachmat Witoelar and Sarwono Kusumaatmadja. "The problem of forest fires will be one topic of discussion," Teten Masduki, a spokesman for Joko, said on Monday morning. "A lot of issues will be talked about, but it's about coordination." Forest fires in Jambi and South Sumatra, meanwhile, continued to also cover parts of North Sumatra in smoke, causing problems for people in major cities such as Medan....The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) is advising people in the region to wear face masks when they need to leave the house. Activists in Jambi say palm oil entrepreneurs and the government are not doing enough to prevent the fires or to contain them....

Walhi to gather complaints on forest fires The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, September 02 2015, 4:48 PM; The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) is setting up regional posts to accommodate complaints from the public related to losses caused by forest fires. The posts will be set up at district levels in five provinces: Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Central Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. Each post will be equipped with doctors and academics that will record health, ecosystem and social losses caused by the man-made disaster.“This is a new breakthrough. Usually we sued companies that caused fires without submitting data on loss experienced by the public. This time we will include the data to sue not only the companies but also regional and central governments for letting the companies cause the fires,” said executive director of Walhi, Abetnego Tarigan, in a press conference called “Where There are Concessions, There is Smoke” at Walhi headquarters in South Jakarta on Tuesday.So far one post  as been set up in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, and it has been operating for a week.Walhi notes at least four types of losses are caused by the draining of high carbon stock peatland for agriculture use, the root reason for forest fires. They are losses to ecosystem balance, social and health, which lead to economic losses. - See more at:

Smoky Haze Forces Jambi Schools to Close By : Radesman Saragih | on 08:17 AM August 29, 2015; A study by the local conservation group KKI Warsi and the Bogor Institute for Agriculture (IPB) estimates economic losses due to the fires to be at least Rp 716 billion ($50 million) so far this year. "There's losses due to palm oil plantations burning down on peatlands, there's losses due to flight and shipping disruptions, there's air pollution causing a lot of people to suffer respiratory tract infections and there's environmental damage," said Rudy Syaf, a spokesman for KKI Warsi.

KPK leadership to fight natural resources corruption Abetnego Tarigan, Jakarta | Opinion | Wed, September 02 2015, 4:20 PM; Various civil society groups have raised the issue of corruption in the natural resources sector, with several cases occurring particularly in the oil palm and mining sectors, in which industry players are linked with regional heads of government....Through monitoring coordination and supervision, about 4,000 mining licenses in 12 provinces have been found to be questionable. The KPK has suggested annulment of such licenses, despite lackluster responses from regional administrations. According to the Indonesian Environment Forum (WALHI), only a small number of the licenses have been repealed, including those in Bangka Belitung (eight), South Sumatra (17), Jambi (184), South Sulawesi (33), Southeast Sulawesi (184), Central Sulawesi (85) and West Kalimantan (nine). The KPK has estimated state losses from corrupt licensing practices at Rp 1,000 trillion (US$71.4 billion).As part of the National Movement for the Rescue of Natural Resources, 29 ministries/institutions and 12 provincial administrations signed on Mar. 19 a memorandum of understanding regarding the eradication of corruption in the maritime, forestry and palm oil sectors. The movement was prompted by the need for cooperation between relevant sectors, ministries and institutions. The initiative has been further supported by the investigative and prevention efforts of the KPK, thus indicating the KPK’s growing role in the area of natural resources corruption eradication. - See more at:

30 August 2015: Indonesia Coordinating Economic Minister worries voluntary corporate pledges jeapordise small farmer prospects

Govt opposes zero-deforestation pledge by palm oil firms Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sat, August 29 2015, 6:21 PM; In stark contrast to Indonesia’s commitment to reduce rampant deforestation, the government has surprisingly become a vocal opponent of a “zero deforestation” pledge signed by the four biggest palm oil companies in Indonesia.The Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister said on Friday that the pledge would jeopardize the country’s palm oil industry, currently the biggest in the world, as it puts restrictions on small farmers.“Oil palm plantations are the livelihoods of many of our people. The most effective driver of economic growth is through oil palm plantations,” the office's deputy for food and agriculture coordination Musdhalifah Machmud said on Friday......

18 August 2015: Jokowi says "let's work" and letter of credit implementation

Editorial: Time to Get to Work for Real Now  By : Jakarta Globe | on 13:15 PM August 14, 2015; Joko Widodo’s inaugural state-of-the-nation address as president this Friday came just two days after he carried out what was widely seen as a much-needed reshuffle to knock his economics team into shape. We realize the president is in a bind: he came into office just as Indonesia’s economic growth started grinding down to its slowest pace in five years, and the rupiah embarked on a perilous slide (whether the latter’s continued slide is an effect of the government’s recent policies is a whole other story). He is also beholden, on one hand, to his political benefactors, and on the other, to the people who expected a cabinet of professionals, not party appointees. Joko closed his speech with a rousing chant of “Let’s work!” Inspiring? Perhaps, but it invites an uneasy question: Just what has the government been doing for the past 10 months?...

Freeport's Export Halted Due to Letter-of-Credit Predicament By : Rangga Prakoso | on 09:21 AM August 11, 2015 Riza said there is no obligation to use letters of credit under Freeport's current working contract with the government, but that the company wanted to make a point of strictly complying with all of the ministry's regulations.  The mechanism is based on a regulation that the Trade Ministry issued in 2015 on the use of letters of credit for exports of specific goods.  The regulation stipulates that exports of commodities, such as mineral, coal, oil and gas and crude palm oil must use letters of credit issued by a domestic foreign-exchange bank — lenders that are allowed by the central bank to perform international transactions.  The government wrote the regulation in an attempt to ensure exporters keep orderly foreign-exchange records.


14 August 2015: Jokowi reshuffles Cabinet in bid to boost economy

Jokowi reshuffles Cabinet in bid to boost economy Published: 4:16 AM, August 13, 2015
JAKARTA — Less than 10 months into his term, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo yesterday fired four Cabinet ministers, including crucial members of his economic team, in a much-anticipated reshuffle that reflected growing frustration with his government’s struggles to improve the country’s sluggish economy. The economy is growing at its slowest pace since 2009, with gross domestic product rising only 4.7 per cent year on year in the second quarter, while the rupiah is at its lowest level against the dollar since the late 1990s. The biggest casualty of the reshuffle was Mr Sofyan Djalil, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, who was replaced by Mr Darmin Nasution, the former governor of Bank Indonesia. Mr Sofyan has been reassigned to the post of Minister for National Development Planning. The post of Trade Minister went to Mr Thomas Lembong, a private investment fund manager, replacing Mr Rachmat Gobel, who had mired himself in controversies. Most recently, Mr Gobel’s decision to slash cattle imports led to beef prices surging, forcing the government to backtrack and increase imports. “Indonesia and the President are aware of a rising negative perception of its trade policies, and Lembong’s appointment is a corrective measure for that,” said Jakarta-based analyst Douglas Ramage. In addition, Mr Widodo appointed Mr Rizal Ramli, who served as coordinating minister for the economy more than a decade ago, as Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, a sector the President is counting on to help his economic turnaround plans....

Editorial: Realigning the economic team The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Thu, August 13 2015; The main message Jokowi conveyed through the realignment of the economic portfolios is the urgent need for strong teamwork. Only with solid teamwork will the government be able to demonstrate how the various individual policies hang together in moving toward the broad direction into which the economy is being steered. Yet more important is that both Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla must protect the economic team from intervention by vested interests. - See more at:

Jokowi inaugurates six new ministers The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Wed, August 12 2015, 3:47 PM ....

16 July 2015: Jakarta Post Editorial - "righting" a 1999 Forestry Law wrong that has resulted in complaints and large inequalities in landholdings; UOBKH Indonesia 2H2015 roadmap

Khor Reports note: Another VERY important 1999 policy change was that year's Forestry Law. Thus, it was the World Bank / IMF liberalization policy package for Indonesia that helped lay the essential groundwork for the state to promote plantation private sector investment. State Forest Areas was an important move and so was the removal of old low 15-20% ceiling for corporate farm (inti) vs smallholder (plasma). The ratio was reversed to the current 80:20 inti:plasma. No surprise that these key policy changes sparked big FDI and DDI, enhanced by the commodity-biofuels boom. Subsequently, complaints of detrimental impacts to smallholder and indigenous peoples development and large inequalities in landholdings.

Editorial: Tackling inequality, land conflict The Jakarta Post | July 13 2015 | 8:48 AM The business community should not be surprised, nor inordinately worried, about the March regulation of the Environment and Forestry Ministry regarding the reallocation of up to 30 percent of industrial forests and forest concession areas to indigenous people. Rather, business players should have anticipated the regulation after the Constitutional Court’s ruling in May 2013 that the customary forests of indigenous peoples should not be classed as State Forest Areas. The civil society organization for indigenous people’s rights (AMAN) that asked for the juidicial review of the 1999 Forestry Law quoted the government’s own statistics in 2012 that revealed that there were some 32,000 villages whose lands overlapped areas classed as State Forest Areas, as defined in the 1999 Forestry Law....Many companies now own and manage pulp and tree crop (mainly oil palm) plantations ranging in size from a few hundred thousand to one million hectares. We are afraid that if this condition is not gradually corrected, mounting problems of inequality of income, wealth and land conflicts could threaten the long-term sustainability of the plantation industry, even the macroeconomic stability. We believe that harmonious and mutually-beneficial cooperation between big plantations and smallholders is the most effective way of expanding tree-crop plantations such as oil palm and rubber without widening inequality in landholding....

Editorial: Tackling inequality, land conflict | The Jakarta Post

UOBKH STRATEGY - INDONESIA Road Map 2H15 Feedback; RECOVERY IN 2016 ON THE BACK OF GOVERNMENT STIMULUS - Mixed feedback. Our conversations with local and regional fund managers regarding our upgrade on Indonesia received mixed feedback. Some fund managers view that in 2H15, the performances of corporate earnings and the JCI could be better as government spending picks up. Some are skeptical on the execution and currency risk involved in the infrastructure roll-out....
 Large government stimulus translates to earnings growth. Analysing corporate earnings and stock market performance post various stimulus measures in China,Japan, the US and the EU, we found corporate earnings were likely to grow post the stimulus and the respective stock markets should appreciate if the stimulus is larger than 2% of GDP.
     Signs of life in construction. Channel checks with construction companies revealed 53% yoy higher bookings ytd. The latest month suggested a very large pick-up. If this is sustained (especially if the bookings are public-sector projects, we should be positive on the construction sector .....
 Ramping up spending at the Ministry of Transportation. Channel checks with the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) revealed that Minister Ignasius Jonan has pushed for spending from MOT’s Rp60t 2015 budget to be realised at the rate of 15% of budget per month starting 2H15. Despite the slow roll-out due to planning, the MOT revealed that the first route of the sea toll project has started with short sea shipping from Lampung to Surabaya via a regular Roro ferry.....

