Tag Archives: AWASMifee

AwasMIFEE: New companies threatening the Papuan forest: Number 1 Pacific Inter-link.

By AwasMIFEE

First Published: JUNE 12, 2016

There is currently some momentum for change in the palm oil industry, aiming to reduce its disastrous environmental and social impact. In Papua, some of the biggest companies, such as Sinar Mas, Musim Mas and Wilmar, have all abandoned plantation plans after signing up to ‘no deforestation’ policies (see footnote 1).  The Indonesian Government may also finally take some action to bring the industry under control. A new moratorium on palm oil permits is reportedly being prepared and the Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya has made clear that one of the moratorium’s main objectives is to save Papua’s forest.

However, many companies with ambitions to vastly increase their plantation area are still looking to Papua as one of the few areas where large amounts of land are still potentially available. Plantations on this new frontier are often much larger than elsewhere in Indonesia, meaning huge environmental destruction and drastic changes which have a devastating effect on local indigenous populations.

Accurate information on how the oil palm industry is developing in Papua is crucial to be able to assess whether the changes in the industry will actually protect the forest and make a positive difference to the lives of indigenous Papuans, or if it will just give a better image masking the same old problems. Nevertheless, obtaining full data is still a major challenge. This series of articles aims to give it a shot, profiling a few of the newest companies to start operations in Papua, especially companies which have recently started cutting the forest, or appear to be preparing to start work. The first is a particularly worrying case, where forest clearance started last year: Pacific Inter-link.

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Anggai

In a remote area of Southern Papua an immense block of 2,800 square kilometres (the size of Luxembourg, or three times Singapore) of primary rainforest has been given permits for oil palm, and deforestation has already started. In an incredibly brazen move by local politicians, (later supported by the Forestry Ministry), this whole area was given away to just one company, the Menara Group, divided into seven contiguous concessions.

The Menara Group has since sold most of the concessions to two Malaysian-based companies: Pacific Inter-link took four of the concessions (PT Megakarya Jaya Raya, PT Kartika Cipta Pratama, PT Graha Kencana Mulia and PT Energi Samudera Kencana) and Tadmax Sdn Bhd took two (PT Trimegah Karya Utama and PT Manunggal Sukses Mandiri). The remaining concession, PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, either still belongs to the Menara Group or has been sold to an unknown buyer.

Pacific Inter-link started work on one of the concessions, PT Megakarya Jaya Raya in mid 2015. Satellite images show that by April 2016, 2,840 hectares of forest had been cleared. About one third of that area was on deep peat, and the area lies within an intact forest landscape. Most of PT Megakarya Jaya Raya’s concession is classified on Indonesian government maps as primary forest, as are the other three concessions.

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Pacific Inter-Link Deforestation April 2016

It isn’t easy to greenwash the conversion of 160,000 hectares of primary rainforest to palm oil plantation. Nevertheless, Pacific Inter-link makes a lame attempt to do just that on its website, stating that “Lots of careful measures are taken to ensure no ecological damage takes place due to this project.” The company did not respond to a request to view high conservation value assessments or social and environmental impact assessment.

How did one company manage to get its hands on so much land? There are no local groups in this remote area which have been able to undertake a full investigation. However, corruption must be suspected. The Boven Digoel Regency Head, Yusak Yaluwo, issued the initial location permits in July 2010, three months after being arrested on unrelated corruption charges. He was found guilty in November that year, and declared non-active by the interior minister. Nevertheless, despite being imprisoned in Sukamiskin Prison, Bandung, there were frequent allegations that Yusak Yaluwo was continuing to run the Boven Digoel government from his prison cell by mobile phone. He was officially removed from his post in May 2013, but wasn’t formally replaced by his deputy until June 2014. The upshot of this bizarre story is that there was no effective local government in Boven Digoel for three and a half years, the time which the Menara Group was engaged in the permit process for the plantations which would later be sold to Pacific Inter-link.

At the same time in the Aru Islands in Maluku, the Menara Group had tried to claim an even larger area for a sugar-cane plantation. However, as a strong local campaign was unearthing irregularities at every level, the Forestry Minister eventually declared that the plantation would not go ahead, giving the reason that the land was not suitable for sugar cane after all.

The land which is being cleared is near an indigenous village, Kampung Anggai, but there have been no reports of how the local people view the company, nor what methods the company used to persuade people to allow it to use their land.

