Indonesia: Forest fire sanctions -- Govt makes public names of companies

Antara 21 Dec 15;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government has made public the names of companies on which it had imposed sanctions for having caused forest fires some months ago.

The announcement was made by Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs, Luhut Panjaitan at a press conference here on Monday. He was accompanied by Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and national police chief General Badrodin Haiti.

However, only the initials representing the names of these companies were made public.

Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said licenses of three companies were revoked. In Riau province, HSLs forest concession (HPH) was revoked while in Jambi province, DHLs environment permit and in West Kalimantan, MAS environment permit was revoked.

Sixteen other companies have had their permits frozen, including BMH in South Sumatra, SWI in South Sumatra, SRL in Riau, PBP in Jambi and BMJ in West Kalimantan. These firms forest product wood exploitation business permits (IUPHHK) were put on a freeze.

In Central Kalimantan, IFP, TKM and KH and DML in East Kalimantan have had their business permits revoked.

With regard to the plantations, the government froze the company licenses of SPW and HE in Central Kalimantan, WAJ, TRR and RPP in South Sumatra, LIH in Riau and BACP in North Kalimantan.

National police chief General Badrodin Haiti said the dossiers regarding the cases of three corporate suspects have been submitted to the prosecutors office. These are plantation company PHT in South Kalimantan and plantation companies ASP and MA in Central Kalimantan.

Meanwhile, the process of submitting the dossiers in case of two plantation companies in Riau and two plantation companies in West Kalimantan is underway.

Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan said the action would not stop at these steps and "we will continue the investigation."

He said the government has designed a standard operating procedure to deal with forest fires to reduce these and their impact to a minimum level.

"We were caught off guard. We thought that the El Nino impact would be at level two, but later it became known that it was most severe. We admitted that our coordination while dealing with the problem was not so good," he said.(*)

Company licenses to be revoked over Indonesia haze
BBC News 22 Dec 15;

More than 50 Indonesian companies are being punished for their role in causing the haze that blanketed South East Asia earlier this year.
The forest fires that caused the haze are the result of illegal slash-and-burn practices.

The fires are used to clear land for palm oil and pulp wood plantations.

For the first time the government is revoking as well as freezing the licences of companies found responsible.

The pollution caused by the fires has occurred for years, but was particularly bad in 2015.

The government has not named the firms, but released the initials and general location of 30 of the 56 companies who are being punished
Only one of the companies was confirmed to be foreign-owned. Another is a supplier to one of the world's biggest paper and pulp producers Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).

Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said other companies would be punished for not putting out blazes that reached their areas, the BBC's Rebecca Henschke reports from Jakarta.

Ms Nurbaya told a news conference that more companies were under investigation.

It is illegal in Indonesia to clear more than two hectares of land by what is known as slash-and-burn methods.

The government said in October that people caught flouting the law would face up to 10 years in jail.

But local farmers have said convictions are unlikely.

Many experts believe fires are likely to start up again when the rainy season ends in March.

President Joko Widodo recently told the BBC that it might take at least three years before the situation is under control.

In a quarterly report the World Bank said Indonesia's forest fires and subsequent haze this year have cost the country "more than twice" the amount spent on reconstruction efforts after the 2004 Aceh tsunami.

The bank said the cost amounted to 1.9% of Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP), adding that regional and global costs would be much higher.
The fires have had a devastating impact on children and wildlife - including Indonesia's rare orang-utans.

Haze fires: Jakarta gives initials of 16 'culprit' firms
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Dec 15;

Motorists drive across the Tumbang Nusa bridge, shrouded in haze, some 20 km on the outskirts of Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on October 29, 2015.

Indonesia yesterday released the initials of 16 plantation companies that it said were responsible for illegal fires that caused this year's transboundary haze crisis.

The companies - most of them pulp wood plantations operating on concession land in Sumatra and Kalimantan - have had their business licences suspended, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told reporters at a media briefing yesterday evening.

The government is mulling over whether to initiate legal proceedings against them for breaching environmental laws, she said. The firms include BMH and SWI, which have concessions in South Sumatra.

The suspensions would be lifted if, within the next two years, the companies show that they have made significant progress in efforts to prevent future fires, Ms Siti said.

"The rights of use for the portion of land that has been burnt must be returned to the state," she added.

Checks on data available at the Environment and Forestry Ministry show that BMH is Bumi Mekar Hijau and SWI is Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industry.

BMH is a supplier to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in Indonesia. BMH, SWI and APP have the same parent company, the Sinar Mas Group.

The government also revoked the licences of three firms, including one with the initials MAS, which has pulp wood concessions in West Kalimantan, and HSL, which has pulp wood concessions in Riau.

Checks show that MAS is Mega Alam Sentosa, another Sinar Mas company.

Asked for his response yesterday on the government's move to suspend Sinar Mas companies, its managing director, Mr Gandi Sulistyanto, said in a text message to The Straits Times: "We follow the existing regulations and legislation. Legal certainty and business sustainability are the platform."

This year's haze will go down as the worst on record, surpassing even the 1997 and 2013 crises.

The Indonesian government has pledged to get tough on firms that many believe used illegal slash- and-burn techniques to clear land.

"We are tightening the standard operating procedure, hoping the previous fire episode will not recur," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters.

Indonesia has said it is probing more than 100 firms over forest fires. In September, the permits of three - PT Tempirai Palm Resources, PT Waringin Agro Jaya and PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo - were revoked after they were found guilty of setting fire to land and forest areas.

Indonesia punishes firms over deadly forest fires
AFP Yahoo News 22 Dec 15;

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesia is punishing more than 20 companies in an unprecedented move for starting deadly forest fires that killed 19 people, a government official said Tuesday.

Three companies have been shut down permanently after having their licences revoked over their role in the blazes that choked vast expanses of southeast Asia with acrid haze and cost Indonesia $16 billion.

It is the first time the government has revoked company licences over forest fires, an annual occurrence caused by slash-and-burn land clearance.

The environment ministry also froze the operations of 14 companies and said they face closure if they do not meet the government’s demands over fire prevention.

Several other companies have been given a strong warning and will be put under close supervision.

"We have sanctioned 23 companies in total, ranging from administrative sanctions to license revocation, while 33 others are still in the process, they could have their licenses revoked too if they are found guilty," environment ministry official Kemal Amas told AFP.

View galleryThree companies have been shut down permanently by …
Three companies have been shut down permanently by Indonesia after having their licences revoked ove …
The ministry has been investigating 276 companies in total since the fires broke out in September.

"We need firmer law enforcement so that this catastrophe does not repeat itself, it’s been going on for 18 years but nobody has learnt their lesson," Amas said.

Amas said the ministry was also working hard to restore the forests and farmland destroyed in the fires.

Activists welcomed the government’s new commitment to punish firms.

The Indonesian Forum for Environment said it was unheard of for the government to revoke licences, as many companies previously avoided facing trial.

"The minister has the courage to not only freeze the companies' operation but also chase the owners in a civil case, this is great and this must be guarded carefully," Kurniawan told AFP.

"In the past some people were named suspects, but for them to actually lose their licenses, this is the first time," he said.

More than half a million people suffered acute respiratory infections in Indonesia because of the haze, while many in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia also fell ill.

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