29 May 2013 - The Jakarta Post. The government has said it will revoke business permits it has given to companies operating in customary forests after the Constitutional Court annulled its ownership of customary forests.  Forestry Ministry’s secretary general, Hadi Daryanto, said on Monday that the government would rescind all plantation and mining concessions that have been granted to businesses in customary forests that have been legally recognized by the local administrations.

“We’ll get them [businesses] out. Even if there’s a concession for HTI [industrial forest permits] or HPH [production forest concessions] as long as there’s a bylaw then the businesses will have to leave,” Hadi said.

However, as of now, no regional administration has issued a bylaw on customary forests.

The court last week decided to scrap the word “state” from Article 1 of the 1999 Forestry Law, which says “customary forests are state forests located in the areas of custom-based communities”.

The court also ruled that the government had to recognize indigenous communities’ ownership of customary forests, saying that “indigenous peoples have the right to own and exploit their customary forests to meet their daily need.”

The ruling has been seen as a victory for the indigenous people, who have long had their rights to make a living by making productive use of their forests denied by the state.

Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) secretary general Abdon Nababan said that relying on regional administrations to issue a bylaw on customary forests without a directive from the central government will risk reducing the court’s ruling to that of a paper tiger.

He doubted that it was financially feasible to have customary forests recognized through a bylaw.

“There can be dozens of customary forests in one regency. Will this regency have dozens of bylaws on customary forests? The cost to stipulate one bylaw in a regency is between Rp 400 million (US$40,850) to 700 million. If there are around 10 identified customary forests, it would cost between Rp 4 billion to Rp 10 billion to recognize customary forests in one regency,” Abdon said.

“And it’s proven that for 14 years since the passing of the Forestry Law, not one customary forest has been recognized,” he said.

Abdon said the president should release a decree for a registration mechanism of indigenous people communities and customary forests to start the restitution process of indigenous peoples’ forests.

Currently there is no official government data on the number of existing indigenous communities and the size and territory of their customary land and forests.

A civil society led mapping of indigenous land by The Participative Mapping Working Network (JKPP) has documented 3.9 million hectares of indigenous land, of which 3.1 million hectares are forest areas, JKPP coordinator Kasmita Widodo said.

JKPP has submitted their preliminary mapping of 2.4 million hectares of customary forests to the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), currently working on an integrated map of Indonesia.

Nirarta Samadi, the UKP4 Deputy and Chair of the REDD+ Task Force Working Group on Forest Monitoring, said that the reason there have not yet been any bylaws recognizing customary forests was due to the previous status of customary forests as state forest. “Now we have an opportunity for a new process,” he said referring to the MK ruling. “It feels right now to use the avenue of bylaws and a political decision is indeed needed to create a positive atmosphere,” he said.

Hadi said that it was the ministry’s task to draft a government regulation to force local administrations to acknowledge customary forests in bylaws


 

By Prodita Sabarin