Indonesia: Court Rejects RAPP's Plea to Revoke Gov't Reprimand Letter

The ministry in October issued a reprimand letter that invalidated RAPP's current 10-year plan due to the company's unwillingness to comply with new government regulations on peatland protection.(Reuters Photo/Y.T. Haryono)
Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 21 Dec 17;

Jakarta. The Jakarta State Administrative Court, or PTUN Jakarta, on Thursday (21/12) rejected a plea submitted by Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, or RAPP, requesting the court revoke a reprimand letter issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in October, which invalidated the company’s current 10-year business plan.

RAPP previously had a spat with the ministry after it rejected the company's business plan for a failure to comply with the government's new peatland protection framework, as detailed in Ministerial Decree No. 17 of 2017. That decree provides technical detail related to the implementation of Government Regulation No. 57 of 2016.

RAPP filed the plea to PTUN Jakarta on Nov. 16. It argued that one of the articles in Government Regulation No. 71 of 2014 states that business permits issued before the regulation became effective will remain valid until the company's license expires.

"The applicant's plea cannot be accepted as it does not meet the formal requirements," presiding judge Oenoen Pratiwi said in court on Thursday.

Oenoen said that according to one of the articles in a 1986 Law on the State Administrative Court, the company should have taken legal action by filing a lawsuit instead of submitting a plea.

Hamdan Zoelva, RAPP's legal representative, said the company will propose a judicial review to the Supreme Court after the court's decision.

"We respect that decision, but we will file a judicial review on that decision," Hamdan,who is a former MK chief justice, told reporters after the court hearing.

Hamdan added that he will also file a lawsuit against the ministry’s reprimand letter to the State Administrative Court immediately.

Government Statement

Bambang Hendroyono, the secretary general at the ministry, said that RAPP must obey the new government regulations by revising its business plan.

"There is no reason anymore to disobey government rules to revise the business plan. We have advised the company since May, but it [RAPP] did not follow the ministry’s directions," Bambang said after the hearing.

Bambang added that the ministry is still waiting for the completion of the company’s business plan revision as soon as possible.

"We have been waiting [for RAPP to comply with the request] within 14 working days since our last letter on Dec. 8."

RAPP Statement

RAPP — the operational unit of global pulp and paper industry leader Asia Pacific Resources International — said in a statement that the company also respects the court's decision.

The pulp and paper company also said it will revise its business plan to comply with the new regulations.

"With the revised business plan, the impact on our business activities will be considerable. However, we will continue to comply with directives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry," RAPP said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

The company said it will invest significantly in the conservation and restoration of peatlands in support of government efforts in managing sustainable development and reducing the impacts of climate change.

"Our current focus is on disseminating the results of the court’s ruling on operational management and ensuring the well-being of employees and the company’s contractors which are affected by today's court ruling," RAPP said in the statement.

Pulpwood firm loses appeal on work plan
S'pore-based firm April says it will work with Indonesian ministry on peatland protection
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Straits Times 22 Dec 17;

An Indonesian court yesterday rejected a petition by a major Indonesian pulp and paper company that challenged a government decision to void the firm's 10-year business plan.

Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Rapp), the operational unit of Singapore-based pulpwood firm Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), said that it would adjust the plan, which governs its daily operations, to meet Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MOEF) directives.

The dispute between Rapp and the MOEF involved differences over government efforts to speed up plantation companies moving off flammable peatlands. Rapp has large areas of peatlands within its Sumatra concessions.

The ministry had accused the company of failing to comply with new peatland protection laws, which aim to prevent annual haze and encourage plantation firms to move their operations to non-peatlands through land swop deals.

April said it protects large areas of peatlands, which are a major source of haze in the dry season, in its concessions. But it called on the ministry to agree to a more measured move off peatlands to avoid major business disruption and job losses.

The MOEF disagreed and wanted Rapp to revise its 10-year work plan, which all plantation firms must submit for ministerial approval. Failure to comply means a company must halt operations.

Rapp challenged the decision earlier this year to cancel the firm's business plan and sought the East Jakarta Administrative Court's help to mediate in the dispute.

Yesterday, a three-member panel of judges rejected its petition on procedural, not legal, grounds.

The firm responded: "Rapp intends to adjust the company's general working plan, as per directives from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry."

"The newly revised (plan) will significantly impact our business activities. Nevertheless, we will comply with the directives from the MOEF."

In the meantime, the firm's pulp mill can keep operating but no planting and harvesting on the concession areas covered by the work plan can be carried out, which will affect thousands of jobs.

Rapp also challenged the ministry's reliance on a law this year that decreed plantation firms must quickly switch to non-peatlands via land swops. The Supreme Court in October struck down the regulation, saying it was ambiguous and could cause legal uncertainty.

In its statement, the firm said: "We will continue to work to meet our commitment to conserve one hectare for every hectare planted (one-for-one goal), which currently stands at 83 per cent - or 419,000ha - of forest under conservation and restoration."

Its concessions under the work plan cover a large area of pulpwood trees in Riau province, directly across the Malacca Strait from Singapore. More than half the total concession area is peatland.

Dr Bambang Hendroyono, Secretary-General of MOEF, told The Straits Times that the ministry gave Rapp 14 working days from Dec 8 to revise its work plan.

"We have set a target to have all work plans... completed within this year. That is the ideal deadline," he said. "We are facing dry weather ahead and in 2018, we have Asian Games. We don't want to see anymore fire (and) haze then."

He said plantation firms, overall, did well in the recent prevention measures, adding: "Now only about 40 per cent of the total 85 plantation companies have completed their work plans.

"If the April group, which consists of more than 30 companies, completes its work plan, we will have 80 per cent of the 85 companies having completed their work plan."