2 July 2015: Indonesia’s Military Resurgence , shift away from US dollar transaction, Jokowi's feud with Megawati

Indonesia’s Military Resurgence Posted on June 17, 2015By Warren Doull; Jokowi gambles on trading democracy for stability In recent months, Indonesia’s embattled President Joko Widowo has overseen a remarkable resurgence of military power over Indonesian society. Beginning in 1999, the military had been eased out of the dual role of dwifungsi – safeguarding the country against both external and internal threat – but the military now to some extent is resuming it. It has agreements in place to distribute fertilizer to farmers, guard prisons, and assist the national anti-narcotics agency. Talks are underway to also give it a role assisting the Corruption Eradication Commission and the ministries of transportation and fisheries.  “I want the military to be involved more in humanitarian missions in the future,” the Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said earlier this month. The military even seems to be turning against civil society, conducting a nationwide campaign to tell Indonesia’s youth that Indonesian NGOs and civil society organisations could be vehicles for foreign interests.... Earlier this month, Jokowi even stood by while the corrupt national police asserted their right to ‘help’ select new commissioners for the Corruption Eradication Commission. These concessions have allowed his relationship with PDIP and senior police to remain on manageable terms. In November 2014, Jokowi approved military plans to build two new army commands: one in Papua and the other in Sulawesi.  His concessions to the military are an attempt to befriend an institution that has played a role in the early departures of two previous civilian presidents: Habibie in 1999 and Wahid in 2001. These concessions are also an attempt to empower the military as a counterbalance to the increasingly arrogant police force.....While safeguarding himself against political maneuvers by the military, police force and PDIP, Jokowi has begun to take on other groups. In November 2014, he took on the illegal logging industry, maintaining a six-month moratorium on the issuance of all forest-exploitation permits that began under the previous government. In May, he renewed the moratorium. Also in May, he took steps against Indonesia’s powerful oil mafia via a newly-established anti-energy mafia committee that has succeeded in disbanding three corrupt government institutions: Pertamina Energy Trading Limited (PETRAL) and two of its subsidiaries. ... For reasons either of domestic politics or real conviction, Jokowi has identified new foreign adversaries. He has ordered the burning of encroaching fishing vessels and executed foreign drug smugglers. A decision to ban transactions and invoicing in US dollars is scheduled to come into effect on July 1, expected to cause chaos in the business community. Jokowi has also taken on opposition parties, who said his health cards and smart cards to expand social welfare were insufficiently explained and unclearly financed.....Environmental groups have expressed doubts about Jokowi’s ability to protect forests. Earlier this year, they noted that while rates of illegal logging have declined steadily in recent years, the legalized conversion of forests to plantations for palm oil has gone through the roof. Environmental activists aren’t feeling very safe either, since one was murdered in March 2015 in Jambi province and another in May 2015....

Jokowi’s Feud With Mega Colors Indonesian Politics - The Corruption Eradication Commission is caught in the middle of it by Asia Sentinel Posted on June 22, 2015; Relations between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Megawati Sukarnoputri, the woman who was instrumental in putting him in power, are continuing to deteriorate, with Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) pushing a bill to diminish the clout of the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission and Jokowi saying he has no plans to revise the law governing the commission. Jokowi, the popular former governor of Jakarta and a longtime member of the PDI-P, rode the party’s machinery to victory in the 2014 presidential election over Prabowo Subianto, his opponent.  Today, however, he has little apparent support in the party, few allies in the country’s national institutions and will only need voter support if he runs for reelection in 2019.  The rift with Megawati has been growing for months...In April, at the PDI-P’s party enclave in Bali, Megawati delivered a speech with Jokowi sitting in the audience that in effect told the President  he was a product of the party and that his job was to remain in its service. Indonesia’s system of democracy, she said “regulates that the president and vice president naturally enforce a political party’s policy line,” she said.   She said she had faced “many betrayals,” adding that “multiple times I was stabbed in the back” because of “political ambitions for power.”  It was a humiliating moment. Jokowi was not invited to speak at the congress. She is also said to be angry because the PDI-P was given only four positions in the 34-member cabinet last October – no more than any of the other parties in Jokowi’s coalition....

Jokowi and the mysticism of Indonesian politics - In Javanese belief, Jokowi is seen by many as the messianic Ratu Adil (Just King). Photo: Reuters By Johannes Nugroho Published: 4:16 AM, June 23, 2015; Indonesia, ardent supporters of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo are having a difficult time acknowledging his blunders. He was, after all, seen by many as the messianic Ratu Adil (Just King), prophesied to usher in a golden age for the country. When the President, better known as Jokowi, nominated police general Budi Gunawan as the sole candidate for the position of chief of National Police, there was a general outcry of disbelief. Given his publicly declared commitment against corruption, the decision came as a surprise, especially as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had told Mr Widodo the general was under investigation for graft. Criticised for bowing to the pressure from his political patron Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the President proved himself willing to compromise his stance on corruption....

27 June 2015: Indonesia May Replace Economics Team, VP Kalla says

Indonesia May Replace Economics Team, Vice President Says - Jusuf Kalla says speeding up spending on stalled infrastructure projects is priority By Ben Otto And Anita Rachman  June 26, 2015 8:41 a.m. ET; JAKARTA, Indonesia—A cabinet shake-up is coming and could bolster the Indonesian government’s economics team as it struggles to reverse a downturn in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Friday. “We’ll change [to create] a better team” after evaluating all ministers, Mr. Kalla said in an interview.  Pressure has been building on President Joko Widodo to shake up his cabinet as his programs to...

26 June update note: Traders point out that new Indonesia levies applies to corporates and NOT smallholders

25 June 2015: Indonesia palm oil - levies for prices below $750 and export taxes if prices exceed $750; Gapki seeks CPO Fund support for replanting efforts as well as biodiesel subsidies and other industry development efforts; acknowledges short-term costs of levies but expects positive effects in one year; Jokowi administration prepares areas for sugar, cattle investors in Eastern Indonesia, but NGOs vow action

 Port infrastructure, replanting issues challenge govt’s CPO push Grace D. Amianti, The Jakarta Post | Business | Wed, June 24 2015; Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer, still needs to improve its port infrastructure and boost replanting to increase competitiveness amidst a government push on the major industry, a business group says. The two issues are expected to be addressed by the government’s recent establishment of the crude palm oil supporting fund (CPO Fund), which will collect levies from CPO exporters to be channeled into the development of the industry, as well as biodiesel subsidies, according to the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki). The business group, acknowledging that the levy will create additional short-term costs, welcomed the government’s funding initiative, as it is expected to develop and improve competitiveness of the industry in the international market.“Infrastructure problems, including industrial cluster ports, have been one of our main concerns regarding our palm oil competitiveness,” Gapki chairman Joko Supriyono said after discussing a road map of the country’s palm oil industry with the Industry Ministry.“We expect that the levy will create positive effects in one year, but on top of that, we also hope that the fund will support replanting efforts, which are currently urgent,” he added.....The levies imposed on palm oil exporters will consist of a US$30 per ton charge on processed palm oil and $50 per ton on crude palm oil, if prices fall below $750 per ton, according to a Finance Ministry regulation.If prices exceed $750 per ton, palm oil producers will continue to pay export taxes of between 7.5 and 22.5 percent, as required by existing regulations. Currently, CPO trades above $670 per ton and its benchmark price fell nearly 15 percent last year. - See more at:

Govt prepares areas for sugar, cattle investors; Grace D. Amianti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Business | Thu, June 18 2015, 9:01 AM;  The government has prepared three areas in eastern Indonesia for new cattle farms and sugarcane plantations, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman said in Jakarta on Wednesday. Speaking after a meeting with the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Franky Sibarani, Amran said the government had prepared three regions — Southeast Sulawesi, Merauke in Papua and the Aru Islands in Maluku — as the main sites for at least 10 sugar factories and sugarcane plantations for new investors. Amran said his ministry and the investment board would work together to continue removing barriers so that interested investors would be able to realize their investment plans in these two important sectors. He said as many as 26 foreign investors had expressed an interest in developing sugar refineries and sugarcane plantations, while nine others wanted to enter the cattle business. The 26 investors who expressed a keen interest in entering the country’s sugar industry consisted of 11 refined sugar producers and 15 sugarcane plantation companies, Franky said.
“There are also around two to three Japanese investors who are interested in investing in the sugar industry. However, most of the time, in the sugar sector, foreign direct investors choose to first collaborate with their local partners in joint-venture companies,” Franky said. According to his ministry’s calculations, Amran said, a sugar refinery with a capacity to process 10,000 tons of sugarcane per day would cost about Rp 5 trillion (US$374.4 million) to build. The Agriculture Ministry has also run the plan by the Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, who agreed that the land in the three regions would be able to support the industry, Amran added. “We are planning to allocate 500,000 hectares of land in the three regions, calculating that one mill with a plantation will need at least 50,000 ha of land,” Amran said. Aside from the sugar industry, Amran said at least nine foreign and domestic investors also showed an interest in investing in Indonesia’s cattle sector, which would be located in regions such as East and West Nusa Tenggara, Buru Island in Maluku and East Kalimantan. - See more at:

Palm oil isn’t the only junk food ingredient threatening Indonesia’s forests by Margaret Badore (@mbadore) Science / Climate Change June 23, 2015  Much attention has been paid to the role of palm oil the loss of Indonesian forests, but plans for expanded sugarcane plantations are more bad news. Indonesia is among the countries with the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Between 2000 and 2012, over 6 million hectares of primary forests were cut down, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. Demand for timber and wood pulp is a factor in forest loss, as is conversion of forest to produce agricultural products. Deforestation is a serious threat to the local communities who depend on the forests for their traditional livelihoods. The result is not only a loss of local biodiversity and cultural heritage, but also a large contribution to global warming as the rich carbon sink embodied by natural forests is lost. For many consumers in the U.S. and Europe, palm oil is the commodity of concern, as it's found in everything from cookies to ice cream to shampoo. Forest is regularly cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, which is largely grown for an export market. But last week, the Indonesian government announced that it’s setting aside 500,000 hectares for a different crop: sugarcane. According to The Jakarta Post, 26 foreign investors have expressed interest in sugarcane plantations and refineries, which are planned for three different regions of Indonesia, including the Aru Islands. The announcement goes against earlier government statements, in which the Minister of Forestry announced that sugarcane permits would be cancelled in the Aru Islands, due to unsuitable land conditions. Environmental advocates and indigenous groups have criticized the announcement and vowed to fight it, according to Forest Watch Indonesia, an independent monitoring network....

21 June 2015: Rising unemployment worry for Jokowi - youth unemployment already over 20% in 2013, slow spending on infrastructure and shortage of skilled labour, purchasing power - consumption takes a hit

Rising unemployment piles up problems for Indonesian president - Reuters By Eveline Danubrata and Cindy Silviana 8 hours ago; JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian companies are shedding jobs as they grapple with the weakest economic growth in six years, adding to the troubles facing President Joko Widodo, who was elected last year on pledges to dig the country out of a rut. Government data might suggest no cause for alarm - unemployment was 5.81 percent in February, up only slightly from 5.70 percent a year earlier - but the official numbers are notoriously unreliable and don't adequately cover the informal sector, which is two-thirds of Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
Recent reports of heavy lay-offs across the country paint a bleaker picture, and business executives, recruitment firms and jobseekers say it is getting worse....... Young people are being hit hardest; the International Labour Organization estimated the youth jobless rate was more than 20 percent in 2013, and economists believe it is higher now. About a third of the workforce is aged 15 to 29, a youth bulge that could bring Indonesia, a country of 250 million people, the sort of demographic dividend China and South Korea enjoyed a generation ago - but only if there are jobs for the 2 million people joining the workforce every year. "The government doesn't have a blueprint for labor absorption," said property businessman Hariyadi Sukamdani, chairman of the Indonesian employers' association. ........When he took office eight months ago, Widodo said he would pour billions of dollars into infrastructure and foster growth in manufacturing. But the promised splurge on roads, power plants and ports has not materialized, largely because of bureaucratic hold-ups and land disputes, and a shortage of skilled labor is holding back growth in value-added industries. Miners have been hammered by a double whammy: a ban on mineral ore exports and a sharp drop in commodity prices.
Meanwhile, labor-intensive industries such as textiles and manufacturing have been hit by the rupiah's slide to a 17-year-low, which has raised the cost of imported raw materials ........Unemployment in turn is hitting consumption, which makes up more than half of Indonesia's economy. Automobile sales in May fell 18.4 percent from a year earlier, the ninth decline in a row. "Stocks are piling up because nobody is buying. The people's purchasing power is weak," said Ade Sudrajat, head of Indonesia's textile association. "This has never happened before in the last 45 years.".....At job fairs in Jakarta the gloom is palpable...

