(26/07/2021) “Forest is the source of life of the customary communities. Disappearance of forests and degradation of the environment will lead to problems for the communities in finding food, difficulty to earn a livelihood and deteriorating health of the communities”. This is expressed by Bonefasius Gebze, a community leader in Zanegi Village, Animha District, Merauke Regency.
Since November 2020 up to the present date, an Industrial Plantation Forest (HTI) company, PT. Selaras Inti Semesta (SIS), has been actively conducting activities and logging in the Zanegi Village area. In March 2021, PT. SIS has also expanded its logging to the natural forest in the area of Wapeko Village, Kurik District, Merauke Regency. In 2009 – 2016, PT SIS actively conducted logging in the natural forest in the areas of Zanegi Village and Buepe Village, Kaptel District. Thereafter, it went stagnant and was absence from any activities.
The residents of Zanegi Village are concerned with PT. SIS’ return to plantation forest logging activities and the potential impacts thereof. Furthermore, PT. SIS has not been responding to the community’s request for increased compensation for timber utilization and land lease, as well as their complaint on the use of timber for biomass power plant, but not for Zanegi Village.
“Currently, PT. SIS provides a compensation of Rp. 2,500 per cubic. This is the same amount as given in 2010 and the community has not witnessed any progress in their economic life, while the forest is already degraded”, as explained by Vitalis Gebze, from Zanegi Village.
In the agreement between PT. SIS and the Zanegi community which was signed on December 12, 2009, article 5 paragraph (2) states that the compensation for harvested timber products shall be: (1) Rp. 2.000 per cubic for timber originating from natural forest; (2) Rp. 1.500 per cubic for timber originating from plantation forest. PT. SIS argued that the compensation is already in accordance with Regulation of the Governor of Papua Number 64 Year 2012 dated December 31, 2012 regarding Standard Compensation for Timber Forest Products and Non-Timber Forest Products Collected in Ulayat Right Areas of Customary Law Communities.
An investigation by Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat and the Secretariat of Justice and Peace (SKP) of Merauke Archdiocese discovered that the indigenous peoples is not yet fully aware of the consequences of the industrial plantation forest and its benefits. The community has not fully understood and agreed to the contents of the agreement, the community was not adequately and truthfully informed and consulted with about the Business Work Plan on Utilization of Timber Forest Products in Industrial Plantation Forest (RKUPHHK-HTI) which among others contains the aspects of forest sustainability, business sustainability, environmental balance and socioeconomic development of the local communities, pursuant to Regulation of the Minister of the Environment and Forestry Number P. 62/MENLHK/SETJEN/KUM.1/10/2019 regarding Industrial Forest Plantation Development.
Based on the information from the Directorate General of General Law Administration of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia (2013), it is acknowledged that the HTI company, PT. SIS, is a foreign investment company (PMA) related to Medco Group. PT. SIS obtained its license from the Minister of Forestry No. SK.18/MENHUT-II/2009 dated January 22, 2009, with a concession area of 169,400 ha, almost the same size of Bandung Regency, West Java (176,796 ha), with a company operation license period of 60 years and extendable to another 35 years.
The forest products commercialization business is potentially threatening the existence of the Malind community as well as natural environmental degradation in a large scale, due to the conversion and elimination of natural forest areas, the lack of respect and protection of the local customary community’s rights as well as the lack of protection of the environment, the low price of productive forest products, and the unfair profit sharing value.
Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat and the Secretariat of Justice and Peace (SKP) of Merauke Archdiocese is of the opinion that the regional government of Merauke Regency, Papua Province and the central government must immediately take effective measures to evaluate and audit the existence and corporate licenses of PT. Selaras Inti Semesta, as well as the industrial forest products users such as PT. Merauke Narada Energi and others, which can provide fairness and restore the rights of the Malind community and the local natural environment.
“The Governor of Papua Province must reconsider Regulation of the Governor of Papua Number 64 Year 2012, which is potentially accelerating the destruction of Papua forests and leading to unfair profit sharing figure which does not favor the indigenous peoples” said Franky Samperante, an activist from Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat.
As mandated by the laws and regulations, the Government of Merauke Regency should also fulfill its obligation to produce regional regulations which are able to protect and respect the existence and rights of customary communities, able to empower the customary communities by various programs based upon the local innovative knowledge.
Similarly, the companies must be consistent with the contents of the agreements, which among others protect the locations deemed significant by the communities from expulsion and that they would be preserved (article 3 paragraph 4), places of significance which are closely related to the life of the communities include sacred places, ancestral paths, customary conservation places, sago hamlets and hunting forests.
“PT. SIS must respect the rights of the Malind community, this includes accepting the community’s decision of refusing the clearance of their customary forest for use in the company’s interests”, said Okto Waken, an activist from the Secretariat of Justice and Peace (SKP) of Merauke Archdiocese.
- Franky Samperante: +62 813 1728 6019
- Okto Waken +62 822 4802 1318