Indonesia activists abseil down refinery tanks to protest against deforestation

Greenpeace activists unfurl a giant banner on a tank of Crude Palm Oil and paint another at a Wilmar Group port in Bitung, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Sept 25, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Environmentalists on Tuesday (Sept 25) abseiled down storage tanks and unfurled banners at a palm-oil refinery in Indonesia to protest against the deforestation of the country's tropical forests.

They draped banners saying "Drop dirty palm oil now", while other activists clung to the anchor of a cargo ship near the facility, operated by a unit of Singapore's Wilmar International, the world's biggest palm oil trader.

A spokesman for the refinery operator, PT Multi Nabati Sulawesi, said operations at the facility in northern Sulawesi were not affected.

"They are there illegally so we plan to report them to the police," she told Reuters.

The 30 activists, including 23 members of the environmental campaigner Greenpeace, planned to stay at the facility until 1000 GMT (6pm Singapore time), said Kiki Taufik, head of the Greenpeace forests campaign in Indonesia.

The demonstration is unusual in the South-east Asian nation where most protests take the form of marches or rallies.

"We need to do this without a permit, but we take the risk because we believe this action will make the companies and the public hear us," Taufik said by mobile phone from a rubber dinghy circling the cargo ship moored near the refinery.

Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, an edible oil used in everything from chocolate to shampoo. Concerns about the amount of forests and peat lands cleared for plantations have plagued the palm oil industry for years.

The President's office last week issued a moratorium on new permits for palm plantations for three years in what it said was part of an effort to protect forests.

Environmentalists have increased pressure on companies and governments in Indonesia and Malaysia to "clean up" their supply chains and put an end to deforestation.

"If we don't hold companies accountable, the environment will continue to face a threat from industry," Taufik said.

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