16 June 2015: Jokowi's key Econ Coordinating Minister presides over FGV-Eagle High strategic partnership announcement and BLU (new agency) for $30-50/tonne levy targeted at oil palm farmers - growers to support biodiesel segment (and hoping to boost palm oil prices in longer term).

16 June 2015: FGV - Eagle High deal - The Edge reports 23% down payment prior to S&P agreement and Peter Sondakh / Rajawali cash raising and strategic deal witnessed by Sofyan Djalil (Econ Coordinating Minister) and Malayisa MITI's Mustapa Mohamed - Jakarta Globe

Rajawali Piles Up Cash, Gets Ready for More Acquisitions By Vanesha Manuturi on 05:08 pm Jun 14, 2015.... The venture would mark Rajawali’s second sale this year as the group works to focus on its other core businesses: property and mining.... Peter (Sondakh) built his reputation by buying then selling companies with a hefty profit in the past decade. The conglomerate’s most lucrative deals include the sale of Bentoel International Investama for $494 million in 2009 to British American Tobacco. In 2010, Rajawali sold $1 billion worth of shares in Semen Gresik, which it bought from Mexican cement maker Cemex for $337 million in 2006.....The business conglomerate — whose businesses range from palm oil, property to mining — signed an agreement with executives from Felda Global Venture on Friday, witnessed by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economy Sofyan Djalil and Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed.
The acquisition deal is expected to be completed by August
, according to Darjoto. “This strategic partnership is a great collaborative example that is beneficial to both Indonesia and Malaysia,” Darjoto told reporters after the signing event in Jakarta on Friday.

More here:

15 and 10 June: Indonesia delays start date for palm export levy to July 1 - Reuters; new Indonesia agency (BLU) under Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister to be completed for near term start of $20-50 levy; more here:

8 June 2015:  Indonesia Is Using Drones to Catch Tax Cheats 

Indonesia Is Using Drones to Catch Tax Cheats  by Chris Brummittand Herdaru Purnomo June 3, 2015 — 11:00 PM BSTUpdated on June 4, 2015 — 5:04 AM BST  The tax drone cometh. Above the vast forests of oil-palm and rubber trees in Sumatra and the scattered tin mines on islands to its east, the Indonesian government is flying unmanned aircraft to catch cheats who under report the size of their plantations or the extent of their mineral extraction. “Mines and plantations make good profits just taking stuff from nature,” said Samon Jaya, head of the tax office in South Sumatra and Bangka-Belitung islands. “But they don’t pay enough tax. This has to stop.” For Indonesia’s cash-strapped government, policing revenue across a chain of 17,000 islands that would stretch from New York to Alaska is no easy task. Remote areas on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where most of the palm oil trees are grown, are difficult to access and the government can’t afford a dedicated satellite or helicopters. Out of a population of 250 million, only about 900,000 Indonesians submitted a tax return last year, and the country’s tax-to-gross domestic product ratio of about 11 percent is below the Asia-Pacific region’s average. Jaya says the mines and plantations in his jurisdiction only pay about 30 percent of the tax they should. The industries, along with the rest of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, account for about a quarter of the nation’s nominal GDP. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo wants to plug such leaks to help fund a more-than $400 billion infrastructure program. Since he took office in October, Jokowi has offered to exempt citizens from penalties if they settle unpaid taxes. He’s also raised pay for collectors.

28 May 2015: Jokowi wants to lift GDP to 7 percent within five years, in part by cutting logistics costs that account for almost a quarter of the $811 billion economy - $6 billion port revamp - Bloomberg

Sinking Indonesia Docks,  Idle Ships Spur $6 Billion Port Revamp - President Joko Widodo wants to cut logistics costs to drive domestic trade and increase exports  'By'Neil Chatterjee, Fathiya Dahruland Chris Brummitt  May 27, 2015; Jokowi, who turns 54 on June 21, plans to link industrial centers in Jakarta to a new port in the capital by building a road and raising canal bridges to accommodate barges. In January, the government broke ground on a new deep-sea port in Medan on Sumatra. Jokowi wants to start constructing four more ports in October and expects to have finished an offshore project begun earlier at Kalibaru in Jakarta by then. It’s all part of his commitment to drive domestic trade and increase exports of everything from palm oil to cars. “When we have good infrastructure, there’s connectivity from city to city, from province to province, from island to island,” Jokowi said in a February interview with Bloomberg in his office, where he displays a bust of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. “There is connectivity to ensure that our economy will grow fast.” Jokowi has reason to act quickly. Gross domestic product in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy grew 4.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, the weakest since the financial crisis. He wants to lift that to 7 percent within five years, in part by cutting logistics costs that account for almost a quarter of the $811 billion economy........

1 May 2015: Trans Sumatra Toll Road (JTTS), the Bakauheni quay and double track railway will support the distribution of logistics for both the agriculture and plantation sectors in all provinces across Sumatra

Trans Sumatra toll road will support logistics: Jokowi Oyos Saroso HN, The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung | Business | Thu, April 30 2015, 7:51 PM; President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has said the Trans Sumatra Toll Road (JTTS), the Bakauheni quay and double track railway will support the distribution of logistics for both the agriculture and plantation sectors in all provinces across Sumatra island when the facilities are complete.“Industrial areas around the toll road will develop more significantly. This will support Indonesia’s economic growth,” he said on Thursday.The president was speaking at an event to mark the groundbreaking of the Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar toll road construction project in Sabahbalau village, Tanjungbintang district, South Lampung.The Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar toll road is part of the 2,818-kilometer JTTS project. (ebf) - See more at:

28 April 2015: Indonesia’s Joko Loses the Economic Plot  - Asia Sentinel

Indonesia’s Joko Loses the Economic Plot Posted on April 22, 2015; ....President Joko Widodo said Indonesia is “an incredible place to invest” and invited the participants “to join our incredible people on an incredible journey and make incredible profits.” But mounting protectionist policies have ruled Indonesian economic policy for the past several years and they are not going away. Investors complain that it is getting harder not easier to invest in “incredible” Indonesia....... From moves to force banks and other companies to place their data centers onshore to making dollar transactions illegal and even banning the sale of beer in mini markets, a number of often capricious and confusing policies have foreign investors and others wondering if Indonesia wants to withdraw from the world......“I heard a presidential advisor in a top-level meeting say globalization has been bad for Indonesia,” said one businessman with good political connections. “This is being taken seriously.”
The recent decision to ban dollar transactions and invoicing by July 1 is an example. Seemingly designed to shore up the weakening rupiah, trading at lows not seen since 1998, it threatens long-standing contracts, insurance policies and investment tenders. It has businesses scrambling to understand what to do now.  The rupiah is the worst-performing currency in Asia this year, and foreign exchange reserves dropped by almost $4 billion in March as the central bank stepped in to support the rupiah....... Eko Yulianto, acting director of money management at Bank Indonesia, told Reuters that with the new regulation, the bank aims to reduce current demand of at least $6 billion each month for domestic transactions. “We don’t want a dollarized economy so we need to uphold the sovereignty of the rupiah,” Eko told reporters at a briefing...........Other companies worry about a staggering 40 percent target to increase tax collections for 2015 over the previous year. The drive has resulted not in an increase in the small number of Indonesians who actually pay taxes but still more actions against companies who suddenly find routine logistic deductions and other charges denied. In the first quarter, tax collection did not even reach levels from a year earlier........

22 April 2015: Papua food estate project to be revived, Norway PM  - Jokowi stressed environmental commitment, REDD+ program and moratorium extended, recognizes "cultural change" needed to curb deforestation

Govt to revive food estate project in Papua Linda Yulisman, The Jakarta Post | Business | Thu, April 16 2015, 8:03 AM; With its high food self-sufficiency target, the government is considering reviving the stalled “food estate” program of the prior administration by involving private and state-owned companies.The extensive commercial farming will focus on rice, corn and soybean — all are food crops laid out in the self-sufficiency goal, according to State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno. “We will synergize the whole processes from seeding to fertilizing,” she said.State-owned enterprises, such as fertilizer producer PT Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company, seedling company PT Sang Hyang Sri and agribusiness firm PT Pertani, will take the lead in the projects, Rini said.Designed in the early days of Yudhoyono’s administration in 2009, the project was meant to integrate farming and food-based energy generation to replicate the success story of Brazil’s large-scale agricultural projects.... By last year progress had stagnated in the completion of an environmental analysis (Amdel) and in provincial spatial planning, Agriculture Ministry’s director general for agriculture infrastructure and facilities Gatot Irianto told The Jakarta Post.“The stocktaking of customary land is a difficult thing and this must be endorsed further,” he said, adding that he viewed the need to make the planned food estate a special economic zone to enjoy special treatment to enable implementation. Despite the snail-paced progress in the past, Minister Ferry said the planned project could, nevertheless, begin as soon as the second half of this year..... With the strategic location of Merauke near the sea, it will be easy to transport the output to other areas once seaports are established, according to Ferry.Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chief Franky Sibarani said the broader Indonesian food sector might receive investments this year, notably from foreign companies.“We’ve heard about interest by American and Japanese firms to invest in growing corn and cassava,” he said.....

Norway PM: Jokowi Stressed Environmental Commitment By Randy Fabi on 06:22 pm Apr 15, 2015; President Joko Widodo welcoming Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the State Palace on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Yudhi Mahatma); Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has assured Norway, which has pledged up to $1 billion in aid to help preserve Indonesia’s forests, that he is as committed to the environment as his predecessor, the Norwegian prime minister told Reuters. Soon after coming into office in October, Joko dissolved the independent National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Agency, merging it with the Environment and Forestry Ministry. That raised concern among green activists that Indonesia might be rolling back on its climate deal with Norway, signed in 2010 by then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“We also have been a bit anxious about whether the new government would continue at the same pace as the old government. I think they are back on track,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in an interview late on Tuesday after meeting with Joko in Jakarta. Indonesia imposed a temporary moratorium on clearing forests as part of the deal with Norway. A government official said earlier this month the Joko administration would extend the ban. Under the deal, Indonesia will receive payments based on the amount of reduced deforestation. But environmental groups say forest clearing has accelerated due to an expansion in mining and palm oil plantations. “We have become more realistic on how fast you can achieve results,” said Solberg, adding that Indonesia needed “cultural change” to successfully curb deforestation.....

18 April 2015: The race for a slice of China’s manufacturing is part of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s effort to reduce the country’s dependence on exports of minerals and palm oil

Is Indonesia the world’s next China? Published: 4:16 AM, April 11, 2015; Indonesia is looking to recreate the success of Shenzhen, the marshy village in southern China that became the heart of that nation’s industrial expansion in the late 1990s. Now China is too expensive for many factories, and industries that poured money into cities from Shenzhen to Shanghai for two decades are looking for somewhere with lower costs and lots of cheap workers.... “The great China boom was really bad for the South-east Asia economies,” said Mr Tim Condon, the Singapore-based head of Asia research at ING Groep. “With the China slowdown, all that moves in reverse. South-east Asia’s manufacturing sector is the big winner, as it was in the early ’90s.”..... That’s created a beauty contest among low-income nations looking to lure investment, including Vietnam with its high-technology parks and the Philippines with its young population and English-language skills. Indonesia’s trump cards are the region’s biggest economy and some of its lowest wages...... Workers in Central Java, the province of 30 million people where Mr Saefullah is fishing, earn as little as 50 cents an hour — less than US$100 (S$136) a month. In the industrial area around Jakarta, they get almost twice that. In Vietnam the minimum monthly wage is US$146, while it’s about US$200 in the Philippines and US$240 in Malaysia...... The race for a slice of China’s manufacturing is part of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s effort to reduce the country’s dependence on exports of minerals and palm oil........

