EoF News (PEKANBARU) -- A civil society organizations’ consortium monitoring deforestation in West Kalimantan said last week that The Forest Trust (TFT), a consultant hired by Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) should clarify verification on deforestation findings in its two suppliers’ concessions in “a more comprehensive way and to embrace all relevant parties suspected by the consultant in its rebuttal report.”
The consortium called Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK, Kalimantan Forest Monitoring NGOs) responded to a rebuttal made last week by TFT denying RPHK findings which concluded that forest clearing and land clearance occurred in two supplier concessions, PT Asia Tani Persada (ATP) and PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK). TFT claimed that the forest clearing and land clearance took place in overlapping areas with a palm oil company, PT Gerbang Benua Raya (GBR) and bauxite mining of PT Karya Utama Tambang Jaya (KUTJ).
RPHK urges TFT and APP to embrace more relevant stakeholders and truly protect forest and peatlands as APP forest conservation policy outlined.
RPHK also blasted communicative approach conducted by TFT and APP in inviting the CSO group as “informal and in a hurry”and urged the pulp and paper giant to be honest in protecting natural forest and peatland as conserved High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF).
In its verification report released on 2 April 2013, TFT claimed that RPHK were unable to join field verification by TFT/APP relating to RPHK findings published on 25 March 2013.
RPHK denied this statement. “Principally, RPHK warmly welcomed offerings by TFT and Greenpeace by phone to join field verification trip relating to alleged violation on APP forest conservation policyas found by RPHK,” said Sulhani, Director of Titian Foundation.
“However, our proposed conditions were not accepted by neither TFT nor APP, as TFT was reluctant to conduct clarification and monitoring together with all relevant stakeholders including local governments, so this golden opportunity to obtain long-term solution over problems was wasted by TFT and APP,” said Sulhani.
“We regret that procedure of clarification by TFT and APP was implemented in an informal and hurried way with claims of one-sided findings, in absence of active participation by stakeholders cited in the TFT report,” said Baruni Hendri, the RPHK spokesperson.
RPHK urged TFT and APP to embrace local governments of Kubu Raya district and Ketapang district to join verification as they both were also mentioned as parties issuing licenses. “Clarification along with multi-stakeholders would avoid mere exchange of words between RPHK and TFT/APP,” said Baruni Hendri.
RPHK press release issued on 25March 2013 said that two APP independent suppliers in West Kalimantan, PT Asia Tani Persada (ATP) and PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK),were still clearing natural forest, clearing land, and draining deep peat canal. Therefore, RPHK concluded that APP breached its own commitment to Forest Conservation Policy that announced on 5 February 2013.
TFT also confirmed forest clearing and peat canal drainage took place in concessions of PT Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK) and PT Asia Tani Persada (ATP) but claimed they were not breaching APP moratorium policy as they occurred in overlapping areas with other license holders, namely PT GBR and PT KUTJ who conducted the operations. If overlapping allegation in forest clearance is proved true, then it shows failure of PT DTK, an APP supplier, in preventing illegal logging and illegal land clearing.
TFT verification report on page 12, point 3, said that canal construction in concession of PT ATP had been agreed before by APP, TFT, and ATP. “RPHK cannot accept the claim that this is nota breach of the moratorium commitment,” said Hendri.” “This is a one-sided claim and not independent, this even reaffirms that we need an independent third party to conduct monitoring and pressure APP to be more transparent to civil society by giving unconditional access to data which are truly public domain such as data of Annual Work Plan as well as their concession maps.”
In its monitoring, RPHK applied investigative method which was without notice to concession operators in an attempt to obtain record on real activity on the ground. To do so, RPHK investigators conducted observation from a distance, hundred meters away of object investigated by using strong observation equipments.
“What RPHK coalition expressed is concrete evidence from field investigation, so it has clear baseline. If APP then denied and not admit it, that is their rights, and public will judge it later,” said Anton P. Widjaya from WALHI (Indonesia’s Friends of Earth) of West Kalimantan chapter.
“Rebuttal and claims expressed by APP through the Grievance team depict its defensive stance, thinking that the current commitment will answer all existing problems. Initiative to improvement in the future has negated many things, let alone if we look back to what they have done in destroying and pulping natural forests in Indonesia,” said Widjaya.
“To implement their own decision is responsibility for APP, the commitment will be significant if it facilitates all accountabilities to violation and they have done for decades.”
RPHK calls on international community, particularly APP business partners not to take for granted in trusting its initiative. RPHK also hope global community who have concerns over protection of remaining forest in West Kalimantan to provide more opportunities to the coalition to monitor and compile reports on SMG/APP business operations after FCP commitment launched two months ago.
Therefore, RPHK urges APP to:
- Immediately conduct truly independent monitoring on implementation of APP Forest Conservation Policy.
- Halt breaches and peat canal drainage in peatlands until HCVF and HCS assessment are proved to be accomplished.
- Halt further natural forest clearing to give more opportunities for credible HCVF assessment to implement.
- Restore in all forest areas which are important and contain High Conservation Values.
- Halt company’s approaches which disrupt harmony in social living in communities through one-sided claims made by the company.