Well-known missionary asks for oil palm plantation to be stopped.

A well-known religious figure around Mimika Regency in Papua, Father Bert Hogenboorn OFM, has asked the Bupati of Mimika Eltinus Omaleng to put a stop to the large-scale planting of oil palm currently being undertaken by PT Pusaka Agro Lestari because it is destroying forests.

“I hope the Bupati of Mimika is really aware of this problem and considers the long-term interests of the area. Local government shouldn’t just look at the amount of money a particular company is giving to a particular community, but should think about the long-term”, Pastor Hogenboorn said in Timika on Monday.

The Dutch Missionary who has worked in Papua for decades is worried for the future of Papua’s forests, especially in the lowlands of Mimika because the Regency Administration has been too generous in distributing permits to companies that want to invest in oil palm, timber or mining operations in the area.

The activities of such companies, he said, pose a great threat for the future of Mimika’s forests, which together with other forests are the lungs of the world.

“The same goes for Freeport’s mining operations which have poisoned the seas and destroyed forests in Mimika. Maybe people think that by paying out lots of money they can compensate for the loss of nature. But in fact loss and damage of nature cannot be replaced by any amount of money that a company might give to local people”, said Fatherr Hogenboorn who is also active on the Issue of HIV-AIDS.

He added that the existance of the rainforest in the northern part of Mimika Regency which borders on the mangrove forest along the region’s coast is very important. The irony is that the Mimika administration is currently discussing a local regulation to protect the coastal mangrove forest, but at the same time giving out permits to clear the rainforest for oil palm, timber or mining investment.

“I think this is extremely ironic because the rainforest is necessary to conserve the mangrove forests downriver. However the local government is actually giving out permits to clearfell this rainforest to become oil palm plantations.”, he said.

In connection with this matter, Father Hogenboorn said that he strongly disagreed with the large sacle oil palm plantation in Mimika which is currently being developed by PT Pusaka Agro Lestari. The Mimika Regency administration, he said, must be aware that at present many countries around the world have now stated they will stop giving out permits for oil palm plantations because they destroy forest ecosystems.

Felling the rainforest to become oil palm plantations on the Mimika lowlands also threatens the continuity of the local Kamoro community’s livelihoods, as they are currently dependant on sago palms. This sago forest buffers and protects the mangrove forests.

“As was passed down from their ancestors before, local people look for income and live from the sago forests. If the forest area that has been felled by PT Pusaka Agro Lestari were to be replanted with sago trees, I think that would be a wiser way to support local community’s livelihoods,” he said.

The head of the Mimika Forestry Agency, Syahrial, explained some time ago that PT Pusaka Agro Lestari had already cleared an 3500 hectare area of forest in Iwaka District, Mimika, to plant with oil palm seedlings.

The company is continuing to expand its forest clearance to plant oil palm and the 2014 target is to clear 4000 hectares of land.

Perusahaan itu terus memperluas pembukaan hutan untuk penanaman bibit kelapa sawit mengingat pada 2014 ditargetkan membuka lahan seluas 4.000 hektare.

The company has also been said to always meet the payments of Forest Resource Dues and Reforestation Funds (PDSH-DR) to the forestry minister, for the logging work they do.

“In July alone the company paid the government more than 700 million Rupiah in forest resource dues and reforestation funds”, Syahrial mentioned.

In 2013 the company settled its obligation to the government, which came to around 3 billion Rupiah, consisting of forest resource dues of 1.15 billion Rupiah and reforestation funds of 1.976 billion Rupiah. PT Pusaka Agro Lestari obtained a government permit to develop an oil palm plantation on 39000 hectares of land. PT Pusaka Agro Lestari’s plantation stretches from the Kamoro River in the east to the Mimika River in the west.

Sumber: Bintang Papua http://bintangpapua.com/index.php/lain-lain/papua/papua-selatan/item/17480-tokoh-agama-minta-bupati-hentikan-proyek-sawit

[awasMIFEE note: This is not the only article Bintang Papua has published recently where a local community figure has asked for PT Pusaka Agro Lestari’s operation to be stopped due to its destructive effects. A member of the Legislative Council has also made a similar request. However, once a plantation is already operating, the chances of stopping it are quite limited. Those concerned with the expansion of oil palm in Mimika Regency should also be aware that there are at least two other plantation projects currently in the process of getting the permits they need to operate. These are PT Tunas Agung Sejahtera in the far west of the regency, and PT Prima Sarana Graha (location unknown).  Will the negative effects of these plantations also only be discovered when they are already operating? Will the local people in these new areas realise how drastically their lives are likely to change before the chainsaws arrrive?]

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