12 Mar 2015: Kalla says Indonesian business in forestry now looked on more as public enemies, profiteering form national assets, and people now fight discharge of industrial waste and changing expectations should be reflected in new laws - on forestry, the Jokowi administration seen as taking charge and doing things differently

Tackling haze: Look beyond words to action taken By Simon Tay and Cheong Poh Kwan  Published: 4:13 AM, March 11, 2015; The recurring haze from fires in Indonesia has returned, visibly and early, even if not as thickly as in past years. The politics around the issue may also heat up following a recent comment by Indonesia’s Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.... The respected political veteran last week chided Malaysia and Singapore for overreacting about the haze, largely a by-product of peat fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan. “For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us,” he was quoted as saying in Indonesian media. “They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset.” His remarks triggered a predictable torrent of criticism on social media and satire websites.... Mr Kalla’s words should be understood in context. The Vice-President was speaking at a ceremony to launch a national programme for judicial reform in natural resources and environmental management last Tuesday.... While he made that comment most likely in response to a question from the press, his key point was on the need to adapt the country’s laws to changing times and public perception, reported Indonesian media such as Kompas and Metro TV....
The Vice-President recalled how Indonesian businessmen were once looked at with pride for being good at exporting the country’s forestry products, but are now often seen as public enemies, profiteering from national assets. Similarly, while people used to see black smoke rising from factory chimneys as signs of progress, they now fight to stop the discharge of such health-threatening industrial waste. Such changing expectations should be reflected in new laws, he said.... The increased attention on this issue is also signalled by Mr Widodo and supported by his Cabinet. The President, a forestry graduate, personally made a high-profile visit to a haze-prone zone in Riau late last year. This followed a petition filed by an ordinary citizen against one of the more controversial concessions in the region. ... Notably, the President’s Cabinet has fused the ministries of Environment and Forestry to seek to balance and align their interests for a more sustainable industry. The new minister, Dr Siti Nurbaya, has won praise for her frequent consultations with non-governmental organisations as well as business groups.  She has also launched a standard geospatial map for use across all ministries to increase coordination in the administration of Indonesia’s forested areas. For Riau, a new forest and land fire mitigation and prevention action plan has also been launched under her watch. Her ministry is also closely monitoring lawsuits brought against forest-burning suspects over the past two years. When a state court recently dismissed charges against a firm in Riau’s Meranti Islands regency, the minister personally challenged the verdict. ... For many long-time observers of the forestry industry, this goes beyond business as usual. The new administration has shown that it is taking charge and is prepared to do things differently.....

28 Feb 2015: Jokowi agenda on rice sector development to see TNI-Babinsa's 50,000 force deployed as quasi-agricultural extension officers but it could mean a lot more

A very fascinating move. Sounds like it could immediately help strengthen Jokowi's position in Indonesia's high politics? Close observers have been noting his recent political shifts as seeking more independence of his party sponsors. He clearly a lack of a party political machinery of his own. Would Jokowi have a strong sway over the TNI-Babinsa's 50,000 force? I recall some consider Indonesia military-linked enterprises to be among the biggest business groups in the country. The new presence in agriculture of the TNI-Babinsa's 50,000 personnel as an agricultural extension force will be something to keep in view. It could be a new player who will directly / indirectly affect rural power relations in various geographic and crop sectors, with a key target on rice. It is notable that nearby Malaysia's rural political history clearly attests to the importance of rural development administration agencies, political and/or state-linked NGOs in electoral politics*. Thus, we need to look at the current state of Indonesia's rural politico-administrative organisations and NGOs and how TNI-Babinsa will be positioned and funded. How will a stronger military-SOE (state owned enterprise) and rural administration role eventually even touch on other key rural interest group including palm oil smallholders? This sector's farmers are likely relatively more well-off than the average rice farmers, but may still be keen on extension services to improve yields, and may need assists in certification to ensure international market access (which is being challenged via regressive - higher cost to small farmers - de facto international sustainability trade voluntary deals).
Note: *"The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes" by Khor Yu Leng "During the run-up to GE13, key PAS personnel and the UMNO Information Chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan have estimated (without disclosing their estimation methods) the FELDA voter support for UMNO at 70%–90%, while UMNO hypothesises that most PAS supporters emerged when PAS was a member of BN (New Straits Times, 2010). The activity and strength of UMNO linked non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the social sphere among FELDA areas has been cited as a reason for PAS's inability to increase its voter base (New Straits Times, 2010): If PAS has Anak to help champion its cause, UMNO has several non-governmental organisations, such as Gabungan Wawasan Generasi FELDA (GWGF) and Majlis Belia FELDA Malaysia (MBFM), on its side. MBFM has been very active in all 54 parliamentary constituencies covering FELDA settlements since the last general election. It boasts of about 100,000 members and organises mostly social and sports programs..."

Jokowi’s Food Sovereignty Narrative: Military in the Rice Land? By Jonatan A. Lassa and Adhi Priamarizki RSIS Commentary No. 040/2015 dated 27 February 2015; THE INDONESIAN government is moving quickly to create a big impact in the agricultural and food sectors. Framed within a strong food sovereignty narrative, President JokoWidodo is now imposing two big agendas for the rice sector’s development. The first is to boost rice production to achieve 100 per cent self-sufficiency. The second is to graduate from 100 per cent rice self-sufficiency to be a rice exporting nation in the near future...... To achieve these targets, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) recently planned to re-utilise the military’s (TNI) civic mission (TNI Manunggal Masuk Desa) through the Village Supervisory Non-Commissioned Officers (Babinsa) as quasi-agricultural extension officers. Amran Sulaiman, the minister argued that “50,000 Babinsa across the country would be a big help to cover the deficit of 20,000 agricultural extension officers (AEOs)”. In the past, this was largely inspired by security concerns (such as controlling communism and farmers’ movement)..... Jokowi’s food sovereignty concept has its origin in the global farmers’ movement which allowed farmers to have greater autonomy and control over their own affairs based on their own decisions. In fact, food sovereignty is a rather ‘leftist paradigm’. The military’s recent interest in backing up Jokowi’s agenda could be justified by their interest in controlling the implication of food sovereignty on the farmers’ movement.... One can therefore question why and how the government’s involvement of the military in boosting agricultural production as a temporary solution to quicken the achievement of rice production targets amid the lack of AEOs. Some concerns remain as this policy may have long term implications. Firstly, one may question the urgency, effectiveness and value added of the military involvement in entering the rice field.... Secondly, the military presence may affect civil society’s role in agriculture because their involvement may discourage the genuine participation of farmers. Even though agriculture work can be classified under military operations other than war, the government should be able to explain the urgency of the military’s involvement in the food sector. This can be counter-productive for food production. A decline in public trust in Jokowi’s administration can dramatically accelerate.....

24 Feb 2015: Jokowi political and police-KPK tussles? Jokowi tax amnesty offer and commodity export LC requirement to shift money flows and expand Indonesia capital market; Singapore observation; firm stance on drug executions
Just over a week ago, we managed to catch up with one of our contacts who's a Southeast Asia business development specialist and very familiar with the Indonesia political-economy. Interesting feedback on the Jokowi attempted political shifts vis-à-vis his sponsor party; and also the talk on his relative political and advisor isolation given that he is an outsider, with no grassroots party of his own. There is also news on possible police-KPK tussles.
On the news front, more interesting policy commentary on shifting regional trade bookings and money flows. The April policy on LCs for key commodity exports hopes to clamp down on transfer pricing and bookings in tax-friendly trading centers. The new policy (reported early Feb) to help bring more money back to Indonesia is a tax amnesty. The question is how Indonesia businessmen and businesses respond to these policies (even if partially) and how it will inject more activity into Indonesia's banking sector and domestic investments. Policy moves to develop Indonesia's own capital markets, investment and value-add are to be expected. A shift of money from Singapore could be significant - back in the early 2000s when I was doing market sizing work in the private banking / wealth management sector there, it was frequently said that perhaps half the money was from Indonesia. The LC and tax amnesty issues are relevant for many in the Indonesia palm oil sector.
Over the last few weeks, at visits in Singapore, the gloom among staffers we met in the financial sector was palpable. Worries of business volumes and also the chatter about the many firings going on - from an international bank closing its Asia equity business, to a Malaysian investment bank with a big expenditure cutting plan and more. This seems to link up with the commentary below (see investor newsletter The New World) on slowing Singapore growth and the relative outperformance of the markets in its client-neighbours. Singapore has also been boosting its gaming and property sectors ever since the launch of its two casinos. We happened to speak to an analyst who covers the gaming sector - he noted that the Macau and Singapore gaming stories may be over with the China anti-corruption clampdowns. Over the Lunar New Year long weekend, a friend who has been based in Beijing for many years reported that while we may read of big political names being caught, the international audience may be missing the news on the many corporate players including retired managers being caught. China's anti-corruption drive is serious. Meanwhile in Singapore, we also hear from investors in the high-end sector there that prices and rentals may have fallen some 40% off the peak. It may seem a bit odd for this blog to dwell a bit on Singapore issues, but a lot of the regional commodity folk spend some time there.
News and commentary links:
Indonesia’s new tax law is bad news for Singapore From Lars Henriksson, in Bangkok, The New World newsletter; 23 February, 2015; Indonesian president Joko Widodo isn’t going to be very popular in Singapore right now....  He’s recently announced plans to introduce a tax amnesty for Indonesians in a bid to lure investors and companies back to the country. The nuts and bolts of it is that money kept in Singapore and other offshore countries could be repatriated to Indonesia without paying tax on it. It’s part of President Widodo’s plan to increase Indonesia’s GDP from about 5% to 7%. To make that a reality, a lot of capital is needed to build ports, railways and industrial estates and this tax amnesty plan is just one of several ways Widodo is planning to raise funds...  It’s great news for Indonesia but bad for Singapore....Its success came from its popularity as a trading hub. Natural resources were either shipped or traded through Singapore to buyers elsewhere. Singaporean entrepreneurs were able to profit from this and Singapore established itself as the middleman of Southeast Asia.... For decades, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have lagged Singapore in trading and services, But I think the gap is narrowing, making it tougher for Singapore to continue its economic growth model.... Official statistics bear out this view....  Since 1976, Singapore has registered an average GDP growth of 6.9%. In the 4Q14, GDP dropped to a pedestrian 2.1% (2.9% for whole 2014).... The Ministry of Trade and Industry forecasts 2%-4% GDP growth in 2015. Even if they are proven right (too bullish in my view) it would mean that Singapore is still slowing down massively.... Meanwhile, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have generated positive returns since November 2010 but they have also outperformed Singapore....

