Authorities in Indonesia have issued four new palm oil permits in its Papua provinces despite a moratorium on palm oil expansion declared by president Joko Widodo in 2016.
Tabloid Jubi reported the permits cover a combined area larger than 400 square kilometres. It said major parts of these areas were still covered in pristine rainforests.
The permits were facilitated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry which claimed they were agreed to in principle by the previous administration in 2013 and 2014.
The four permits were issued between July and November last year by the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) more than a year after President Jokowi announced the moratorium on palm oil expansion in mid-April 2016.
However, the environment ministry's new director of forestry Sigit Hardwinarto says although it was legally obligated to issue of the permits it has placed on hold more than 1.5 million hectares of land for further development.
Professor Hardwinarto said this was the most effective strategy available to the ministry while it searches for a legal basis to support the president's moratorium on any further palm oil expansion.