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Debates heat up as Indonesian palm oil moratorium is about to be signed

JAKARTA — Two years after he announced a freeze on new oil palm plantation permits, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia finally appears to be on the verge of putting it into effect, ahead of regional elections set to take place this June. But some distance remains between the administration and a coalition of environmental NGOs observing its deliberations, with the latter arguing the moratorium should remain in place for much longer than is being proposed. The draft of the document enshrining the permit freeze, seen by Mongabay, stipulates it will be enacted for no more than three years. It also mandates a review of existing licenses, since many are known to have been issued in violation of procedures, and a review of those now in the process of issuance. The document is being prepared in the form of a presidential instruction, which is not legally binding, a concern long aired by NGOs pushing for tough enforcement. It was signed by Darmin Nasution, the coordinating minister for the economy, on Dec. 22, after which it underwent some revision by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry before returning to Darmin’s desk. It now awaits approval from the president. In the current draft, implementation of the policy would be overseen by a task force established by Darmin’s office. The task force would verify data related to all outstanding oil palm permits, and then provide recommendations to the relevant ministries on how to follow up. This may include rezoning an area as forest, which…

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