Jokowi plans tax amnesty to lure cash back - Money repatriated to Indonesia will not be taxed, companies will get tax break; 7 Feb 5:50 AM

Tax reform under Jokowi’s platform Adri AL Poesoro, Jakarta | Opinion | Mon, July 21 2014, 10:17 AM - See more at:
New police detectives may hamper KPK investigations Haeril Halim and Margareth S. Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Mon, February 23 2015, 5:58 AM; Doubts have mounted over the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) future commitment to pursuing high-profile cases following a plan to assign new police investigators to assist the antigraft body at the request of its new leadership.Antigraft campaigners have voiced pessimism over the future of high-profile graft probes under the leadership of acting chairman Taufiqurrahman Ruki and acting deputy chairman Indriyanto Seno Adji because of perceived potential conflicts of interest in a number of cases being investigated by the KPK....
Other news

Indonesia says executions won't be delayed despite mercy pleas By Kanupriya Kapoor Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:55am EST; Feb 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia's president said on Tuesday the planned execution of 11 convicts on death row, most on drugs charges, would not be delayed, warning foreign countries not to intervene in his government's right to use capital punishment.... President Joko Widodo has denied clemency to the convicts despite repeated pleas from Australia, Brazil and France, who have citizens due to be executed by firing squad.... "The first thing I need to say firmly is that there shouldn't be any intervention towards the death penalty because it is our sovereign right to exercise our law," Widodo told reporters.... "We plan to appeal today's court decision. We have two weeks to file an appeal," said Todung Mulya Lubis, a lawyer for the two men... "If the law is respected, the execution should be postponed until the legal process is over."... Australia has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save the lives of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, two members of the so-called Bali Nine group of Australians, convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.... Shortly before Widodo spoke, a court in Jakarta threw out an appeal by the two Australians against Widodo's rejection of their request for presidential clemency....

14 February 2015: Jokowi wants to soon stop the sending of domestic migrant workers to other countries; he felt "ashamed when discussing the matter in [recent] bilateral talks with Malaysia... We must have pride and dignity"

Jokowi to halt the sending of domestic workers abroad The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Sat, February 14 2015, 12:36 PM; President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo wants to soon stop the sending of domestic migrant workers to other countries, arguing that doing menial chores abroad undermines Indonesian pride and dignity. Jokowi told the Antara news agency on Friday in Surakarta, Central Java, that he felt "ashamed when discussing the matter in [recent] bilateral talks with Malaysia. I have instructed the manpower minister to make a clear road map and [set a timeline] to stop the program. We must have pride and dignity." As part of the plan, the government would repatriate 1,800 migrant workers. "We have repatriated 800 workers. More will follow suit," Jokowi said. There are some 2.3 million Indonesian migrant workers worldwide, 1.2 million of whom were undocumented, according to the president. - See more at:

4 February 2015: Jokowi talks about dangerous inequality, increasing tax collection and tax payer base, promise to ease land acquisition for infrastructure, one-stop centers for business permits, state-owned plantation ordered to release land for port-industrial project, creation of single map to prevent overlapping land concessions

Bloomberg - ‘Dangerous’ Inequality Spurs Widodo’s Indonesia Shakeup by Neil Chatterjee, Yudith Hoand Chris Brummitt, 6:01 AM BNT,  February 3, 2015; A “dangerous” level of inequality threatens the world’s fourth most-populous nation, said Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took power in October after beating a former army general. “Economic growth is very important for my administration, for my people but it’s more important to narrow the gap,” Widodo, known as Jokowi, said Monday in an interview at the presidential palace in Jakarta. “When we invite investors they must give benefit to my people. Also to my country.”... Jokowi, less than four months into a five-year term, said a key initiative will be to expand tax receipts, boosting them to 16 percent of the economy from less than 12 percent now. The leader, 53, underlined his confidence in boosting growth to 7 percent and described a policy program centered around holding government officials to account for impeding investment. ... Record buying by global funds sent the Bloomberg Indonesia Local Sovereign Index of government bonds up the most in more than a year last month, amid optimism Jokowi’s fiscal reforms will improve the nation’s credit quality. The benchmark Jakarta Composite Index of stocks has climbed more than 4 percent since Jokowi’s Oct. 20 inauguration, outperforming markets in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.... Bureaucratic Bottlenecks: While total investment rose more than 14 percent last quarter from a year before and reached 463.1 trillion rupiah ($36.5 billion) in 2014, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population will need more than $430 billion over five years to build transport links and other infrastructure, according to government estimates....
The economic dividends from Jokowi’s changes may take a while. The economy probably grew 5.1 percent in 2014, a five-year low, according to official estimates.... Freeing Land: The administration has promised to ease land acquisition to spur infrastructure projects, including buying land and establishing a land bank managed by different ministries. Jokowi also began a national one-stop service to coordinate the approval of business permits from more than a dozen agencies. Regional authorities who don’t set up a similar service in their cities or provinces this year will have funding cut, he said.... The president said he ordered a state-owned plantation company to release land for a port and industrial zone project that has been stalled for eight years. He’ll also create a single map to be used by all provinces to prevent overlapping land concessions, and is encouraging state-owned companies to issue bonds to increase financing for infrastructure.....

28 January 2015: Jokowi kicks of North Sumatra projects to be completed in 2 years - Kuala Tanjung Port, KT-Sei Mangkei Integrated Industrial Zone, Sei Mangkei power transformer, 600,000 tonne cooking oil plant

Jokowi kicks off 7 projects in N. Sumatra Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Tanjung, North Sumatra | Headlines | Wed, January 28 2015, 8:03 AM ; President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo officially announced the commencement of seven strategic projects located in a number of regions in North Sumatra, via a teleconference at Kuala Tanjung Port in Batubara regency on Tuesday.The projects comprise Kuala Tanjung Port, an aluminum smelter at state-run PT Inalum, the Kuala Tanjung-Sei Mangkei Integrated Industrial Zone, state power company PT PLN’s Sei Mangkei power transformer, the 600,000-ton capacity Sei Mangkei cooking oil plant, the Sei Mangkei Special Economic Zone (KEK) and the 17-kilometer Medan-Binjai toll road. Jokowi said all projects should be completed in two years. - See more at:

18 January 2015:   upgrade to the north-south Trans-Sumatra Highway, national “smart cards” to more than 15 million poor Indonesian families

For Indonesians, President’s Political Outsider Status Loses Its Luster By JOE COCHRANEJAN. 17, 2015... Perhaps his most contentious proposal was the elimination of fuel subsidies which, popular with voters and politicians, cost the state tens of billions of dollars a year, more than the government spends on health care and social services combined. His predecessor had tried to kill the program and failed.... He was able to eliminate the gasoline subsidy this month and, in a remarkable sleight of hand, lower fuel prices at the pump on the same day. The wild card that allowed that to happen was plummeting world oil prices.The change freed up money for his ambitious social programs. His government, as promised, mailed out national “smart cards” to more than 15 million poor Indonesian families in November, entitling them to free health insurance and education-related expenses for their children for up to 12 years of school..... He has also rolled out grand infrastructure plans for 2015, including 13 new dams and a long-overdue upgrade to the north-south Trans-Sumatra Highway.
The smart card program, especially, is already winning praise from needy families, said Wardah Hafidz, founder of the Urban Poor Consortium, a Jakarta-based nongovernmental organization.... “People are happy about it because it’s very different than before, when it was difficult to get health treatment, or people had to pay or were being turned away from public hospitals,” she said. “People are watching, people are commenting on the program, they are active. It’s hopeful.".... On Friday, The Jakarta Globe, a leading English-language daily, published a full-page photo on its front showing Mr. Joko bowing to Ms. Megawati with the headline, “End the Kowtowing.”.........

14 January 2015: National police nominee gets KPK warning, but removal of fuel subsidies seen as "breaking the back of the country's notorious Oil Mafia"

100 Days of Indonesia’s Jokowi: Mixed Record by Dewi Kurniawati TUE,13 JANUARY 2015
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who came into office on Oct. 20, ends his first hundred days in office next week with a record more mixed than his most enthusiastic adherents had expected when he was elected... Jokowi, as he prefers to be known, has earned domestic criticism through some suspect cabinet appointments, raising questions whether he is able to stand up to Megawati Sukarnoputri, the former president (2001-2004) and head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which sponsored his electoral campaign.... The nomination of Megawati’s former adjutant, Budi Gunawan, as head of the national police has turned into a major embarrassment, with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) charging the official with bribery when he was head of the career development bureau at the National Police headquarters from 2003-2006.... But Jokowi has won praise from economists for doing away with fuel subsidies, which had the corollary effect of breaking the back of the country’s notorious Oil Mafia.  He has served notice internationally with a new strong maritime policy that has resulted in the spectacular sinking of Vietnamese fishing boats that intruded into Indonesian waters. The policy was given prominence in his inaugural address and again in mid-November that he intends to make his nation into a regional maritime power..... The move to eliminate the subsidy is said to have surprised the oil mafia, a shadowy cabal that profited from importing 500,000 barrels of oil per day from offshore sources, reportedly costing the government as much as US$5 billion annually. The oil mafia is said to include even members of Jokowi's PDI-P, as well as officials of Golkar and Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. Political sources describe the system as a funding mechanism for powerful political parties and a route to vast wealth.
Reportedly the top figures in the oil trading business have been told that the party is over and there will be no more skimming from imports. Officials close to Jokowi say they have warned top figures of the oil business it is time to quit. Getting them out is regarded as the key to breaking the stranglehold on imports....

13 January 2015: Indonesia revamps to lower fuel cost, accelerated reforms to come; Jokowi has neutralized political opposition

Khor Reports comment: Plantation analysts remain concerned about the non-viability of palm biodiesel at the current prices. This affects the significant voluntary blending market as well as concerns about the usage in countries with soft mandates such as Indonesia; where it is also fighting to reform its energy sector to bring down spending on energy to free up money for investment in infrastructure. At the same time, Indonesia seems to be pushing on bureaucratic reforms and anti-corruption moves in the agro forestry sector as well as in aviation which recently suffered the Air Asia QZ8501 disaster. The Jokowi-JK presidential election manifesto also talks about the reorientation of economic gains in its biofuels sector to ensure gains for farmers. All in, several challenges issues for Indonesia biodiesel?

Note comment from FT: "...surpassing investor expectations in his first three months by abolishing $18bn of wasteful fuel subsidies and neutralising political opposition in the fractious parliament..."

Widodo’s Next Hurdle: What Indonesia Can Tackle Post Fuel Revamp By Chris Brummitt  Jan 13, 2015 1:12 AM GMT+0800; The opening salvo in Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s bid to revitalize Southeast Asia’s biggest economy was a revamp of the country’s energy sector. His next hurdle is delivering the gains from the shake-up.... In his first three months in office, Jokowi, as the leader is known, freed up 230 trillion rupiah ($18 billion) of budget funds for development by scrapping gasoline subsidies and capping government aid on diesel. He also moved to plug revenue leaks and improve efficiency in the energy industry, changing the management of the state oil company as well as setting up an oil and gas reform team.....

[these comments and links will be replicated in our biodiesel blog posting - read more here: /khorreports-palmoil/2014/07/biodiesel-news-update-5.html]

Indonesia’s Joko Widodo pledges to accelerate reforms 5:08AM by Ben Bland in Jakarta
Indonesian president Joko Widodo has vowed to accelerate economic reforms after surpassing investor expectations in his first three months by abolishing $18bn of wasteful fuel subsidies and neutralising political opposition in the fractious parliament.... When asked whether he could sustain the pace of change, Mr Widodo traced an exponential growth curve with his index finger, saying: “it will be like that”.... The president — who is universally known by his nickname Jokowi — said he would use the fuel subsidy savings to pump billions of dollars into infrastructure investment and push for “total reform” of the aviation sector following the shortcomings highlighted by the AirAsia crash.... But the 53-year-old has moved quietly to stifle his critics by appealing to key opposition politicians and the public. Several opposition parties, including the largest, Golkar, have become mired in internal disputes after senior leaders switched allegiance to Mr Widodo.... Mr Widodo will channel the Rp230tn ($18bn) of savings into infrastructure and social protection, reversing years of under-investment that have hobbled economic growth and left Indonesia with the highest rate of wealth inequality in Asia after China.... The depth of the problems afflicting the civil service has been underlined by the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 en route from Surabaya to Singapore, which revealed worrying flaws in aviation regulation.... Facing his first major crisis as president, Mr Widodo said the government must use the crash as an opportunity “to totally reform our air transportation”, from the central government to the state-owned airport operator and air traffic control service....