Tadmax, the other company involved, has so far not developed its concessions, claiming to be looking for a partner, or to sell the land. Its 2015 Annual report states that “the Group is in the process of identifying parties to undertake a plantation development (both on its own or through joint ventures) and/or outright disposal of all or part of the land or a combination of the above. “

Previously both Pacific Inter-link and Tadmax had signed up to a joint venture in 2012 for an integrated timber complex which would use the wood from their concessions, but there is no recent news that might indicate the plan is still going ahead.

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Anggai plantation 2

Pacific Inter-link is based in Malaysia, but is part of the privately-owned Yemeni conglomerate, the Hayel Sayed Anam Group. Its plantation in Boven Digoel is the company’s first, but palm oil has long been part of its core business and the company has a presence at almost all levels of the industry. It operates refineries on Sumatra, is a trader of crude palm oil which it buys from other plantation companies, and markets consumer goods produced from palm oil under a number of brand names: Avena, Madina, Pamin and Sheeba cooking oils, Saba Juliet and Meditwist Soap and Milgro milk products. As well as South East Asia, Pacific Inter-links products are marketed in the Middle East and Africa, where its brands have a dominant market position.

This high degree of vertical integration in its supply chain insulates Pacific Inter-link from the pressures on other palm oil producers, which have to contend with the possibility that if they continue to deforest, their product may be boycotted by several of the largest palm oil traders.

However, the concessions have caught the eye of Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya. In an interview with foresthints.news she described how existing palm oil permits will be reviewed in preparation for a moratorium, “Several of our findings indicate that in areas where forest release permits have been granted since 2011 in Papua, nothing has been done there and they are simply landbanks. We even found that some of these permits have been traded. For example, seven forest release permits for palm oil development in that province [Papua], amounting to almost 300 thousand hectares, were sold to a number of business groups in Malaysia. This practice of trading involves 20 percent of the areas that should be given to communities.”

Pacific Inter-link is an RSPO member as a trading and processing company, but has not mentioned the existence of its plantations in any submissions to the RSPO. Neither has the company responded to requests for information from awasMIFEE.

The situation is extremely alarming: what is likely to be the largest single palm oil plantation development project ever to take place in Indonesia is happening in an area of primary rainforest, containing peat swamps, and with no information whatsoever on how the plantation is affecting the tribes living in one of the remotest areas of Papua. A large area has been cleared already, but this is still only so far only 1% of the total areas under permit. Serious and immediate attention is needed on how the Menara Group, and subsequently Pacific Inter-link managed to get control of such a large area, and it needs to be held to account on its potentially devastating social and environmental impact.

Footnote: 1: in the case of Wilmar, the abandoned plantations would have planted sugar-cane.

New film ‘The Mahuzes’, documents conflicts between indigenous Merauke people and agribusiness

from our partners at AwasMIFEE

First Published: February 20, 2016

‘The Mahuzes’, a film about conflicts between indigenous people and agribusiness companies in Merauke, was released in Indonesian last year, and now it is available with English subtitles. It’s one of a series of documentaries produced as part of the ‘Ekspedisi Indonesia Biru’, a one-year road-trip on motorbikes by filmmakers Dandhy Laksono and Ucok Suparta, visiting diverse communities around the archipelago, often communities in struggle.

The Mahuzes follows one clan of Marind people in Muting village, where oil palm companies have started clearing land in the last few years on five massive plantations. The effects of these plantations are having a major impact – even the water from the Bian River has become undrinkable. The Mahuze clan is resisting – refusing to sell their land, erecting customary barriers to forbid the company from entering – but the company (PT Agriprima Persada Mulia) just pulls up their boundary markers. As well as these direct conflicts with the plantation companies, we see how they attempt to deal with the conflicts that inevitably arise when irresponsible companies show up with compensation money – there is an emotional peacemaking ceremony between the Marind and the neighbouring Mandodo people, but also anger in meetings that some elders in their own clan may have struck a secret deal with the company.

The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate was originally launched as a massive industrial agriculture project in 2010, but it failed to reach the stated ambition in its original plan, and the cluster of oil palm plantations around Muting were some of the only developments that have actually started work in the last years. However, in May 2015 President Joko Widodo travelled to Merauke to relaunch the plan to convert over a million hectares of forest and savannah to mechanised rice production. The filmmakers also visit the site of the new rice development, revealing that once again the central government is ordering a mega project without due consideration of the local social and environmental conditions. One issue is the water – Irawan, who works for the water provider, explains that most of the water in the flat Kurik sub-district comes from rainfall. How could these conditions possibly support huge areas of irrigated rice-fields?

