A New Investigation by Acehsatu exposed illegal logging activity by palm oil company PT. Nia Yulided; Indonesian government fails to take action
A team of investigative journalists from Acehsatu.com, an Indonesian media outlet in the province of Aceh, have uncovered new evidence proving that illegal logging persists within the palm oil concession of plantation company PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara (PT. NYB) – a company already notorious as one of the worst forest destroyers in the Leuser Ecosystem. These findings build on evidence published in a series of RAN’s own investigations, which have exposed logging crews destroying rainforests and pushing through new roads into the rainforests in December 2020, and January, July, August, and December in 2021.
Aerial video captured an area of critical lowland Leuser Ecosystem forest habitat destroyed inside PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara’s (PT.NYB) concession in East Aceh. Credit: Acehsatu.com, November 2021
During their field investigations, undertaken in November 2021, the team of journalists documented the logging of rainforests within the area earmarked for a palm oil plantation development by PT. NYB. They set out to determine if the logging was occurring in violation of Indonesian laws that require logging operations to be registered with an online system called the Forest Product Administration Information System (SIPUHH). This licensing mechanism was established by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) as part of the SVLK system and is enforced in Aceh by the Aceh Production Forest Management Center (BPHP). The SVLK system is Indonesia’s timber legality system which is used to provide buyers with assurances that timber sourced from Indonesia comes from legal logging operations.
Acehsatu.com investigation documented two excavators unloading logs inside PT.Nia Yulded Bersaudara (NYB) concession. Credit: Acehsatu.com, November 2021
During interviews with the Head of the Aceh Production Forest Management Center (BPHP), the team confirmed that the logging had not been registered in the SIPUHH system. Regulations issued by The Minister of Environment and Forestry concerning compliance audits for companies with permits to log rainforest clearly states that wood that is not included in the SIPUHH system is illegal wood. This Acehsatu investigation confirmed RAN’s worst fears that the rampant logging inside PT. NYB’s concession is in fact illegal logging.
PT. NYB is now the single company most responsible for deforestation inside palm oil concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem and is now known to also be responsible for illegal logging operations. Its owner and President Director – Mr. Dedy Sartika – must be held to account for these illegal logging operations that are occurring on lands under his control.
Previous RAN investigations have found that the permit for this concession was controversial for a number of reasons. One reason is that the permit was first granted by Tarmizi Abdul Karim – the former acting governor of Aceh and father in law of Mr. Sartika. The issuance of the permit to PT. NYB for the benefit of a member of his family creates a strong appearance of conflict of interest that merits further investigation.
Another source of controversy is that this permit for palm oil development by PT. NYB was one of the last permits allocated within the boundaries of the Leuser Ecosystem before the central and provincial governments committed to a moratorium on the issuance of new permits in the Leuser Ecosystem. Given the protections afforded to the Leuser Ecosystem under national laws, the Aceh Provincial government had previously made the approval of plantation business permits dependent on the approval of the agency responsible for overseeing the management of the Leuser Ecosystem area.
This agency – called the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL) – rejected the proposed plans to issue the location permit to PT. NYB on the basis of the potential impact of the development on the environmental values of the area. After a new governor was elected in Aceh in 2012, this agency was disbanded and Governor Zaini Abdullah issued a Cultivation Plantation Business Permit (IUP-B) to PT. NYB on March 28, 2014. Since then, over 504 acres of this high conservation value forest area has been cleared and remaining forests degraded by the illegal logging that became rampant in 2021.
Palm oil crops inside PT.NYB concession. Credit: Acehsatu.com, November 2021
The Indonesian Government has recently announced plans to revoke the permits of a number of plantation companies across Indonesia, including in Aceh. However, the new regulation fails to include plans to revoke the permit of PT. NYB despite the urgent need for the government to do so. To our knowledge, the national government of Indonesia has not initiated an investigation into the conflicts of interests evident in the issuance of PT. NYB’s permit or the company’s violation of the government moratorium that prohibits the clearance of forests inside concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem. This lack of action is also concerning given the representative for the East Aceh region has recommended the establishment of a team to review and evaluate the permit of PT. NYB, amongst others.
The PT. NYB case shows that, five years after the declaration of the palm oil moratorium in Aceh by the national and provincial governments, the moratorium has not been effectively implemented inside all existing palm oil concessions in the Leuser Ecosystem. Hope remains that the new evidence on illegal logging published by Acehsatu will spur action by the government to revoke PT. NYB’s permit and ensure an end to the illegal harvesting of timber and the protection and restoration of lowland rainforests that have been destroyed under PT. NYB’s watch.
Brands that have been shown to drive the demand for palm oil expansion in Aceh such as Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestlé are fully aware that these forests keep falling. Yet they have failed to encourage PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara – a potential future supplier – to halt forest destruction and adhere to their requirements for responsibly produced palm oil. The time is now for these brands to work alongside local governments in Aceh and Aceh Timur to halt forest destruction by PT. Nia Yulided Bersaudara and to protect the High Conservation Value forests inside and surrounding its concession in the Leuser Ecosystem.