December 30, 2016 and important milestones in forest governance were again noted by the Jokowi government. At the end of last year 13,122 hectares of customary forests were set by the government. This stipulation is an important breakthrough in the process of recognizing customary forests, after the Constitutional Court’s decision about the matter of customary forests is not state forests, such as not having the power to be applied in indigenous territories in Indonesia.
After going through a highly dynamic process of customary forest designation, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry released a decision that there were eight customary forests and issued Pandumaan-Sipituhuta customary areas covering an area of 5,172 hectares from the PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) concession.
The establishment of 13,122 hectares of customary forest is expected to be a momentum for replicating similar management spaces. Although the initial achievements were felt to be far from the traditional forest area of around eight million hectares, as proposed and mapped by the Archipelago Indigenous Peoples Alliance (AMAN) and its network.
“Recognition from the Palace yesterday was a bottle neck release. Yesterday was also a moment that gave great energy or enthusiasm that recognition of customary forests could be done,” said Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, as released by Kompas on Tuesday (3 / 1), in Jakarta. According to him, the total recognition of 13,122 ha of customary forests by the President is only a fraction of the total 8.23 million ha of AMAN mapped customary forests. He hopes that this step of recognition will continue to other indigenous peoples throughout Indonesia.
The Forestry Independent Monitoring Network (JPIK) welcomed the issuance of the Pandumaan-Sipituhuta customary territory from the PT Toba Pulp Lestari concession area.
“This should be supported as an important breakthrough in conflict resolution, considering the fact that all JPIK reports related to the conflict cannot be fully resolved through the SVLK scheme,” explained M. Kosar, JPIK National Dynamics.
According to him this happened because the state obviously could not carry out the mandate of MK 35 without direct recognition from relevant ministries and institutions.
JPIK monitoring in August 2015 was related to the validity and completeness of the documents and the suitability of their implementation in the field for the issuance of PT Toba Pulp Lestari’s IUPHHK-HTI PHPL certificate. One of them was found boundary conflicts with indigenous peoples and unilateral confession of boundaries, and there was no attempt to resolve PT Toba Pulp Lestari holders of IUPHHK-HTI. This boundary conflict was found in Pandumaan Village and Sipituhuta Village which are directly adjacent to the PT Toba Pulp Lestari area.
Complaining reports about the PT Toba Pulp Lestari certification has been responded to. Whereas in the context of the IUPHHK-HT concession area of PT. Toba Pulp Lestari Tbk, there are no indigenous peoples and customary forests. This response is based on the understanding of indigenous peoples and customary forests in the context of forestry. According to Law No. 41/1999 (after the Constitutional Court Decision 35/2012), “Customary forests are forests that are within the territory of customary law communities”. Article 5 paragraph (3) states that the Government determines the status of forests, and customary forests are stipulated as long as according to the reality the customary law communities concerned still exist and their existence is recognized.
Responses that clearly show that MK 35 is not well understood and implemented by the government and related institutions.
Furthermore, JPIK invites and encourages relevant parties to ensure and oversee the implementation of this customary forest, including 5,172 hectares of the PT Toba Pulp Lestari concession for the Pandumaan-Sipituhuta indigenous people.