The Marind people’s staple food is sago, and sago palms grow abundantly in groves in the forest. As Darius Nerob explains in the film “If we plant rice, it’s 6 months before we can eat. But with sago, any day we need, we can just go and fell a tree… This tree can feed a family for half a year…. Even though the transmigrant program has existed for 33 years, Marind people have stuck with sago, they haven’t shifted to rice.”

Trial starts for two people arrested on demonstration at PT Permata Putera Mandiri’s offfice.

from our partners at AwasMIFEE

first 

Aksi-PT.PPM-1On 15th May this year, dozens of students and others from the Iwaro ethnic group from Metamani and Inanwatan in South Sorong Regency, staged a protest action with banners and speeches, blocking the offices of oil palm company PT Permata Putera Mandiri (PPM), on Jalan Ahmad Yani, Sorong City, West Papua Province.

According to Simon Soren, one of the participants on the action, “the people were demanding that PT PPM offer a solution to the problems of land grabbing, the destruction of the forest and sago groves, illegal logging and an unfair level of compensation, and indications that illegal exploration for oil and gas were also taking place”.

The company refused to meet with the demonstrators, and then police from the Sorong City station, who were already present at the area, broke up the action and arrested dozens of participants. After questioning, several detainees were released little by little, until eventually only two people were being held: Obed Korie and Odie Aitago from Puragi village, Metamani District, South Sorong.

On 14th July 2014, Obed Korie and Odie Aitago attended the first session of their court process at the Sorong District Court, where the prosecution read out the accusations. According to Loury Dacosta, their legal support who attended that session, “Prosecutor Ola Dimara read out the accusations which formed the basis of charging the two people under article 170 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which refers to violence towards persons or property, and carries a threat of a five year prison sentence”.

Justice appears to be very distant for the victims of PT PPM: the company has not met their demands, and now on the contrary the victims of development are criminalised by the government.

The ANJ Group’s business in South Sorong

PT PPM is a subsidiary company of PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya (ANJ) Group, owned by business tycoon George Tahija. ANJ also owns two other oil palm plantations in South Sorong and nearby Maybrat, PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa (PMP and PT Pusaka Agro Makmur (PAM). The ANJ Group also owns PT ANJ Agri Papua which is engaged in exploiting sago forests and in the sago processing industry, with operations between Metamani and Kokoda districts in South Sorong.

Before being acquired by the ANJ Group, the three oil palm companies were believed to be owned by Jakarta-based PT Pusaka Agro Sejahtera with the majority of the shares held by foreign companies (most likely offshore holding companies). 90% of the shares in PT PPM were owned by Xinfeng Pte Ltd, and 90% of PT PMP was owned by Xinyou Plantation Pte Ltd, both based at the same address at 30 Cecil St, Singapore. In January 2014, these shares were transferred to the AnJ Group. PT PAM, whose shares were registered in the name of another Singapore-based company Wodi Kaifa Ltd, was acquired by the ANJ Group in October 2014.

The company obtained the land for their plantations through mechanisms based on Indonesian state law, ignoring local customary law mechanisms. This actually contravenes the provisions of the 2001 law concerning special autonomy for Papua, which state that if any party requires access to customary land, a meeting of indigenous people must take place to reach a consensus decision before any permits to operate or land title may be granted.

Local indigenous people, who actually have control and title over the land and forest are never involved in land acquisition, including in this case involving PT ANJ. The process of land acquisition takes place furtively and without transparency, with police and military involvement, and without the community having the opportunity to understand or find out what the wider impacts of forest clearance might be.

Land acquisition and compensation documents reveal that the average compensation paid is 75,000 Rupiah per hectare (US$6), with a stipulation that the land will be used for the duration of the company’s operational permit, 35 years. This amount is extremely unfair if compared to the benefits the community would otherwise obtain from forest products in the area. The company on the other hand, will receive huge profits from its exploitation of forest products and large-scale land management.

