IPOP disbandment due to two key drivers, says DG

(foresthints.news) - The Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a green pledge aimed at creating a deforestation-free palm oil industry in Indonesia, was officially disbanded by its signatories on 1 July 2016.

Even though they made no contribution to the presence of new Indonesian government policies, in particular those policies associated with the palm oil expansion moratorium and no-peat development, the now ex-IPOP signatories sought to use these policies as a pretext for their disbandment of IPOP, saying that the main reason for its disbandment is that the government policies have supplanted the purpose of IPOP.

IPOP was signed on 24 September 2014, on the sidelines of the UN Climate Summit in New York, by four palm oil business groups that dominate the worlds palm oil supply chain to a significant extent. These groups are Golden Agri-Resources, Wilmar International, Asian Agri and Cargill. At the end of March 2015, the Musim Mas Group also signed up to IPOP, followed by Astra Agro Lestari in mid-February this year.

The self-disbandment of IPOP by the ex-IPOP signatories is not really surprising news. Their desire to do this has been plain to see since early July 2015. Theyve also not been involved at all in giving rise to Indonesian government policies such as the palm oil expansion moratorium and no-peat development," Professor San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, told foresthints.news in an interview on Saturday (Jul 2).

It should also be noted, he added, that the ex-IPOP signatories had failed to prove or demonstrate any commitment and leadership in cleaning up their supply chains from deforestation while (supposedly) implementing IPOP.

Prof San, as President Jokowi calls him, went on to say that the failure and inability of the ex-IPOP signatories to clean up their supply chains from deforestation was the key driver in why steps towards the self-disbandment of IPOP were taken in the first place.

The latest example of this is the failure of the ex-IPOP signatories to clean up their supply chains from deforestation in the Leuser Ecosystem. We didnt see any monitoring system whatsoever from the ex-IPOP signatories operating on the ground level in the Leuser Ecosystem.

The Director General gave a reminder as to how, by early July 2015, the ex-IPOP signatories were already expressing reservations to the government about the difficulty of implementing IPOP, putting forward various for reasons this, and had already begun to urge the government to dissolve IPOP.

This was done after various violations in the implementation of IPOP had been exposed, illustrating that the supply chains of the ex-IPOP signatories were largely still closely linked to deforestation and peat conversion.

Prof San explained that the inability of the ex-IPOP signatories to clean up their supply chains from deforestation and peat conversion was the initial factor behind why they had started to have second thoughts about IPOP as early as July last year.

If the ex-IPOP signatories wish to claim that the self-disbandment of IPOP has been brought about by pressures coming from the Indonesian government, then the question needs to be put to them again: who started to drive the pressure for the dissolution of IPOP?"

The Director General also spoke about other factors, citing the reliance of the ex-IPOP signatories and their affiliates on continuing the long-term expansion of palm oil plantations as another key driver underlying the self-disbandment of IPOP.

The failure of the ex-IPOP signatories to clean up their supply chains from deforestation and peat conversion along with their high-level of dependence on the ongoing expansion of palm oil plantations are the two key drivers which expedited the disbandment of IPOP by the IPOP signatories themselves. I have a lot of evidence for having come up with this conclusion.

Zero engagement

The Director General expressed his surprise that the ex-IPOP signatories declared their support for government policies such as the palm oil expansion moratorium when announcing the self-disbandment of IPOP, bearing in mind that there had been no engagement whatsoever from them in encouraging the government to impose the moratorium.

Quite the contrary, the Director General asserted. He pointed out that President Jokowis announcement of a palm oil expansion moratorium in mid-April 2016 was purely a decision taken under his own leadership. The fact is that there was quite clearly zero engagement from the ex-IPOP signatories in that process, none at all.

If the ex-IPOP signatories really supported the governments commitment towards the palm oil expansion moratorium, then why am I still waiting for forest area release permits for the development of palm oil plantations already granted to them and their affiliates to be returned to our ministry? I am talking about concessions that are yet to be cleared and still enjoy good forest cover. We plan to immediately incorporate such areas into the moratorium zone.

Prof San elaborated on this point further, saying that even without the voluntary return of such permits, his ministry would still perform a review of forest cover in existing palm oil concessions, and if they are found to have good forest cover, they will be incorporated into the palm oil expansion moratorium map.

Firm commitment to decision maintained

The Director General pointed out that by formulating the policy behind the imposition of the palm oil expansion moratorium, the Indonesian government was clearly playing a major role in cleaning up supply chains from deforestation and peat conversion in Indonesias palm oil sector.

To illustrate this, he took a hard line against companies continuing to expand palm oil plantations in natural forests with good forest cover in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, adding that his ministry was working hard to put an end to this practice.

There are several palm oil companies involved in manipulating data in the licensing process, all of which we will report to the anti-corruption body (KPK) to be fully investigated. In fact, we have already reported some palm oil companies operating in Papua to the KPK. This forms part of our law enforcement efforts with respect to the palm oil expansion moratorium. It should be noted that these actions represent a follow-up to the directive of President Jokowi.

The Director General disclosed that, as the palm oil expansion moratorium process takes its course, his ministry has taken the decision to focus on the legal resolution of cases of illegal palm oil plantations currently located in state forest areas.

He insisted that the palm oil expansion moratorium in forests which still enjoy good cover was set in stone, based as it is on a direct instruction from President Jokowi.

Maneuvers by industry players aimed at trying to reduce their level of commitment to the palm oil expansion moratorium are blatant, he continued, but President Jokowi remains very firm in his decision and commitment to the moratorium.

Our minister, Ibu Siti Nurbaya, just recently informed us that President Jokowis commitment to implementing the palm oil expansion moratorium is extremely solid, and he has no reservations about it all. This situation reflects the strong leadership and consistency of the president and is a source of pride to all of us, concluded the Director General.