Review of existing palm oil permits in peat hydrological units to be prioritized according to DG

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - The moratorium on palm oil expansion announced by President Joko Widodo in Mid-April does not only encompass a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for palm oil plantation development, but also a review of existing palm oil permits, particularly for palm oil concessions which still enjoy substantial forest cover.

At present, most notably in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, there are several existing palm oil permits for concessions in peatland hydrological units, where the forest cover still consists of primary and secondary forest.

"In line with the President’s directive, all existing palm oil permits are currently under review, including those located in peatland hydrological units," San Afri Awang, Director General of Forestry Planology and Environmental Governance at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, told foresthints.news on Thursday (May 12).

Awang explained that the entire process for the issuance of new permits for concessions in state forest areas classified as convertible production forest areas has been put on hold since the President announced the palm oil expansion moratorium.

“We are currently reviewing existing palm oil permits, and are certainly giving priority to the review of existing permits for concessions situated in peatland hydrological units,” the Director General added.

He went on to say that in legal terms, it was true that only 30 percent of the total area located in a peatland hydrological unit can be protected, whether it is an area comprising peat forests or mineral rich forests in the peatland hydrological unit.

“The President’s announcement on the moratorium on palm oil expansion means that there will be a significant opportunity to extend the areas protected in a peatland hydrological unit to more than 30 percent," Awang explained.

The Director General pointed out that as a consequence of the review process, there was a good possibility that land clearing for the expansion of existing palm oil concessions located in peatland hydrological units would not be allowed to continue, particularly in areas which retain good forest cover.

"A set of criteria for conserving forests with good forest cover in concessions with existing palm oil permits, especially those situated in peatland hydrological units, is still being deliberated. Of course, this will involve various legal considerations, such as legal certainties in doing business and investing in Indonesia," the Director General added.

The decision is a great move

The Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, Vanda Mutia Dewi, said the decision taken by the Minister of the Environment and Forestry and the Director General to prioritize a review of existing palm oil permits spread over peat hydrological units was a great move.

"This is a great move as it provides a good opportunity for the conservation of areas whose forest cover consists of primary and secondary forest located in peatland hydrological units, in particular those situated in existing palm oil concessions in the provinces of Papua and West Papua," Vanda told foresthints.news enthusiastically on Friday (May 13) after a meeting with the Director General San Afri Awang.

Prior to this, Greenpeace also declared that it completely agreed that areas which retain good forest cover - most notably those found in peatland hydrological units - should be protected, including those that are currently found in existing palm concessions.

"We absolutely agree with this measure by the government to conduct a review of palm oil permits, largely to protect areas which still have good forest cover, and especially those in peatland hydrological units. This serves as a reinforcement of the moratorium on palm oil expansion announced by the President," Annisa Rahmawati, Greenpeace Indonesia Forest Campaigner, told foresthints.news (May 10).