Source: http://pusaka.or.id/demo-menuntut-pt-ppm-dua-warga-dipidanakan/

Government still looking to Merauke for industrial agriculture development

from our partners at AwasMIFEE

First Published: April 17, 2015

Since the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate was launched in West Papua in August 2010, it has had the result of clearing the way for oil palm and sugar-cane plantations, but has failed to meet its stated aim to develop large-scale production of certain key food crops, notably rice.

Now there are signs that the new government is still looking to push for large-scale mechanised agriculture in the area, despite the frequently voiced opposition by many local indigenous Marind people.

On 6th April the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat website posted an article saying that Medco boss Arifin Panigoro had invited President Joko Widodo to join in a harvest of rice cultivated using the ‘modern system’

According to Arifin, President Jokowi gave a positive response towards the mechanisation of agriculture using the modern rice cultivation system. Plans were even made that during his visit to Papua in early May, the President will visit the site where modern rice cultivation is being developed in southern Papua.
“I’ve already reported it all to the president, and I’m also going to invite him for the harvest,” said Arifin Panigoro.
Arifin Panigoro is pioneering the development of modern rice cultivation in Merauke as a means of increasing productivity. Modern rice cultivation is a fully-mechanised concept. As 5000 hectares can be managed by 100 people, each person would get 50 hectares. The machinery used in the process, from planting through to harvest, would be the same as is used in the United States.
Full article in Indonesian: http://setkab.go.id/arifin-panigoro-undang-presiden-jokowi-panen-sawah-sistem-modern-di-papua/

This news should set alarm bells ringing for peasant farmers all over Indonesia, where most of the rice is still farmed by families in the traditional labour-intensive way, meaning rural communities still have some reasonable degree of control over the production of their staple food. What will be the impact on these rural communities if this mechanised method which needs minimal labour should prove to be cheaper? There will be a tendency to concentrate land in the hands of corporations and many villagers, unable to compete, will be forced off the land, most likely into poverty in the city.

During his election campaign, Jokowi talked a lot about food sovereignty, a concept developed by peasant movements from around the world. Food sovereignty goes beyond the idea of ‘food security’ which tends to be understood at the national level (ie. a state ensures it has enough food, through limiting its dependence on imports), to the level of the food producers themselves. According to the 2007 Nyeleni declaration made by peasant movements meeting in Mali in 2007:

“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems”

Arifin Panigoro’s invitation is going to make Jokowi decide whether he actually believes in food sovereignty, or will fall back on the rhetoric of food security which produced the MIFEE project, where local food producers (in this case the Marind people who live from hunting, gathering and shifting cultivation) are to be sacrificed so that Indonesia can meet its goal of being self-sufficient in rice etc.

Arifin Panigoro’s Medco group of companies was one of the key actors involved in pushing for the MIFEE development in the first place, and has several interests in the area. Medco’s rice business has yet to get past the experimental stage. However another Medco company, PT Selaras Inti Semesta, was the first big investor to start clearing land, for its industrial timber plantation, in 2010.

One of the villages in Medco’s concession area, Zanegi, has become a symbol of everything that was wrong with the MIFEE project, the village that taught the Marind people that it industrial agriculture would be a disaster for them. Medco tricked villagers out of their land, giving them a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ and a small amount of money which they did not know was actually compensation for their ancestral land. Few villagers managed to hold down a job with the company for long and became dependent on the minimal compensation for wood that was being given, and travelling far from their village to find basic subsistence necessities in the remaining forest. Child malnutrition increased, and several children died of preventable diseases. Conflict and accusations of black magic saw many leaders imprisoned. The company backed down from its promises to the community. And then in the end Medco decided that the business was not profitable, and abandoned the area, after destroying much of the forest, turning it into woodchips and shipping it to Korea.

With the level of opposition and the tally of bitter experiences that have come with the plantation companies in Merauke, you might think that a fundamental reappraisal of development strategy might make sense. However there are signs that the Jokowi government is still interested in the ‘food estate’ model of agriculture. In its medium-term development plan there is no mention of MIFEE, but there is a plan to designate the Merauke area a Special Economic Zone.

Now an article published in the Jakarta Post website on 16th April indicates that several ministries are still considering resurrecting theMerauke Food Estate, and also potentially the other ‘failed’ food estates in Kalimantan. The report doesn’t give many practical details of where, when or how these developments might go ahead, but the Land and Spatial planning minister thinks that development could even begin this year.