12 January 2015: Palm oil company crackdown continues, tycoon arrested after 5 day hunt with police coordination; after Riau agroforestry audit will be Central Kalimantan audit

Police arrest Kalimantan palm-oil tycoon Budiono Tan The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Mon, January 12 2015, 9:38 AM; The West Kalimantan Police have arrested palm-oil tycoon Budiono Tan, who allegedly misappropriated 1,535 land certificates of oil-palm farmers in Ketapang, West Kalimantan. The businessman, who runs a plantation through PT Benua Indah Grup (BIG), was caught on Friday night in West Jakarta after being sought for five years.... He is currently in the process of being transferred from Jakarta to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, for prosecution. Budiono was placed on the police’s most-wanted list in 2009 after committing fraud and embezzling money from hundreds of oil-palm farmers who worked for BIG. But his case was abandoned when he allegedly obtained strong support from police officers..... The latest hunt that involved the joint police team was started on Jan. 7. A team of seven police officers was deployed to check potential hiding places for Budiono.... Budiono was reported to the police in July 2009 for embezzling Rp 300 billion from the farmers. The money was supposed to be paid to the farmers for harvests during the year as well as the farmers’ savings. Budiono has been charged with embezzlement and fraud... The West Kalimantan Police have admitted that the case is hard to resolve due to intervention from “certain groups”.... Since 2012, the ministry has investigated and filed lawsuits against a number of plantation companies... Last year, Meulaboh District Court found PT Kallista Alam guilty of burning peatland in the Leuser conservation area in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, and ordered the firm to pay a fine of $30.5 million.... The year also saw PT ADEI Plantation & Industry... After auditing agroforestry companies in Riau, the government has planned to run its next audit in Central Kalimantan.....

Indonesia’s post-Lima homework Warief Djajanto Basorie, Jakarta | Opinion | Sun, January 04 2015, 2:51 PM; ....An early directive from Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the new Environment and Forestry Minister, is to place a 6-month moratorium on new logging licenses. On a Nov. 26 visit to Riau, a province ravaged by peat fires early in 2014, Jokowi ordered a review of the permits of firms that converted peatland to oil palm and acacia plantations. In Meranti Island district, he ordered the damming of canals to restore moist peatland. Drained peatland converted to oil palm estates becomes brittle-dry peat and is vulnerable to fire. Any new low-carbon growth strategy would have to factor in commitment by major planters to practice zero-deforestation palm oil.....

11 January 2015 (evening): Indonesia boosts bilateral and maritime doctrine in high profile foreign policy; not supportive of AEC if it merely opens up Indonesia as market for ASEAN neighbor exports

Jokowi preparing Indonesia for role beyond Asean? by Emirza Adi Syailendra,  RSIS January 10, 2015 1:00 am; Under President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), foreign policy appears to be increasingly high profile as Jakarta seeks to tighten bilateral relations with Pacific and Indian Ocean major powers, with a heavy focus on the domestic-economic dimension. This is in opposition to the focus on multilateralism and norms promotion that were stressed during Yudhoyono's administration. How would Asean be positioned under the Jokowi government's foreign policy?... As Indonesia's global profile rises, the choices of partners are expanding but doubts have also resurfaced on whether Asean is still the bedrock of its foreign policy. With foreign policy given a high profile - in contrast to earlier predictions by some analysts that President Jokowi would be more inward-looking - it is tempting to argue that Indonesia's foreign policy priorities are shifting beyond Asean..... For example, Jokowi's new maritime doctrine of "global maritime fulcrum" has highlighted Indonesia's intention to 'Look West' in terms of deepening relations with major players in the Indian Ocean such as India and South Africa. Strengthening bilateral ties with Pacific powers is also becoming a major agenda instead of multilateralism. The emergence of a more nationalistic approach has further underscored these shifts..... According to Retno Marsudi, the new foreign minister, the current policy focus would be people-oriented. This statement was echoed by Jokowi during a discussion on the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC). The president said Indonesia would not be supportive of the AEC's goal of a single market and production base by end 2015 if it puts Indonesia at a disadvantage by merely being a market for goods produced by neighbouring countries. Several other policies such as the sinking of the illegal fishing vessels in Indonesian waters have been interpreted as signals that Indonesia would not hesitate to defend its national interest at the expense of Asean
The point to stress here is that Indonesia's proactive and consensual leadership in Asean will endure during Jokowi's administration. However, pragmatism will be its defining feature. A recent effort by Indonesia to push Asean as the centre of the regional architecture was its proposal to expand the Asean Chiefs of Defence Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) into an ACDFIM Plus that includes counterparts from key players like the US and China in the Asia-Pacific. The proposal underscores the interest of Indonesia to expand the scope of Asean into a more inclusive and accessible forum extending to major Pacific and Indian Ocean countries.... With the present security environment in the region marked by many flashpoints, exacerbated by external pressures arising from the US-China rivalry, Indonesia is concerned about Asean's ability to speak with one voice. Considering that the benefits Indonesia gains depends on how effective it is in rallying Asean, a break in Asean unity will have implications on Indonesia's image as the first among equals.....

11 January 2015: REDD+ agency future is in doubt? Forestry Ministry finds better business and public awareness of state environmental standards, while Greenpeace points to over 15,000 fire hot spots in 2014 versus under 6,644 in 2011 across Riau.

After only one year, REDD+ agency future is in doubt by Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Sat, January 10 2015, 9:48 AM. The future of the National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Agency (BP REDD+) has become uncertain after only one year because of a plan from the Environment and Forestry Ministry to liquidate it.BP REDD+ head Heru Prasetyo said on Friday that he was concerned about the plan from Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to merge the agency with the ministry, which she is currently restructuring. - See more at:

As Indonesia’s Forests Burned, No End in Sight to Infernos - Seventy percent of 1,908 companies under the Forest Ministry’s supervision are said to be committed to complying with state environmental standards; By Kennial Caroline Laia on 02:08 am Dec 30, 2014; JAKARTA — The slash-and-burn clearing of forests to make way for plantations topped Indonesia’s list of environmental problems this year, with several major forest and land fires in Sumatra once again undermining the country’s fight against deforestation while generating choking clouds of smoke that left local residents ill and prompted the ire of neighbouring countries.....The Indonesian office of international environmental group Greenpeace said the number of fire incidents over the past few years has continued to increase in Riau, a Sumatran province at the centre of major forest and land fire incidents in Indonesia in recent years......Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Muhammad Teguh Surya said a total of 6,644 hot spots were detected across Riau in 2011 and the figure has continued to rise, with 8,107 hot spots detected in 2012 and 15,112 last year...... “As of October this year, we recorded more than 21,000 fire hot spots,” he told Indonesian news portal earlier this month......Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has highlighted the need for better law enforcement. In the wake of the peak of the fire and haze incidents in the first quarter of the year, the police arrested dozens of people for allegedly starting the blazes, but law enforcement in the sector has generally been considered toothless, with security officers criticised for only nabbing small-scale farmers and barely going after the large plantation companies in whose concessions many of the hot spots are located...........Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho has highlighted the need for better law enforcement. In the wake of the peak of the fire and haze incidents in the first quarter of the year, the police arrested dozens of people for allegedly starting the blazes, but law enforcement in the sector has generally been considered toothless, with security officers criticised for only nabbing small-scale farmers and barely going after the large plantation companies in whose concessions many of the hot spots are located...... However, Mr Rasio Ridho Sani, a deputy to the Environment and Forestry Minister, argued that Indonesia had made significant improvements in the environmental sector, citing growing environmental awareness among logging, plantation and mining firms operating in forests...... He said 70 per cent of the 1,908 companies under the ministry’s supervision were committed to complying with the government’s environmental standards. The figure is an increase from 49 per cent in 2004. “This means the environmental awareness of the business community has increased. And we hope that the number will stay that high and increase even further,” Mr Rasio said......He added that the public’s awareness about environmental issues was also improving, citing how more people were starting to cycle to work and were committed to recycling their waste as part of a greener lifestyle......

12 December 2014: Peatland for community sago instead of oil palm plantations?

Swift action on forest fires by President Jokowi by Wimar Witoelar, Jakarta | Opinion | Thu, December 11 2014, 10:04 AM; On Nov. 27, in the Riau Islands province, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo studied the dried peatland and man-made canals that locals were building to prevent the further drainage of precious water in the peat. He held impromptu talks with victims of peat-based forest fires. The President made some announcements off the cuff. Obviously he had thought about the issues for some time... President Jokowi said plantation permits had to be reviewed if they were indeed destroying the ecosystem; they would have to be terminated. “We must not allow our tropical rainforests to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm,” he said.... In his remarks in Sungai Tohor, the President described the community-built canal dams as very good and that they must be made permanent. He further said it was best for peatland to be given to the community to be managed for sago....

10 December 2014: Jokowi orders review of licenses of all plantations that have plantations on peatland

Indonesia’s New President Promises to Put Peat Before Palm Oil By Jeff Conant, From Inter Press Service News Service; December 5, 2014; Jakarta: "Last week, Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, ordered the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry to review the licenses of all companies that have converted peatlands to oil palm plantations.... If the ministry follows through, this will be one of the most important actions the Indonesian government can take to begin truly reining in the destruction reaped by the palm oil industry there – and to address the severe climate impacts of peatland destruction.... The Indonesian Forum on the Environment, known as WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia, has been pushing for this initiative, and the announcement was made in the village of River Tohor, in Riau Province, where WALHI has long worked with the community.... Walhi had invited Jokowi, as the president is casually known, to come to Riau because the province is ground zero for Indonesia’s massive haze crisis that comes from the near-constant burning of carbon-rich peatlands in order to convert these fragile ecosystems to plantations.
“We invited him to River Tohor to demonstrate the community’s success in preserving the peat forest ecosystem,” said Zenzi Suhadi, forest campaigner for Walhi. “We hoped this visit would show the president that community management can protect forests, and that granting concessions to companies is the wrong approach,” Suhadi said. The strategy appears to have succeeded, as Walhi hailed President Jokowi’s Riau visit as proof of his commitment to solving ecological problems..... “The best thing to do is to give the land to people,” the president told The Jakarta Globe. “What’s made by people is usually environmentally friendly. They won’t do any harm to nature. However, if we give the land to corporations, they will only switch it to monoculture plantations.”...... Jokowi’s move came shortly after his government announced a four- to six-month moratorium on all new logging concessions. That prohibition goes beyond the 2011 nationwide moratorium on new concessions across more than 14 million hectares of forests and peatlands... The move also comes on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment would be combined into one ministry, headed by Siti Nurbaya – a move that not all see as positive but that does signal a radical effort to restructure the way the government manages lands and resources.... Jokowi has also pledged to clean up Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt forestry sector as a step toward reducing deforestation....

19 November 2014: Jokowi talk to President of European Council on export barriers to palm oil

Govt asks EU to ease RI palm oil export by Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Business | Wed, November 19 2014, 5:44 PM; "Indonesia, the world's largest producer of palm oil, has asked the European Union (EU) to ease its regulations on palm oil imports, mainly to help Indonesian farmers enjoy benefits from the exportation of palm oil.... In a meeting with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, on Wednesday at the Presidential Palace, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo personally asked the EU's principal representative to ease the export barriers for its palm oil products in the bloc's 28 member countries.... Van Rompuy said that he would take Indonesia's request as "the council's concern", according to Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, who accompanied Jokowi during the meeting... The EU is the Indonesia's third largest trading partner and the second largest foreign investor after Japan...."

