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RSPO rules against palm oil company in controversial deforestation case
December 20, 2012

Forest cleared in October 2011 on Muara Tae customary land, in a concession issued to PT Munte Wani Jaya Perkasa (credit: EIA/Tom Johnson)

The body that sets social and environmental criteria for greener palm oil production has taken action against a palm oil accused of clearing community forest in Indonesian Borneo, reports the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has upheld a complaint filed by EIA against Singapore-based First Resources Ltd, the company that owns PT Borneo Surya Mining Jaya, which villagers say has cleared rainforest without their full consent. The RSPO has asked First Resources to suspend operations until key issues have been addressed.

The complaint cites clearance of forest land prior to carrying out the proper environmental impact assessment as well as possible infringement on the RSPO's rules governing Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected communities. The village of Muara Tae, a community of Dayak Benuaq people, has actively protested the plantation development project for over a year.

However the RSPO's decision comes late in the day for Muara Tae's forest, which has mostly been cleared over the past year. The community has complained that the deforestation has reduced the availability of clean drinking water and eliminated an important source of livelihoods. EIA is calling for "the restitution of all annexed lands and an appropriate compensation mechanism to mitigate the damage already done."

The RSPO was established in 2004 to address social and environmental problems associated with palm oil production. The multistakeholder body has devised a set of criteria for less damaging palm oil production. Members are expected to abide by these standards. Failure to do so can result in a producer losing its certification. The RSPO has a grievance process to deal with complaints filed against members.

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