(19/04/2021) Based on satellite image monitoring between January and March 2021, we found  more than 194 hectares of forest area cleared in the region near Getentiri, on the edge of Digoel River, Distrik Jari, Boven Digoel Regency, Papua Province. Previously in 2019, forest monitoring in the same region found 160 hectares of forest loss.

The forest loss is allegedly caused by land clearing and deforestation to develop palm oil plantation businesses by PT. Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa and PT. Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, both owned by PT. Digoel Agri Group.

PT. Digoel Agri Group is a foreign company (Perusahaan Modal Asing) with majority shares owned by an investor named Neville Christoper from New Zealand. Other investors include Jones R.M. Rumangkang, a family relative to the late Democrat Party politician Vence Rumangkang.

On March 2021, Pusaka Bentala Rakyat Foundation requested a clarification from PT. Jenggala Hijau Sertifikasi (JHS), a company that issues timber legality certificates, about the land clearing activity of PT. Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa and PT. Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera.

In JHS’s response, it stated that the two companies have Plantation Business Permits (Izin Usaha Perkebunan) issued in 2018, Land Clearing Permits (Izin Pembukaan Lahan) issued in 2018, and Land Conversion Permits (Izin Pemanfaatan Kayu) issued in 2019 and extended in 2020. These permits were issued by the Investment and One-Stop Service Center Office (Dinas Penanaman Modal dan Pelayanan Terpadu Satu Pintu) in Papua Province.

Through a letter that was signed by PT. JHS’s President Director Ir. Joko Isworo, M.Pd dated March 22, 2021, they also clarified that the Cultivation Rights Title (Hak Guna Usaha/HGU) based on their clarification with PT. Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa and PT. Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera that: “at the time of verification, [both companies] have not yet obtained HGU permits and in the last confirmation with company management, the permit has not been issued yet and will just begin to be processed.”

Based on this information, the two subsidiary companies of PT. Digoel Agri Group allegedly operated to clear and fell forests in 2019 and 2021 against the law without HGU permits. The company is potentially violating Minister of Agriculture Regulation (Permentan) Number 05 Year 2019 on Agriculture Sector Business Licensing Procedures Article 9 paragraph (1) letter (f) that requires every plantation business company to be obligated to fulfill its commitment to present and own a HGU permit.

Pusaka Bentala Rakyat Foundation views the need for pro active steps and actions by the national government, Agriculture Ministry, Governor and Bupati all have the obligation to oversee companies’ fulfilment of its commitment and compliance with standards, certification, as well as their business conduct.

Advocacy Staff of Pusaka Bentala Rakyat Foundation, Tigor G. Hutapea, explained “We ask the local government to take action against violations and not hesitate to impose sanctions to revoke company permits, enforce environmental criminal law and other sanctions if the company is proven to violate the law. It appears that since 2019, the government has made no effort to enforce the law,” said Tigor G. Hutapea.

Law enforcement must be done, including sanctions to the officials that issued permits and were negligent in carrying out their oversight function.  Justice, people’s prosperity and environmental sustainability will only be achieved with the genuine support of the state in enforcing the law.

Ank, April 2021

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