17 November 2014: EU palm oil market access, strategic sectors of EU-Indonesia trade, assertive foreign policy approach?

Jokowi explores cooperation in fashion industry with Italy BY Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Brisbane, Australia | World | Sat, November 15 2014, 12:13 PM; "President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told his counterpart Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a bilateral meeting on Saturday ....“I also demanded that Italy and the European Union provide easier access for our palm oil into their market,” he said...."

EU offers RI chance to export more to Europe BY The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Business | Fri, November 14 2014, 8:33 PM; "EU Ambassador to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN, Olof Skoog, said Friday that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo aimed to achieve a growth rate of 7 percent, which would need a high level of imported goods to increase GDP while still experiencing a negative trade balance... He said that the EU, with its 28 member countries, was a big market for Indonesia’s exports, even bigger than countries like China and India.... “We are the biggest export market for Indonesia,” Skoog said, adding that Europe had been the biggest export market for Indonesia’s palm oil in recent years... Meanwhile, Skoog said that the Nov. 19 dialogue, which is supported by five European chambers of commerce – BritCham, EKONID, EuroCham, IFCCI and INA –, would be focused on five strategic sectors of automotive; agriculture, food and beverages; infrastructure, maritime and logistics; pharmaceuticals and cosmetics; and energy and renewable energy...."

Foreign friendships must benefit RI: Jokowi by Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Brisbane | Headlines | Mon, November 17 2014, 9:53 AM; "After a string of meetings with leaders of the world’s powerhouse nations during his first nine-day official trip overseas, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo may have redefined the meaning of a “free and active” foreign policy... In a press conference on board the presidential aircraft en route to Jakarta, Jokowi said that diplomacy during his administration would no longer be confined to image-building... “For me ‘free and active’ is making friends with countries that can provide us with benefits. What’s the point of making friends if we are always on the losing end?” said Jokowi, when asked how his vision of international affairs differed from his predecessor’s. ... “What’s the benefit of making friends if it is aimed merely at image-building and if it risks our national interests? It does not mean that we’re creating enemies. It is just that we won’t be close [with countries providing no benefit to Indonesia].”... Although he speaks in a soft tone, Jokowi has been direct in recent conversations with world leaders during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, and the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia.... Jokowi held bilateral talks with, among others, Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and French President Francois Hollande.... Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi told The Jakarta Post that the administration would be more assertive in matters concerning the President’s maritime-axis doctrine.... “It  seems [in the past]  that  Indonesia could not make up its mind. Now, from the very beginning [of Jokowi’s administration] we can deliver  a  message  on  what  Indonesia  is  demanding,” she said.... Jokowi also ensured that agreements forged in the recent bilateral meetings would be followed up. “I will instruct on Monday [in a Cabinet meeting] that all related ministers follow up on the commitments made during my meetings with world leaders. I want something concrete,” he said....."

12 November 2014: Jokowi demands Obama heed concern on palm oil trade restrictions impacting farmers and small companies, caution on FTAs

Jokowi ushers in ‘blak-blakan’ diplomacy by Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Wed, November 12 2014, 9:28 AM; "As ethnic Javanese, both President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono adhere to the profound norms of the Javanese culture that emphasize the need to compromise and to avoid getting too directly to the point.
While Yudhoyono often refused to be straightforward during bilateral meetings, Jokowi is doing the opposite.... In a press conference late on Monday, Jokowi described his brand of diplomacy as blak-blakan (Javanese slang meaning “being direct”).... During a meeting with Xi on Sunday, for example, Jokowi directly requested that China bolster economic ties through concrete actions including the involvement of Chinese state companies in the development of Indonesia’s infrastructure. Jokowi has also demanded a bigger role for Indonesia in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), proposing that the bank open its headquarters in Jakarta.... When he met Obama on Monday, Jokowi demanded that the US lift restrictions on Indonesian palm oil entering the US market. Jokowi said he had expressed his concerns to several other leaders about the difficulty experienced by certain Indonesian agricultural and fisheries products in entering overseas markets. “We don’t want to enter into any discussions on free trade deals. We don’t want to open up unless there is something we can gain,” he said. “Many of our commodities, such as rattan, palm oil and fish, have fallen victim to trade restrictions. These are not commodities produced by big corporations. These are the products of our farmers and small companies,” said Jokowi...."

Jokowi on world stage, first stop Beijing by Rendi A. Witular and Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Beijing and Jakarta | Headlines | Sun, November 09 2014, 11:27 AM; "In his first official overseas excursion since taking office on Oct. 20, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is embarking on a nine-day bilateral and multilateral diplomatic trip aimed at courting investors for the country and showcasing his maritime vision... Beijing was his first stop as he arrived on Saturday evening to attend the annual APEC summit, a prestigious powwow of 21 leaders of Asia-Pacific economies, on Nov. 10 and 11, and also to shore up support from Chinese government and business leaders.... As China is Indonesia’s biggest trading partner, Jokowi looks to be devoting much of his attention during the trip to seeking support from the world’s second-biggest economy...."

Jokowi asks more of China by Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Beijing | Headlines | Mon, November 10 2014, 9:02 AM; "Appearing upbeat and donning a stylish suit, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met China President Xi Jinping on Sunday on the first leg of his overseas trip since taking office on Oct. 20. Jokowi suggested the leader of the world’s second-biggest economy bolster ties through “concrete” actions.... In his introduction note to Xi at his office in Beijing, Jokowi said Indonesia’s relationship with China, which stretched hundreds of years, was underlying capital to expand future strategic partnerships.... In his welcoming note, Xi congratulated Jokowi for his ascension to the presidency and hoped that under his leadership Indonesia would not only see more rapid development but also play more of a role in dealing with regional and international issues.
“China has always regarded Indonesia as our old best friend and we have always prioritized keeping our relations intact by seeing Indonesia as a strategic partner that we can trust,” said Xi.... In a press conference later in the evening, Jokowi explained that he had requested of Xi that China be more involved in Indonesia’s infrastructure development, particularly in the maritime sector. “What I mean by concrete outcomes is that there should be more progress in the sectors of investment and trade. I’ve requested to President Xi that Chinese state companies be involved more in the construction of our seaports, railways and toll roads,” he said. ... Jokowi has also demanded bigger role in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), by proposing that the bank open its headquarters in Jakarta for funds to flow into the country. “China will of course have a 50 percent stake in the bank. We will also have a stake, but smaller. We will inject around Rp 5 trillion [US$ 416.67 million) in participating funds to be paid in installments over five years,” he said.... "

Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry

14 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" supply chain for wood and paper trader and makers. Supermarkets pull products.

Editor's note: APP has been in spotlight, but expects to meet pulp demand without clearing more forest, refer to write-up of independent assessment by TFT on associated Greenpeace approach:

Another 20 firms sign 'haze-free' declaration - NTUC FairPrice's staff removing Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)-related products from shelves at the supermarket chain's outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015.  NTUC FairPrice's staff removing Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)-related products from shelves at the supermarket chain's outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI  Published Oct 13, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Twenty more firms have declared that their products are free of raw materials from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which is under investigation over its connection to the haze. This brings the number of firms that have signed the Singapore Environment Council's (SEC) declaration form to 38. The latest firms to sign are those that sell wood-related products under the SEC's green label scheme. The online declaration form was sent to 210 firms in the wood-related product trade last weekend, said the SEC and the Consumers Association of Singapore in a joint statement yesterday. It was sent to    companies earlier this month, including major supermarket chain FairPrice and APP's exclusive distributor here, Universal Sovereign Trading. The move led several retail chains to pull APP products off their shelves.....SMF secretary-general Lam Joon Khoi told The Straits Times yesterday that the SEC approached the federation two weeks ago with the idea. The appeals were sent out last week and responses are trickling in. He said: "It's not something that we expect them to change overnight, but at least we have started the journey. "We really need to tighten the screws and increase the pressure to encourage firms to buy from more sustainable companies. "Some have said this will increase their costs. But my point to them is that we already pay a high price for the effects of the haze....Last month, the National Environment Agency served APP a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and in Indonesia. Six other Indonesian firms have been sent a notice asking them to take measures to  extinguish fires on their land, not to start new ones, and submit action plans on how they will prevent future fires. The sixth firm, PT Bumi Andalas Permai, was sent the notice yesterday.....

More firms on board for 'haze-free' declaration Oct 8, 2015, 5:00 am SGT - Jessica Lim  Consumer Correspondent - Apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry....There are other complications, said SEC's head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan. Retailers here typically obtain the rights to sell a product from distributors, which then arrange with overseas manufacturers to import the stock. "Manufacturers might own plantations, but some strike deals with landowners on the side to use their land. Some also ask other suppliers to sell the fruit to them on an ad hoc basis if demand spikes," he said, adding that errant firms pay farmers to use their land for oil palm. On paper, the land is owned by the farmer and the firm is not implicated. There is also no map of land ownership available, making the task of pinpointing the owners of a plantation difficult. However, Nanyang Technological University's Professor Ang Peng Hwa, who co-founded the Haze Elimination Act on Team volunteer group, urged retailers to stop "putting up a smokescreen". "It is true it can be difficult. But retailers have to ask suppliers to show them certification," said Prof Ang. "Consumers also have a role to play to demand higher standards."....

Haze fallout: NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong withdraw all APP paper products - Additionally, Cold Storage says it has suspended further purchase of APP-related products while Watsons Singapore has confirmed that it does not stock such brands as Paseo, Jolly and Nice.   UPDATED: 09 Oct 2015 21:23

Singapore and Malaysia Wheeze as Indonesia Goodwill Hammered by Haze - The strongest El Nino in two decades may prolong the dry weather, meaning the haze could remain for some time yet  by Pooi Koon Chong  October 7, 2015 — 9:53 AM HKT

Singapore Dialogue (update 1a): SIIA / Simon Tay dialogue in Singapore centered on palm oil sustainability, Indonesia extends moratorium, ASEAN banks under WWF spotlight

Yesterday, I attended the Singapore Dialogue run by Simon Tay's SIIA. Full day event on 13 May 2015 (but I couldn't stay on past 5pm as had to catch a flight) with well-rounded selection of speakers, mostly on palm oil, but also from a Kalimantan 100,000 ha carbon bank project (but not REDD+ carbon market, but seeking funding from Clinton Foundation, Google etc) and also some insights from the timber/pulp & paper sector (including swamp forest timber). Lots of interesting insights on how NGO and big corporate thinking on palm oil sustainability is evolving. More on this in due course. I also had a fascinating chat on a timber eucalyptus-rice paddy margin project with over 1.5 million trees planted and more to come.

Banks such as OCBC and HSBC also reported on their approach to sustainability - good data insights revealed by HSBC and TUK# also pointed out some of their latest data on banks role in funding the oil palm tycoons. WWF has report out on ASEAN banks (Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia) financing of forestry-linked agro-industries - which financial institutions have policies or not.

Singapore is picking up the role as regional center to work on sustainability issues. Singapore stock exchange (SGX) also looking to setting up policy for compulsory sustainability reporting (policy due end 2015). A few years ago, it was noticeable Singapore started to bring in the big NGOs to have an office in the island state. Notable at past conference were big US NGOs flew in, and now I see they have presence in Singapore. The palm oil sustainability issue has also evolved from Europe centric (Europe NGOs) to presence of US NGOs too, some with ties to Europe (well, UK), example Forest Heroes / Catapult links with TFT to work on Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (6 members and seeking 6 more) - UN New York Declaration. Singapore clearly seeking a meaningful role in the regional sustainability markets; so far it has the Transboundary Haze Bill, and Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment spoke vividly of opportunities for Singapore-based companies including timber verification technology and more.

