(THE JAKARTA POST/ 9 April 2010) -- Several environmental NGOs met Thursday to compile data on illegal logging activities at the request of the President, who has ordered sterner action against the environmental threat. The NGOs included Greenpeace Indonesia, WWF Indonesia, Forest Watch Indonesia, Sawit Watch Indonesia, Conservation International, Tropenbos Indonesia, the Nature Conservancy and the Center for International Forestry Research.
"We asked them to supply data on illegal logging. This will be a good chance for the activists to help the government battle illegal logging," Agus Purnomo, special assistant on climate change to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Agus said he would compile a list of measures to combat illegal logging and hand it to Yudhoyono when the President returned home from his trip to Vietnam. President Yudhoyono ordered the presidential taskforce against judiciary corruption to launch an investigation into illegal logging syndicates before he left on his visit to Vietnam for the ASEAN Summit, which will discuss climate change issues.
The President said illegal logging was still rampant due to corruption within the forestry sector. Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, home to about 120 million hectares of rainforest, has never passed a special law on illegal logging. In 2005, the President issued an instruction tasking 18 departments under the Coordinating Political,
Legal and Security Affairs Ministry to combat illegal logging. A working group was then set up to monitor and evaluate illegal logging, but it has yet to publicly announce the names of any major perpetrators. The Forestry Ministry has repeatedly claimed the number of illegal logging cases has dropped since former minister M.S. Kaban left office.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his office had set a target of reducing illegal logging cases to 12 or less per year. The latest data shows 700 cases were reported in 2008. The ministry predicted the country suffers financial losses of at least Rp 30 trillion (US$3 billion) per year due to the crime.
US-based Human Rights Watch said Indonesia had suffered $2 billion in potential tax losses between 2003 and 2006 due to illegal logging Indonesia Corruption Watch together with other activists from Walhi and Sawit Watch Indonesia earlier asked the Corruption Eradication Commission to investigate corruption in the forestry industry.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta agreed illegal logging remained rife in the country, adding that some forest concession holders were allegedly involved in illegal logging activities. "Before taking office, I found a number of concessionaires conducting illegal logging on their own land. They cut down big trees even though this violated their annual working plan," he said.
He said concessionaires were allowed to cut down a maximum of 80 percent of trees in their concession areas.
The 2009 Environmental Law invests the Environment Ministry with the power to revoke business permits for companies seen to be damaging the environment. Executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, Elfian Effendi, said that Yudhoyono’s recent order to tackle illegal logging proved that the 2005 presidential instruction had accomplished little in the last five years.