Ninth letter sent to speed up APRIL's work plan approval  

(foresthints.news) - With the aim of accelerating the approval of a revised 10-year work plan of PT RAPP - a subsidiary of pulp and paper giant APRIL - Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has sent a new letter (Dec 8) to the Singapore-based company asking for improvements to its proposed revised work plan given that it has yet to incorporate new peat regulations.

The minister's letter is the ninth such letter addressed to the APRIL company since May, all of which have been related to the ministry's efforts to ensure the APRIL company's 2017-2026 work plan is properly aligned with the new peat regulations, most notably by including a peat recovery plan.

The latest letter - signed by the Ministry's Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono on behalf of the minister - stresses that the APRIL company needs to work towards improving its proposed revised work plan while also referencing the previous eight letters sent to the company.

The most recent version of the APRIL company's proposed revised work plan, which was submitted to the ministry in this early December, still fails to take into account the directives laid out in the eight prior ministerial letters. 

Below are some photographs depicting the results of a ground-based inspection conducted by the ministry in Riau's Kampar Peninsula landscape in Sumatra, as previously reported by foresthints.news (Oct 9),  which exposed the ongoing peat violations perpetrated by the APRIL company.

On the basis of these revelations, the ministry imposed a strict sanction on the APRIL company which, to date, has yet to be lifted.

Second annulment

In mid-October this year, the ministry annulled PT RAPP's existing work plan in order to expedite the approval of a new work plan to replace the annulled one.

In fact, this was the second time that one of the APRIL company's work plans had been annulled. The first annulment was made by the ministry in early October 2016 (to the February 2016 version of the company's revised work plan), because it was still engaging in new peat development.

As a result of this annulment, the APRIL company was ordered to revert to its old work plans (the 2010 and 2013 versions). These work plans are clearly out of date and requires immediate revision to be aligned with the new peat regulations. Only then, could it be approved by the ministry.

The following photographs show the new peat development undertaken by the APRIL company - classified as peat violations by the ministry - which led to the February 2016 version of its work plan being annulled by the authorities. 

Furthermore, the APRIL company was given a sanction demanding that it remove newly-planted acacia covering an area the size of 600 soccer fields as well as close the new canals it had constructed. 

This sanction has yet to be lifted by the ministry as the company's proposed revised work plan remains inconsistent with the new peat regulations

Sudden about-face

Previously, a PT RAPP representative, as reported by foresthints.news (Oct 25), stated at a joint press conference held with top ministry officials (Oct 24) that the company would attempt to improve its proposed revised work plan by continuing to consult with the ministry.

However, in an apparent about-face, the company subsequently decided to go to court, requesting that the annulment of the old versions of its work plans be overturned.

The reason the APRIL company gave for pursuing the legal route was that the ministry had not responded to a letter (Oct 18) asking for the annulment of its old work plan to be reconsidered by the deadline supposedly given to it.

The ministry, in turn, regards this legal appeal as irrelevant, because both before and after the previously-mentioned joint press conference (Oct 24), the ministry did indeed continue to guide the APRIL company in a bid to refine its proposed revised work plan. Various evidence of this was duly presented in court (Dec 11).

The ministry views the legal steps taken by the APRIL company as an attempt to avoid legal compliance with regard to obligatory peat recovery efforts. 

The East Jakarta State Administrative Court will rule on the case later this month, with a decision scheduled for December 21.

The stance of APRIL, as well as its long-term suppliers, contrasts sharply with that of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper company, in that almost all of the pulpwood companies in APP’s supply chain have already completed their revised work plans in line with the new peat regulations, and had these work plans approved by the ministry.