North Sulawesi probes illegal logging, forest conversion

North Sulawesi probes illegal
logging, forest conversion
Lita Aruperes, The Jakarta Post, Manado | Archipelago | Fri, April 10 2015, 6:50 AM

The North Sulawesi provincial administration has launched an investigation into illegal logging and forest conversion implicating officials and private individuals, including a German national.

North Sulawesi Forestry Office head Herry Rotinsulu said his office was looking into cases of forest destruction.

“We are currently looking at activities taking place in forests in 14 regencies and cities,” Rotinsulu explained.

Forest exploitation and utilization, the official went on, required permits from the Forestry Ministry. “The minister must give permission for the forest to be exploited. The provincial or the regency and city forestry offices cannot issue a permit, nor can the village administration. That’s illegal.”

Offenders, he added, would be penalized according to Law No. 41/1969 and Law No. 18/2013 on forestry.

A number of conditions must be met to obtain a ministerial permit before obtaining a recommendation from the governor. “The North Sulawesi Police are currently processing illegal logging cases,” he added.

In South Bolmong regency, the North Sulawesi Police are currently questioning several people, including East Biniha village chief Wardan Gintulangi, regarding the sale of a land statement letter (SKT).

The SKT was used to apply for a land title owned by a German citizen named Habib who is currently staying in the village.

Wardan said he was unaware of the exact boundaries of the limited production forest (HPT), protected forest and national forest, because of a lack of information from the relevant forestry office.

 “If Habib’s location is included in an HPT area, then many of the villagers have violated the law. A lot of residents have converted the forest into plantations without considering whether or not they were encroaching on HPT or protected forests,” Wardan claimed.

When met at his house, Habib claimed officers from the local forestry and plantation office had come to his house to inspect land ownership certificates.

Habib had bought around 14 hectares of land from local people.

“The Bolmong office National Land Agency has measured the land and issued eight land titles,” claimed Habib.

Separately, the North Sulawesi Forestry Office inventory and utility affairs head James Hutagaol revealed the total area of forest in the province stood at 764,739.27 hectares, comprising conservation forests, production forests that can be conserved, protected forests, limited production forests and production forests.

“The forested areas are under the authority of the Forestry Ministry. They can be leased, but only with approval from the forestry minister. None of the forested areas is controlled by a group or individual,” said Hutagaol, without mentioning Habib’s case.

Meanwhile, Greater Bolaang Mongondow (BMR) conservationist Erwin Makalunsenge proposed that relevant institutions could step up public campaigns to prevent illegal logging and forest conversion.

“Apart from assistance from district and village chiefs, relevant agencies must also work harder. Public campaigns should be carried out in the villages near forested areas in South Bolmong regency. Field supervision by forest rangers must also be optimized,” said Erwin.
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