Verification proves paper giant company developed new canals

(foresthints.news) - After being hit with sanctions by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (Mar 9), partly for carrying out new canal development, PT SPM - an Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) controlled pulpwood company - sent a letter to the ministry (Mar 24), along with some evidence, to provide clarification on this issue.

The letter sought to demonstrate that the company was not conducting any further new canal development in its concession located in Sumatra’s Riau Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu landscape by including spatially-based evidence in the form of two coordinate points and landsat image analysis.

However, this particular evidence was rejected by the ministry in a meeting with the PT SPM management held in the ministry building (May 5).

“The two coordinate points used by PT SPM in its letter have been found to be wrong. As such, the company’s clarification is inconsistent with the facts on the ground,” Dr Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani, the Ministry’s Director General of Law Enforcement, explained to foresthints.news on Sunday (May 7).

To back up its assertion, the ministry utilized its first-hand ground-based inspection data, including the canal distribution map reported annually by PT SPM to the ministry.

Both of these prove that the APP company has indeed been constructing new canals in locations where it had previously been caught red-handed committing such violations by top ministry officials in early March this year (Mar 3).

Even more damning, the ministry was also able to prove through spatially-based analysis using high resolution images that the APP company was quite clearly developing new canals.

Dr Roy pointed out that in the meeting with PT SPM, the company management had declared its willingness to obey the sanctions from the ministry which, among other things, compel it to close the newly-constructed canals.

The following two photos show one of the locations in which the new canals were constructed by the APP company after a ban had been signed by President Joko Widodo and put in place against new canal development in early December last year.

Messages to owners

The director general went on to describe how the law enforcement steps and actions undertaken by the ministry should be seen in a positive light by APP’s owners, as these moves actually serve to strengthen APP/Sinarmas Forestry’s standing as a world class corporation.

“I’ve already delivered this message to top executives of APP companies for them to convey it to the APP owners,” Roy confirmed.

Roy added that he had also given a message to the APP representatives asking them to explain to the paper giant’s owners the true situation on the ground, especially with respect to concessions where peat violations have been proven to have taken place.

The ministry, he argued, is well intentioned as illustrated by the fact that the administrative sanctions imposed on a number of APP companies related to peat violations are still at the initial level of law enforcement instruments.

The objective of these sanctions, according to him, is thus to encourage the companies concerned to make improvements to their operations.

“The ministry is not directly applying law enforcement in either civil or criminal form. That is, the ministry is allowing room for improvement through the imposition of administrative sanctions only,” the director general reiterated.

However, he was quick to assert that the ministry would not hesitate to take civil or criminal action against any APP companies not complying with administrative sanctions.

In fact, the director general continued, such steps had already been applied to a number of big corporations, including an APP company in connection with 2014’s peat fires.

In the last week of April this year, President Joko Widodo reaffirmed his backing for Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to continue on-the-ground monitoring of peat violations and also take law enforcement action against such violations as part of the President’s commitment to peat governance reforms.