Govt to revive food estate project in Papua
by Linda Yulisman
With its high food self-sufficiency target, the government is considering reviving the stalled “food estate” program of the prior administration by involving private and state-owned companies.The extensive commercial farming will focus on rice, corn and soybean — all are food crops laid out in the self-sufficiency goal, according to State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno. “We will synergize the whole processes from seeding to fertilizing,” she said.State-owned enterprises, such as fertilizer producer PT Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company, seedling company PT Sang Hyang Sri and agribusiness firm PT Pertani, will take the lead in the projects, Rini said.Designed in the early days of Yudhoyono’s administration in 2009, the project was meant to integrate farming and food-based energy generation to replicate the success story of Brazil’s large-scale agricultural projects.The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) program in Papua is expected to cover a 1.6 million hectare area. It has attracted dozens of investors, including Wilmar International, Artha Graha and Medco Group, that are interested in growing a wide array of food crops, including rice, corn, soybean, sugar cane and palm oil.Similar to the food sovereignty agenda formulated by President Jokowi’s administration, the former government also underlined the need of attaining self-sufficiency in key corps and beef by 2014, which, in fact, it failed to achieve.MIFEE has proven to be a tough project to implement, particularly because of land issues, as the multi-billion project threatens conservation areas, such as virgin forests and water catchment areas, as well as the habitat of indigenous peoples in Papua.Concerns over human rights abuses, including violations of land rights and of the requirement to obtain free, prior and informed consent, and also over the displacement of local people by inflows of workers from outside the region have also lingered.By last year progress had stagnated in the completion of an environmental analysis (Amdel) and in provincial spatial planning, Agriculture Ministry’s director general for agriculture infrastructure and facilities Gatot Irianto told The Jakarta Post.“The stocktaking of customary land is a difficult thing and this must be endorsed further,” he said, adding that he viewed the need to make the planned food estate a special economic zone to enjoy special treatment to enable implementation. Despite the snail-paced progress in the past, Minister Ferry said the planned project could, nevertheless, begin as soon as the second half of this year.“We have already secured some potential plots of land to commence the project,” he told the Post, adding that some areas in Kalimantan were also under assessment as alternatives.With the strategic location of Merauke near the sea, it will be easy to transport the output to other areas once seaports are established, according to Ferry.Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chief Franky Sibarani said the broader Indonesian food sector might receive investments this year, notably from foreign companies.“We’ve heard about interest by American and Japanese firms to invest in growing corn and cassava,” he said.Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/04/16/govt-revive-food-estate-project-papua.html

More Agression from Brimob in Nabire, this time Smashing up a Local Family’s House

From awasMifee 

September 3, 2014

Police Mobile Brigade members sent to work as private security in PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm concession in Nabire, Papua have been behaving badly once more. One team paid a visit to the house of Yunas Money, who is a customary landowner. Fully armed, they proceeded to smash and destroy the contents of his house.

This police action, which took place on Friday 29th August 2014 at 3pm Papua time, left Yunus Money’s domestic furniture damaged, while the inhabitants of the house ran to seek refuge in the forest. [It appeared that] the Brimob wished to shoot Yunus dead because they felt aggrieved at the community pressure over how Brimob were working as security guards for the oil palm plantation.

Robertino Hanebora, the Secretary of the Yerisiam Ethnic Group, reported that the policemen had been trying to find out the whereabouts of Yunus who is also the leader of a local cooperative. They were annoyed because of the community’s strong protests against the Brimob security (see also this previous report [Indonesian Original] [English translation]).
Robertino said that although the protest letters which had been sent out had still not resulted in any follow-up action in the field, Brimob’s latest action showed that they were dismayed with our protest.

Local indigenous customary landowners had sent a letter to the national police headquarters through their local cooperative on 21st July 2014, demanding the withdrawal of Brimob troops from the company’s concession because their presence was making the community anxious.

Responding to arrogance on the part of Brimob working as security for PT Nabire Baru’s oil palm plantation, indigenous customary land owners from the Yerisiam people in Sima village, Yaur district, are requesting that chief of police in Papua immediately withdraws the Brimob guards from the plantation and replaces them with general police working out of the Nabire police station. This is the request of the Bumiowi cooperative, as signed by its leader Yunus Money.

Source: Pusaka http://pusaka.or.id/brimob-nabire-baru-intimidasi-ketua-koperasi-bumiowi/