An aerial photo of palm oil plantations in Musi Banyuasin district, South Sumatra, in this June 11 file photo. The government will soon issue a presidential instruction that would serve as legal basis for a five-year moratorium on new palm oil concessions as part of the country's effort to reduce the negative impact of the plantations on the environment. (Antara Photo/Nova Wahyudi)

Indonesia to Impose Five-Year Moratorium on New Palm Oil Concessions

BY :TABITA DIELA

JULY 15, 2016

Jakarta. The Indonesian government will soon issue a presidential instruction that would serve as legal basis for a five-year moratorium on new palm oil concessions as part of the country's effort to reduce the negative impact of the plantations on the environment.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has put environmental issue as one of his administration priorities, seeking to put an end to Indonesia's deteriorating tropical forests.

Last year, the president extended a moratorium on peatland exploitation, which has been in place since 2011. Jokowi also said in April that he wanted to stop oil palm plantations and mining taking up forested land.

"The new policy is part of the previous ones, but this time, we come prepared with more data," Coordinating Economics Minister Darmin Nasution said on Friday (15/07).

Darmin said the government would make use of single base map — created in terms of the One Map Policy program that harmonizes all maps in the archipelago into one reference map — to ensure that the program does not overlap or conflict with other polices, such as on mining, agriculture or infrastructure development.

The minister's comment came after a meeting in Jakarta with his colleagues, including Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong, Industry Minister Saleh Husin and Land and Spatial Planning Minister Ferry Mursyidan Baldan.

This was the first meeting at ministerial level for the implementation of the presidential order.

The follow-up meeting — which still has to be scheduled — will determine the details and norms in the regulation.

"We will also include the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil System standard [in the regulation], so please don't be too worried as there will also be a transition period," Darmin said in an effort to assuage concerns among palm oil producers who fear that the plan could undermine one of the country's largest raw commodity exports.

Indonesia, as the world's largest palm oil producer, has been criticized by activists and other Southeast Asian countries for years as it failed to stop or prevent the region's annual haze problem, caused by forest clearing for palm and pulp plantations.

Trade Minister Thomas said the policy would prop up Indonesia's image as it aspires to contribute to efforts to stem global warming.

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