World News 10/07/2014

Singapore logger continues peat clearance despite fire threat

International customers are suspending contracts with Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper company APRIL, which is part of the RGE Group, as photographic evidence from Greenpeace International shows clearance of rainforests and fire-prone peatland. The Greenpeace evidence comes just a week after a new study shows Indonesia’s forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Office supplies chain Staples recently confirmed that it no longer stocks APRIL products globally, after Greenpeace International identified links to the company in China. Antalis has also confirmed that it will not resume business with APRIL until it implements a Forest Conservation Policy. Greenpeace urges customers of RGE /APRIL such as the world’s largest paper company International Paper, 3M and US retailer Costco to urgently follow their lead.

“APRIL, a member of the Royal Golden Eagle group, has been caught telling its customers it has support from governments and NGOs at the exact same time its bulldozers are out trashing Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands. Will these customers continue to fall for RGE/APRIL’s PR spin or follow Staples’ lead and suspend contracts with the company?” said forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Zulfahmi.

A Greenpeace ‘flyover’ in late May documented ongoing clearance of dense forest, and the drainage of peatlands at the site of an APRIL supplier on Padang Island off the coast of Riau. APRIL’s policy claims that the company does not develop land that is of “high conservation value” based on assessments that have been independently peer reviewed by the High Conservation Value Resource Network (HCVRN). However, Greenpeace International confirmed with the HCVRN that it has peer reviewed assessments for just two, out of 50 concessions that are estimated to supply APRIL. HCVRN has requested that APRIL correct its misleading claim.

Despite these findings, APRIL continues to claim, in documents leaked to Greenpeace, that it has “strong support” from WWF and that the Norwegian Government has endorsed its “Sustainable Forest Management Policy”. Both WWF and the Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia have confirmed that these statements are incorrect and that they do not endorse the policy.

“Apparently RGE/APRIL doesn’t consider the clearance of rainforest on areas of deep peat to be in conflict with its conservation commitments. But Indonesia’s forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world precisely because of practices such as these,” said Zulfahmi.

Greenpeace also documented evidence of extensive fires in another of its supplier pulpwood plantations, inside the PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) concession on Rupat Island in Riau Province. According to Greenpeace analysis, fire hotspots are 3.5 times more frequent on deforested peatland than on peatland that has not been cleared by companies like APRIL.

“RGE/APRIL has been quick to blame others, but clearing and draining peatlands are a significant reason for the fires. It’s like dousing your house in petrol and blaming a passing smoker when it all goes up in flames. Until all forests and peatland are fully protected, the fires will continue to take hold,” said Zulfahmi.

APRIL is one of a number of pulp companies related to the Sukanto Tanoto controlled RGE group. The others are Asia Symbol, Sateri, Bahia Speciality Cellulose and Toba Pulp Lestari. RGE’s palm oil subsidiary, Asian Agri, has been embroiled in Indonesia’s biggest tax evasion case and named in a joint UNEP/Interpol report for its links to environmental crimes.

Despite recent major progress from other big plantation companies like Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar, and Asia Pulp & Paper, RGE/APRIL is refusing to immediately stop forest clearance. Greenpeace urges all customers of the group, and its financers which are reported to include Santander and ABN Amro, to suspend business with RGE/APRIL until it implements credible commitments to end its role in deforestation.

di S. C.