Indonesia timber firm gets rap for planting in protected Riau peatlands

Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, is reportedly still replanting acacia on protected peatlands within its concession areas in Pelalawan regency in Riau. PHOTO: PEATLAND RESTORATION AGENCY (BRG)

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Indonesia government has suspended the activities of the country's second-largest timber firm, Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), due to noncompliance with peat protection rules.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry issued on Monday (Oct 16) a decree declaring invalid RAPP's work plan - the basis for a timber company to carry out business - for the 2010-2019 period.

RAPP, a subsidiary of APRIL Group, is reportedly still replanting acacia - a resource to produce paper - on protected peatlands within its concession areas in Pelalawan regency in Riau. APRIL itself is a subsidiary of Singapore-based Royal Golden Eagle.

RAPP had been issued with two reprimand letters earlier by the ministry.

The ministry's decree, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, also requires RAPP to submit a revised work plan complying with peat rules to the government before Thursday.

RAPP corporate affairs director Agung Laksamana told a news conference on Thursday the company had received the decree, saying it needed time to review "letters from the ministry" including the previous two reprimands issued on Sept 28 and Oct 6.

"We believe the government will provide the best solution for us now," he said.

Agung said RAPP would abide by the obligation to revise its work plan, only under the condition it could access substitution land, which, under a recent regulation, is to be given to firms whose concession areas comprise protected peatland.

Some 60 per cent of land within RAPP's concession areas in Riau, amounting to 388,000ha, are peatlands.

The government, Agung said, had to provide "substitution land in a gradual way, with clean and clear conditions, technically and economically adequate and located near our industrial site."

RAPP's operational director Ali Sabri told the media that the firm's 4,600 employees would be "gradually" laid off due to the suspension.

The decree is one of numerous peat protection rules issued by President Joko Widodo's administration, which has been steadfast in improving peatlands in Indonesia since deadly forest and land fires of 2015.

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