Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Jakarta, May 11, 2010 (ANTARA) - After seemingly preferring to remain a silent spectator of the ongoing dispute over the issue of forests being converted into oil palm plantations between Greenpeace and PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology Tbk (PT SMART), the government now finally intends to mediate.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi unannounced on Friday (May 7) his office was ready to facilitate a meeting between Greenpeace and PT SMART to clarify their respective stances on the matter.

Bayu said Greenpeace activists, at a meeting with Agriculture Minister Suswono, had explained they were opposed to peat land being converted into oil palm plantations, not to the oil palm plantations as such. They pointed out opening oil palm plantations on peat land also ran counter to existing government regulations.

"They are not against oil palm planting, but against deforestation activity. They are also against illegal logging activity," Bayu Krisnamurthi said.

Instead of clearing forest areas, the international environmental NGO proposed that oil palm plantations be opened on barren land that used to be forest areas, he said.

In late April 2010, Greenpeace released fresh evidence showing how Sinar Mas was continuing to destroy Indonesia`s rain forests despite promises to stop.

The statement was issued when shareholders of Golden Agri Resources (GAR), the palm oil arm of Sinar Mas, was holding an annual general meeting in Singapore.

"This evidence shows that Sinar Mas continues to lie to its shareholders and customers about its environmental standards. Whatever new promises it makes today, it is clear the company intends to continue trashing rain forests and destroying orangutan habitats. We will continue to press Sinar Mas` customers to stop all business with this forest destroyer until it cleans up its act," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Team Leader.

A policy statement released by Sinar Mas in early February and the GAR 2009 Annual Report presented at its AGM claims commitments to the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and a halt to clearing in High Conservation Value (HCV) areas, primary forests and peatlands.

"Two weeks ago we revealed how Sinar Mas subsidiary PT ALM is currently destroying deep peatland and high conservation value forest in West Kalimantan. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This past weekend we caught Sinar Mas subsidiary PT BAT clearing rain forest bordering orangutan habitat in Central Kalimantan. These cases show that Sinar Mas` commitments are meaningless and nothing but greenwash," the NGO activist said.

Greenpeace has also been targeting food and drink giant, Nestle, for using palm oil from Sinar Mas in products like KitKat.

The multinational terminated its direct palm oil contract with the company last March, but continues to buy palm oil and paper products indirectly from it, through suppliers like Cargill.

Nestle has said it expects Cargill to stop supplying Sinar Mas palm oil unless the company adequately answers to Greenpeace`s evidence of deforestation and illegality by the end of April.

"Sinar Mas has just days left to clean up its act or risk losing huge contracts with Cargill," said Maitar.

"Greenpeace is not against the palm oil plantation, our campaign is to stop companies like Sinar Mas from destroying the world`s remaining rain forests. The Indonesian government must take tough action against companies like this and protect the country`s carbon rich peatland and rain forests," he said

According to Greenpeace, Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of forest destruction on the planet, with palm oil and pulp and paper plantations being major causes. As a result, it is now the world`s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the United States, according to the NGO.

To avert catastrophic climate change, Bustar Maitar called for an end to deforestation and, to begin with, the government must declare an immediate moratorium on destroying Indonesia`s rain forests and carbon-rich peatlands.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has an ideal foundation to implement his commitment expressed during the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, to forest protection in order to reduce gas emissions, he said.

At September`s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Yudhoyono pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 using the state budget and by 41 percent if developed nations gave the financial support to do so.

Sinar Mas is the largest oil-palm plantation in Indonesia and the owner of giant APP paper. It has aggressive expansion plan in Kalimantan and Papua for oil-palm plantation and pulp in Sumatera.

Last year, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Giam Siak Kecil Bukit Batu (GSK-BB), a peatland ares in Sumatra, as one of the world`s 22 new biosphere reserves.

The decision was made at a meeting of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and Biosphere Program in Jeju, South Korea, May 25-29, 2009.

The development of the Giam Siak Kecil - Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve started when Sinar Mas Forestry, along with its partners, in 2004, set aside 72,255 hectares of its forest concessions to be part of the Giam Siak Kecil - Bukit Batu Biosphere Reserve, which has a total area of 178,722 hectares.

A LIPI (Indonesian Institute of Sciences) study found that GSK-BB is home to 150 species of birds; 10 species of mammals, including endangered ones such as elephants and tigers; 8 species of reptiles; and 52 species of rare and protected plants.

Sinar Mas Managing Director Gandhi Sulistiyanto, when participating in the Indonesian Week 2009 in Beijing, in June 2009, said the Sinar Mas` participation in the Indonesian Week was aimed at promoting the company`s commitment to environmental preservation.

He said his company was the first business institution in the world which initiated the development of a biosphere reserve.

The company and its working partners planted 1.5 million trees every day as part the forestry development expected to cover an area as big as Singapore within four months, he said.

"The activities have been done in critical areas which are abandoned and unproductive, so that the rehabilitation program is effective one," he said.

But, a Greenpeace report entitled "APP: Thirty Years of Forests Destruction", launched in Beijing last December 2009, said Sinar Mas subsidiary Asia Pulp & Paper has been responsible for clearing away an immense amount of forest land over the last three decades.

Joko Arif, a member of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said independent laboratory results from five samples of paper produced by APP showed three of the samples contained mixed tropical hardwood pulp originating from protected forests in Indonesia.

"Businesses and the public are voting with their conscience, and their wallets, against companies like Sinar Mas, but the government has yet to do anything even though the company has clearly broken national laws and are undermining President Yudhoyono`s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Joko said late last year.

"SBY should order an immediate review of all Sinar Mas concession permits and investigate their illegal forest destruction activities," he added.

(T.F001/A/F001/A/O001) 11-05-2010 13:28:07

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