The Omnibus law was among other aimed at resolving the long-dragging problem of plantation concessions in forest areas but its provisions and terminology remained open to multi interpretation and thus allowed non-plantation concession to also get legalized, a researcher said.
“The provision in Law on Job Creation is still too wide and open to multi-interpretation, said Grita Anindarini, a researcher with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), in an email interview with The Forest Scribe. The terminology used also further exacerbated the existing confusion.
The Law on Job Creation, also known as the Omnibus Law, inserted Article 110A into Law Number 18 of 2013 on the Prevention and Eradication of Forest Destruction. Many have expressed concerns that the content of this additional article would allow the legalization of concessions in various sectors that are located in forest areas.
This Article 110A is composed of three points, with the first one reading: Anyone operating an existing business that possess a business license in forest areas before this law became effective, who have not yet met all requirements in line with the laws and regulations in the forestry sector, is under the obligation of meeting these requirements at the latest 3 (three) years from the date this law becomes effective.
Anindarini said that the terminology used such “anyone” and “business license” in forest areas used in the inserted article did not specifically stipulates that the license mentioned are only for those in the plantation sector.
The government has said that Article 110A was basically to settle the problems of plantations concessions that were in forest areas.
“Unfortunately, the terminology used in Article 110A only mentions ‘Business License’ without specifically referring to business license for plantations,” Anindarini said.
“This is what is feared could be open to multi-interpretation and thus open the door to settling the problem of what (concession) had already been issued for other sectors beyond plantations. The Law on Job Creation allows the legalization of permits in forests besides for plantations,” she added.
Anindarini also pointed out the fact that the inserted article also extended the grace period for companies to legalize their operation in forest areas. Government Regulation Number 104 of 2015 only gave those companies one year to put their license in order.
In a meeting with a working committee of the National Legislative Council (DPR) to discuss the matter, the government has said that the inserted article would prioritize the rights of people, Government data showed that there were 3.3 million hectares of oil palm plantations that were not in possession of the required permits, and 400,000 hectares of them were owned by individual smallholder in forest areas. This last group was to receive a priority for the legalization of their plantation.
Anindarini said that when the meeting with the parliament took place on September 23, 2020, she observed that the various political factions there expressed the need for clarity on the data concerning the extend of the land that needed to be legalized and how many were not in the hands of companies. They also wanted that the treatment for individual plantation owners be differentiated from the treatment for plantation companies and be more lenient for the smallholders.
“These inputs have not yet been fully accommodated in the provisions of this Article 110A,” she said, adding that these shortcomings needed to be further detailed and arranged in the executing regulation that had to be issued later,
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry had yet to reply to demand for comment submitted by The Forest Scribe but Environment and Forest Minister Siti Nurbaya was quoted as having told a press conference at her office in early October 2020 that the inserted article was aimed at overcoming the problem that has long existed, since decentralization took place.
Decentralization of power, she said, had given the authority to regional administrations to issue permits for plantation, timber estate and mines in their respective regions but it turned out later that many of those concessions were actually given for areas that were in forest area that was off limit to development under Law Number 18 of 2013 on the Prevention and Eradication of Forest destruction.
Data from the Corruption Eradication Commission 9KPK) showed that from some 16 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Indonesia, about three million hectares are in forest areas. Half of that was in the hands of corporation and the rest in the hands of smallholders. Data on the extent of timber estate or mining concessions that are located in forest areas could not be immediately be obtained.