Hans Kapisa, Manokwari – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had evaluated the governance of licensing and permits related to West Papua forests and palm oil plantation companies in the province in Papua Land for the last two years and reported that 24 companies held a permit to turn 576,090 hectares of forests into palm plantations.
The companies operated in eight regencies in the province: Sorong, South Sorong, Manokwari, South Manokwari, Teluk Wondama, Teluk Bintuni, Maybrat, and Fakfak.
The KPK said in a press conference that out of the figure, 383,431 hectares could still be "saved" as they still had forest vegetation.
The evaluation, involving various stakeholders, was part of KPK's program, the National Action Plan on Saving the Natural Resources, as an attempt to protect the natural resources and indigenous people's empowerment in Papua Land.
KPK evaluated palm plantation permits in West Papua province on 24 license holders that held a total of 576,090 hectares in concessions and announced the report in a press conference in Manokwari on Feb. 25, 2021.
West Papua Governor Dominggus Mandacan said the evaluation began in July 2018, and it based on three legal framework: Manokwari Declaration, Presidential Instruction No. 8/2018 on Moratorium of the Transfer of Forestry Areas for Palm Plantation, and the National Movement for Saving the Natural Resources.
Manokwari Declaration is the result of the International Conference on Biodiversity and Economy Creative (ICBE) in 2018. It stipulates commitment between Papua and West Papua administrations and also some points to improve the sustainability of indigenous-people-based development in both provinces.
"The process is West Papua administration's attempt to protect the forests and to improve the governance in maximizing utilization of natural resources while keeping it sustainable and ensuring that it serves the indigenous people," said Mandacan.
He thanked KPK for the evaluation and he said he wanted to see a concrete follow up to the report.
"We will push for measures to save the potential forests, so they will be managed by the indigenous communities while adhering to sustainability principles," he said.
KPK deputy head, Alexander Marwata, pushed for actions to follow up the evaluation on the permits. "This is a very good start to improve the governance of palm plantation licensing. It will be more impactful if the recommendations are put into actions," he said.
Alexander said KPK hoped such evaluation would be expanded to other land-based sectors. "Utilizing space could optimize the regional revenues and the state revenues but it should not be done at the expense of the environment, especially when there is a graft involved," he said.
From the evaluation, KPK found most of the companies had yet to operate on the land, which meant the companies had yet to complete the permits and not yet planted the palm.
KPK said there were potentials to revoke the permits legally. "Revoking the permits is possible because some of the companies shirked off their responsibilities if we check their permits, especially the Plantation Business Permit," Alexander said.
Some of the companies also had yet to touch the forests, allowing the government to save the forests.
"I hope behind the shirking off the responsibilities, the companies did not commit any graft and the permit issuers did not just turn a blind eye," he said.
In the evaluation, the team gave recommendations for the regents as the permit issuers and the team also gave a recommendation to improve governance of palm plantations to the relevant stakeholders including some ministries.