For palm oil sustainability: interesting updates on sustainability policy views updates from Greenpeace Indonesia, Wilmar and insights from many more.

However, not all NGOs agree with the current approach with UN links to corporate approaches: UN bodies putting smallholders' livelihoods at risk;

And some argue that peat technical issues need to be reviewed, rather than just jettisoning the peat zones without more scientific consideration: Sarawak to host 15th International Peat Congress 2016; /khorreports-palmoil/2015/05/sarawak-to-host-15th-international-peat.html

And it's not plain sailing for plantations who've gone in with the "second wave" of heightened "three nos" on peat, deforestation and exploitation. Sector risk is of a "third wave" of rather tough to resolve social issues, which may be heightened due to the HCS / high carbon stock regimes coming into play.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has prohibited Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of its most prominent members, from "acquiring or developing any new areas" pending the resolution of a formal complaint against the palm oil giant in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province.  The decision by the RSPO, the world's largest voluntary certification scheme for palm oil, is a stern directive from an organization that has been criticized for failing to take action against companies that flout its standards....  Read more:<<a%20href=>">

#TUK-Profundo report on top 25 tycoon-owned Indonesia palm oil groups and their financiers:  and English language data summary paper here, and screenshot of page 13 with Figure 10 Banks providing loans to tycoon-controlled groups, 2009-2013and Figure 11 Banks underwriting share and bond issuances of tycoon-controlled
groups, 2009-2013:

Links to financing of palm oil issues - key NGOs

WWF: ASEAN regional banks and investors behind on Environmental, Social and Governance standards Posted on 13 May 2015; Singapore – A WWF report finds an alarming gap between regional ASEAN financial institutions and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards adopted by their international counterparts.  Moreover, WWF reports a similar shortfall exists between regional financial regulations on responsible lending guidelines and corporate sustainability disclosure requirements as compared to their counterparts in Brazil, China, South Africa and Hong Kong. The report, released today at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs’s 2nd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, assesses to what degree regional capital providers are factoring sustainability issues into their lending and investment activities. It argues strongly for regional financiers to act in their own long-term interests and adopt ESG practices with urgency. It also calls for sustainable banking guidelines and more prescriptive sustainability disclosure requirements to be issued by regulatory authorities across ASEAN.

Responsible palm oil financing and investment - WWF has developed a practical handbook to help financial institutions develop and implement a responsible palm oil financing and investment policy.
Many of the environmental problems caused by oil palm plantations can be avoided through the application of best management practices.  However, in many cases there are incentives for palm oil production that lead to the conversion of natural habitats, and misguided investments that support environmentally destructive forest conversion.

Financial institutions & palm oil - What are some of the major global financial institutions doing about palm oil sustainability issues? And what risks are they reducing in the process? Commercial banks are sharpening their palm oil and timber risk assessment policies plantations. Why? To avoid negative environmental and social impacts of their lending and investment activities. Some have developed written statements on palm oil.
Bank Palm oil policy: 
- Rabobank Stand-alone palm oil policy
- HSBC Part of broader Forest Land and Forest Products Sector Guideline
Financial institutions that have joined the RSPO: ANZ Banking Group Ltd, Co-operative Insurance Society, HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad, HSBC Indonesia, International Finance Corporation, Rabobank

[Joint Statement] Briefing to banks and potential investors on the ongoing risks and outstanding social conflicts in the palm oil agribusiness sector. Briefing to banks and potential investors on the ongoing risks and outstanding social conflicts in the palm oil agribusiness sector: Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) bond offering...


Links on the moratorium and SIIA/ Simon Tay's Singapore Dialogue

Indonesia extends moratorium on forest, peatland licences Posted on May 13, 2015, Wednesday
SINGAPORE: Indonesia, through a Presidential Instruction, has extended the moratorium on new licences for the utilisation of primary forest and peatland, which expires today.
Its Deputy Minister for Environment Degradation Control and Climate Change, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Arief Yuwono said the instruction would enable the forestry ecosystem to recover while allowing improvements to be made on its governance.
“The instruction is an instrument which will help the government to focus actions on preventive measures on forest fires, controlling the fires and improve on the law enforcement.
“I believe the enacted instruction that has been approved today for the next two years, can continue to help combat the forest fires and issues relating to it that is causing the haze,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the 2nd Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources here today.

Sustainability: A New Profit Driver?
Southeast Asia is one of the world’s largest producers of soft commodities including palm oil, rubber, and wood pulp. With Asia’s populations expected to soar, demands for these valuable resources are set to grow, leading to higher pressure on land use and climate change.
How can we cope with this explosive growth without jeopardising nature, public health and the way of life of some indigenous communities? How can we encourage more industry players – from plantation owners to processors and buyers – to address these concerns? What is the responsibility of those who trade and invest in these resources? Should governments in Asia pursue a bigger regulatory role collectively?
At the second Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs will bring together leading voices from relevant stakeholders – including governmental and non-governmental organisations and companies- to present a business case for sustainable production, harvesting and financing. Centring on the mega market of Asia, the conference aims to feature the best practices in corporate sustainability, and foster more collaborations among forward-looking players.

Singapore approves anti-haze bill and Jokowi eyes drones to stop land misuse (update 2)

Khor Reports: While a study quoted in debunks the view that palm oil plantations are the key culprit in Indonesia deforestation (blame fibre plantations!), Singapore passes its anti-haze bill. Jokowi, Indonesia's next president speaks of embarking on a more balanced development approach, to protect forests and challenge land misuse with the use of drones. The Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla manifesto has an interesting new approach laid out in it. This calls to mind the expanding efforts by Brazil to change its approach to rein in its rates of deforestation (read our blog posting on it here: /khorreports-palmoil/2014/07/how-brazil-clamped-down-on-deforestation.html)

Update 2 - adds on Malaysia planned usage of drones.

News links:

Singapore approves bill to fine companies that cause air pollution, Aug 5 — "Singapore’s parliament passed a bill today proposing fines for companies that cause haze pollution regardless of whether the companies operate on the island. Last year, Singapore suffered its worst haze on record, as smoke from forest clearing in neighbouring Indonesia shrouded the city. Some of the forest clearing was believed to have been done by plantation companies with Singapore connections. The bill will go to the president who will sign it into law.... Under the bill, companies found guilty of causing haze could be fined up to S$100,000 (RM255,837) for each day they pollute, with the maximum aggregate amount being S$2 million. They will also be subject to civil claims from parties who say they have suffered damage caused by haze.... The bill targets entities directly or indirectly involved in slash-and-burn, and grants use of circumstantial evidence to prosecutors, such as satellite images or maps from non-government organisations. Defendants will bear the onus to prove the evidence wrong.The law is designed to have extra-territorial reach, meaning it could be applied to culprits outside Singapore, though enforcement might be difficult.... Lawmakers hope overseas companies will comply to retain access to Southeast Asia’s banking and business hub. A number of palm oil and forestry companies are listed on the Singapore Exchange...."

Fibre production drives deforestation in Indonesia - Study debunks belief that palm-oil plantations are main culprit. by Natasha Gilbert 21 July 2014; "Palm-oil plantations are generally though to be the main driver of deforestation in Indonesia, which is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forest and has the highest rate of forest loss. But fibre plantations — where species such as Acacia mangium are grown for use in pulp and paper production — now seem to be the main culprit.... Of the 14.7 million hectares of forest destroyed between 2000 and 2010, 12.8% was removed for fibre plantations, 12.5% for logging and 6.8% for palm-oil plantations; the remainder was removed for mixed concessions and mining1. All told, 45% of forest loss during the period occurred on land leased to industry..."

Reference to Abood, S. A., Lee, J. S. H., Burivalova, Z., Garcia-Ulloa, J. & Koh, L. P. Conserv. Lett. (2014): "We found that the four industries accounted for ~44.7% (~6.6 Mha) of forest loss in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Papua, Sulawesi, and Moluccas between 2000 and 2010. Fiber plantation and logging concessions accounted for the largest forest loss (~1.9 Mha and ~1.8 Mha, respectively). Although the oil palm industry is often highlighted as a major driver of deforestation, it was ranked third in terms of deforestation (~1 Mha), and second in terms of carbon dioxide emissions (~1,300 – 2,350 Mt CO2). Crucially, ~34.6% (~26.8 Mha) of Indonesia’s remaining forests is located within industrial concessions, the majority of which is found within logging concessions (~18.8 Mha). Hence, future development plans within Indonesia’s industrial sectors weigh heavily on the fate of Southeast Asia’s remaining forests and carbon stocks...."

Haze Fines Win Indonesia’s Support With Caveats: Southeast Asia, By Brian Leonal and Fitri Wulandari  Jul 30, 2014 12:55 PM GMT+0800; "Joko Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi who won this month’s presidential election, agrees that companies implicated in unlawful fires may be fair game for Singapore’s enforcers. The sticking point is the sovereignty of Indonesia, where “incredibly prickly” officials have yet to join other ASEAN nations in signing a transboundary-haze pact, according to the Jakarta office of Control Risks Group. ... “We should have some detailed protocols to guarantee the sovereignty of Indonesia,” said Sonny Keraf, Indonesia’s environment minister from 1999-2001 and adviser to Jokowi. “But we do appreciate the commitment of the government in Singapore to penalize these companies’ activities,” he said in an interview this month.... Singapore’s new fines will require Indonesia to cooperate with gathering evidence in its territories, which may be seen as infringement, said Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at Singapore Management University. The city would need “watertight” evidence to win in local courts, he said. By pursuing culprits in Indonesia, Singapore may risk retaliation, said Alan Khee-Jin Tan of the National University of Singapore Law School. “There is a likelihood of Indonesian lawmakers enacting retaliatory laws that target individuals or entities in Singapore for infringing Indonesian law,” Tan said. “That would be diplomatically messy.”.... Jokowi will push to extend the ASEAN pact beyond haze to include other environmental threats, Keraf said. Jokowi also plans to continue a moratorium on new permits to develop peatlands and primary forests. The ban, set to expire in 2015, was part of an agreement for $1 billion in aid from Norway.... The next president wants a network of drones to help monitor and stop land misuse across an archipelago of 17,000 islands that would stretch from New York to Alaska. “Drones are not only for the military but also for the economy, like for illegal logging,” Jokowi said in an interview on July 21...."

About drones usage: Ecologist Lian Pin Koh makes a persuasive case for using drones to protect the world's forests and wildlife. These lightweight autonomous flying vehicles can track animals in their natural habitat, monitor the health of rainforests, even combat crime by detecting poachers via thermal imaging. Added bonus? They're also entirely affordable. TEDGlobal 2013  ·  13:30  · Filmed Jun 2013;

Malaysia: Command centre to fight illegal deforestation; Updated: Wednesday August 6, 2014 MYT 7:47:17 AM; "A command centre, under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, will be set up to manage and patrol forest areas to deter unscrupulous people from clearing land here. “We will streamline and have a systematic approach to patrol the forest areas to try to catch and stop people from burning and cutting down trees,” ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Zoal Azha Yusoff told the media yesterday.... “At the moment, we have 10 to 15 officers involved and they will be conducting the patrols,” he said, adding that unmanned aerial drones would be used to capture photographs of culprits in action. Palanivel said he would discuss with Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on issuing temporary occupation licences (TOLs) to certain farmers to stop them from clearing new land. “We can’t evict them. Agriculture is important. But the farmers need to follow regulations,” said Palanivel, who is Cameron Highlands MP...."