Singapore-headquartered pulp company disputes charge that supplier cleared high-value forest

Neo Chai Chin Today Online 21 May 14;

SINGAPORE — Environment groups in Kalimantan yesterday (May 20) accused Singapore-headquartered pulp company Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) of violating its sustainability policy — a charge that APRIL said was based on incorrect information.

The non-governmental organisations, including WWF-Indonesia East Kalimantan, said a company called PT Adindo Hutani Lestari supplying pulpwood to APRIL cleared natural forest on protected peatland in Tana Tidung, North Kalimantan. This took place after APRIL issued its Sustainable Forest Management Policy in January, which forbids operations in forests with high conservation value at its concessions and that of its suppliers, the NGOs said in a report.

Deforestation and drainage of peat leaves the wetlands — a rich carbon store — prone to fires.

In response, an APRIL spokesman said it has conducted a two-week investigation into the report, and found that the supplier did not violate its policy. The report was incorrectly based on an earlier draft map, whereas the supplier has honoured the forest area to be protected on the final map of its concession.

The spokesman said APRIL welcomed the report’s authors to join in a field survey at the site to confirm that the identified area remains intact.

APRIL director of group corporate and external affairs Goh Lin Piao told TODAY that PT Adindo Hutani Lestari is a short-term supplier from which APRIL began sourcing last year.

APRIL said it will continue to vigorously enforce its sustainability commitments including an end to the establishment of new plantations by the end of this year, and a doubling of its forest restoration programmes to 40,000 hectares.

At a Singapore Institute of International Affairs dialogue on sustainable world resources yesterday, Greenpeace’s global head of its Indonesia Forest Campaign Bustar Maitar called for APRIL to stop using natural-forest timber for its mills.

But APRIL chairman Bey Soo Khiang replied that unmanaged land is susceptible to illegal encroachment, and said the firm is contributing to peatland management. Providing jobs to people also improves their quality of life and lifts the pressure to do illegal logging, he added.