Jambi – Responding to media reports on September 14, 2019, regarding 42 companies that were sealed by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, PT Alam Bukit Tigapuluh (PT ABT) Managing Director Dody Rukman stated:

“PT ABT supports the recent installation of the Civil Servant Investigator Line (PPNS Line) by the Directorate General of Law Enforcement, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to seal a part of PT ABT’s concession that has been illegally burned by encroachers. PT ABT encourages the Ministry to expedite the investigation process to reveal the causes, motives, and perpetrators of recent forest and land fires in the PT ABT concession area, based on PT ABT’s reports to the authorities. PT ABT has sent a request letter to The Ministry of Environment and Forestry to clarify news reports about the revocation of the concession permit. It is our conclusion that the PPNS Line was not intended to seal PT ABT’s operations.

“PT ABT is an Ecosystem Restoration (RE) company established in July 2015 that seeks to protect the remaining forest area and endangered species, as well as to build a partnership with the local communities in a 38.665-hectare area in the buffer zone of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. PT ABT consists of 2 blocks named Blok I near Suo Suo Village and Blok II near Pemayungan Village, Tebo Regency, Jambi Province, Indonesia. PT ABT was established not for commercial purposes and financial benefits for the shareholders, but instead is focused on the public interest through conserving the area. The concession is home to the indigenous tribes of Anak Dalam and Talang Mamak and is also the natural habitat of critically endangered Sumateran Tigers, Orangutans and Elephants.

“PT ABT has worked hard to overcome the risks of the fires caused by illegal encroachment and land clearing, as well as from the prolonged dry season. Along with the Law Enforcement Team, Bukti Tigapuluh National Park Office, Jambi Natural Resources Conservation Center, Jambi Forestry Service, Tebo Forest Management Unit, Tebo Resort Police, Indonesian Police Criminal Investigation Agency, Military District Command, Forest and Land Fire Task Force, and PT Lestari Asri Jaya, PT ABT conducts regular security activities to protect the area. The security actions consist of patrolling and monitoring the destruction of the illegal logging roads which have been built by organized encroacher gangs. We also have detected fires in the past few months and have been trying to extinguish the fires together with all of the stakeholders, as well as assisting the communities around the concession area to prevent the spread of the fire.

“Since PT ABT received the permits to manage the RE concession, we have been met with resistance and sometimes active hostility from encroachers intent on converting the Block II forests. The PT ABT team who went to check a fire hotspot and extinguish the fire were blocked by encroachers from entering the concession area on July 30, 2019.  And on September 8, 2019, encroachers surrounded and took hostage members of the PT ABT Team and the Tebo Police for 6 hours. PT ABT continues to face threats from these violent groups within Block II as ABT patrol teams attempt to fulfill their mandate to protect the forests from encroachment and fires. This has been reported to the authorities, including the KLHK. By comparison, in the Block I area where the community is actively involved in PT ABT’s ecosystem restoration activities, there has been almost no fire.

“Based on those facts, PT ABT welcomes the sealing of the forest and land fires area because the area has been encroached on a large scale to be planted with oil palm and rubber, and undermined by illegal logging. PT ABT supports the government to take decisive action against the perpetrators of logging and encroachment who cause the forest and land fires. PT ABT has conducted an investigation and has reported the results to the authorities, but no law enforcement action has been taken. With this sealing, PT ABT hopes that the law enforcement process can proceed until finished.

“In addition to not being affected by the fire, people in Block I enjoy some benefits of having an Ecosystem Restoration Concession in their village. These benefits include road improvement, health services, construction of school facilities, teaching staff, provision of healthy nutrition and sanitation, establishment of women groups working on non-timber forest products such as locally traded sialang honey and sustainably farmed vanilla which provide additional income for families.

“Lastly, PT ABT appreciates the co-management scheme, which is a joint management approach that is more pro-community. Similar to social forestry, customary forests, village forests and others, the purpose of the Ecosystem Restoration Concession is to support sustainable development that benefits both nature and people.”