Nicholas Ryan Aditya, Jakarta – Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) Coordinator Merah Johansyah has refuted Presidential Chief of Staff (KSP) Moeldoko’s statement that the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is not selling off permits to open new mines and palm oil plantations.
Johansyah refuted Moeldoko's claim by outlining data from the government's own Forest Area Borrow-to-Use Permit Information System (SIPPKH) at the Forestry and Environment Ministry (KLHK).
The fact is, the data shows that between 2016 and 2020 there were a total of 592 Forest Area Borrow-to-Use Permits (IPPKH) – a permit given to use forest areas for non-forestry development which must be restored to its original condition and returned to the state after use.
"Or an area of 241,613.25 hectares of IPPKH which were issue by the Forestry and Environment Minster to be used for non-forestry purposes including palm oil and mining", said Johansyah when contacted by Kompas.com on Friday January 22.
Based on this data, he is of the view that during the Widodo administration, new permits for mining and palm oil plantations have still been issued.
Moreover, he said, the total number and extent of the IPPKHs has increased drastically compared with the previous administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Johansyah did not however provide details on how many IPPKH were issued by the Yudhoyono administration.
Reflecting on the situation in South Kalimantan, he also provided an outline depicting IPPKHs in South Kalimantan.
"If examined in South Kalimantan, as of June 2020 there were 93 IPPKHs covering 56,727.86 hectares of land for non-forestry purposes including palm oil and mining", he said.
Johansyah suspect that these permits have also contributed to deforestation or damage to forests and the environment in primary watershed areas (DAS) in South Kalimantan which have caused massive flooding.
Not stopping there, he also analysed data on the total number of IPPKHs spread across Indonesia as of June 2020.
"Jatam analysed the SIPPKH data from the KLHK website which can be accessed by the public. From the data that was analysed, as of June 2020, 1,034 IPPKHs were found", he explained.
Meanwhile the total land area which was utilised reached 499,655.57 hectares, which according to Johansyah is almost equivalent to two times the land area of Bogor regency in West Java.
IPPKH permits, he said, are forest use permits which are issued by ministerial level officials for non-forestry purposes including palm oil and mining.
Johansyah is of the view that forest areas covered by IPPKH permits were "sold off" during the New Order era of former president Suharto and this has continued since the reformasi era – the era of political reform that began in 1998.
"Or since the eras of [forestry] ministers M. Prakosa (2001-2004), MS Ka'ban (2004-2009), Zulkifli Hasan (2009-2014) to Siti Nurbaya (2014-now)", he said.
According to Johansyah, the data shows that forestry ministers under every regime have contributed to the loss of forest areas. Moreover he believes that forestry ministers from these regimes – including Nurbaya during the Widodo administration – should be held accountable.
Johansyah said he deplores the actions of the government in issuing permits for the use of forest areas, even though not all of these areas have been cleared yet.
"However, the extend of the sell-off of forest use permits is almost equivalent to two times the land area of Bogor regency which covers 266,400 hectares", he said.
"This area does not yet include IPPKHs for surveys and exploration, or include mining activities without permits in forest areas", he added.
Based on the data that exists, Johansyah concludes that whether forests are managed by the state or under KLHK permits, they are still in fact the principle cause of deforestation.
Moreover, there is a conflict of interest between ministers from the political parties and the oligarchy and mining corporations in forestry affairs which further perpetuates deforestation.
"As a consequence the ordinary people become social and ecological refugees because of the disasters they reap. Because the epicenter of these disasters actually lies with the government and the political elite themselves", he said in conclusion.
Moeldoko's earlier statement was made in response to criticism from parties who said that deforestation was one of the triggers for the massive floods in South Kalimantan.
According to Moeldoko, the decline in forest areas in Kalimantan is not directly proportional to the permits issued by the government to clear land for mining and palm oil plantations.
He said that no new permits have been issued during the Widodo administration.
"I think during the era of Pak [Mr] Jokowi, perhaps we see that no new permits were issued. So perhaps we need to look deeper, just how many permits were issued under his administration?", said Moeldoko at the Bina Graha Building in Jakarta on Wednesday January 20.
"I think we can say very few. I don't know exactly, right. I'll look into it, yes. But essentially during the administration of President Jokowi there has been no sell-off of permits. That's the point", he asserted.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pemerintah Klaim Tak Obral Izin Alih Hutan, Jatam: Ada 592 Unit IPPKH di Era Jokowi".]