PONGO Alliance ineffective in ending clearing of orangutan home

(foresthints.news) - The Palm Oil and NGO (PONGO) Alliance has proven to be largely ineffective and unable to do much to end the ongoing clearing of the habitat of the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan in the PT PSM palm oil concession.

This palm oil concession, which is situated in West Kalimantan’s Ketapang regency, was originally owned by Genting Plantations but was subsequently sold after the Malaysian company made a public promise not to clear the Bornean orangutan’s habitat.

The PONGO Alliance, which was publicly launched in June last year, consists of 14 members, most notably some key global palm oil business players, such as Wilmar, Musim Mas, Sime Darby, ANJ and United Plantation Bhd, along with some leading international NGOs.

At the end of September 2017, foresthints.news received an email from the alliance, the gist of which was that “it would do its best to address the needs of orangutan conservation”. Nonetheless, the clearing still continues.

The two following USGS Landsat 8 images, taken from the LandViewer presented by Greenomics Indonesia (Jan 2), depict the clearing of the critically-endangered orangutan’s habitat. It appears that this practice will not end until major parts of this key wildlife habitat, which also constitute high carbon stock (HCS) forests, are razed to ground level for the development of new palm oil plantations.

There remains a big question mark as to why business-as-usual practices like this are still underway amid a deluge of public commitments about stopping this practice made by many leading palm oil business groups, including the PONGO Alliance.

It seems that the disappearance of these HCS forests, which play host to Bornean orangutans, is likely to continue to be a mere spectacle with no action taken to prevent it.

To save 10,000 Bornean orangutans?

The PONGO Alliance has previously announced that it will attempt to save 10,000 orangutans living across non-certified palm oil concessions in Borneo. This, of course, includes the Bornean orangutans located in HCS forests in the PT PSM palm oil concession.

However, the 'best efforts' which the alliance promised have not really had any impact on stopping the bulldozing of the Bornean orangutan's habitat in the palm oil concession which was sold by Genting Plantations in an attempt to erase any trace of its public promise to preserve the HCS forests and orangutan habitat found in the concession.

The level of credibility of the PONGO Alliance, among other things, clearly lies in the extent to which it keeps its promise and protects the orangutan habitat in the PT PSM concession.

However, it seems unrealistic to expect the alliance to be able to put an end to the clearing of the HCS forests, which are also home to the Bornean orangutan, in the concession formerly owned by Genting Plantations, considering that the key palm oil business groups which make up the alliance remain linked to deforestation.

For example, ANJ is still linked to the clearing of HCS forests in West Papua province for developing its palm oil plantations. Sime Darby has also previously been linked to the deforestation of HCS forests in Sumatra’s Bangka Belitung province, including engaging in illegal forestry practices in its new rubber plantation development.

Furthermore, the supply chains of Wilmar also have a proven link to deforestation, particularly in Indonesian Borneo and Papua. The fact that this was still the case after December 2015, the deadline for its suppliers to disengage with deforestation and new peat development, is both strange and a source of shame.

All of this makes it unreasonable to expect the members of the PONGO Alliance, largely comprised of palm oil business groups, to play a concrete role in silencing the excavators in the PT PSM concession and stopping them from clearing the precious HCS forests and orangutan habitat there.