Activists fear Indian proposal for coal reserves in Indonesian-ruled Papua

By Febriana Firdaus in Jakarta

As it seeks to diversify its sources of fuel, India is looking to get in on the ground floor of coal mining in previously unexploited deposits in Indonesian-ruled Papua.

In exchange for technical support and financing for geological surveys, officials say India is pushing for special privileges, including no-bid contracts on any resulting concessions  a prospect that could run foul of Indonesia’s anti-corruption laws.

The details of an Indian mining project in Papua are still being negotiated, but Indonesia’s energy ministry welcomes the prospect as part of a greater drive to explore energy resources in the country’s easternmost provinces.

READ MORE: Strategic partnership between India and Indonesia

In future, the ministry hopes mining for coking coal will support the domestic steel industry, while also bringing economic benefits to locals.

Rights activists, however, fear the launch of a new mining industry could deepen tensions in a region where existing extractive projects have damaged the environment and inflamed a long-running armed conflict.


Indonesia’s new coal frontier
When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jakarta last month, joint efforts to extract and process Indonesia’s fossil fuels, including coal, were on the agenda.

India’s interest in investing in a new coking coal mining concession in Papua can be traced to 2017, when officials from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) and Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR), both Indian government institutes, met with Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jakarta.

The bilateral plan was announced by then-ministry spokesman Sujatmiko after the first India Indonesia Energy Forum held in Jakarta in April 2017. “The focus is on new territories in Papua,” he said.

To follow up, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources sent a team to India in early May. The current energy ministry spokesman, Agung Pribadi, who was part of the delegation, told Mongabay that officials from state-owned energy giant Pertamina, major coal miner PT Adaro Energy, and state-owned electricity firm PLN also joined the meeting.

The Indonesian team presented research outlining the potential for mining high-caloric content coal in West Papua province, and lower-caloric coal in Papua province.

According to the team’s report, only 9.3 million tons of reserves have so far been identified. By contrast, Indonesia as a whole expects to export 371 million tons of coal this year. However, the true extent of coal deposits could be larger, said Rita Susilawati, who prepared the report presented during the meeting and is head of coal at the ministry’s Mineral, Coal and Geothermal Resources Centre. “Some areas in Papua are hard to reach due to the lack of infrastructure. We were unable to continue the research,” she explained.

During the visit, Indian and Indonesian officials discussed conducting a geological survey in Papua, Agung said. India would finance the survey using its national budget. With Indonesian President Joko Widodo prioritising infrastructure investment, the energy ministry has few resources to conduct such surveys.

Expected privileges
Indonesia also anticipates benefiting and learning from India’s experience in processing coking coal.

In exchange, India expected privileges from the Indonesian government, including the right to secure the project without a bidding process, Agung said.

Indonesia denied the request, and the talks were put on hold. Approving it would have been too risky, Agung said, since the bidding process is regulated in Indonesia. “We recommend they follow the bidding process or cooperate with a state-owned enterprise,” Agung said.

India’s ministry of coal did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Energy and mining law expert Bisman Bakhtiar said there was still a chance India could get the rights to develop any resulting coal concessions without having to go through an open bidding process. “It can proceed under the G-to-G (government-to-government) scheme by signing a bilateral agreement,” he said.

This form of agreement would supersede the ministerial regulations requiring competitive bidding, Bisman explained, although he said any such agreements should emphasise that any projects must be carried out according to local laws.

There is precedent in Indonesia for G-to-G schemes bypassing the open bidding process, Bisman said. For example, multiple projects have been carried out on the basis of cooperation agreements with the World Bank and Australia. In another instance, Indonesian media mogul Surya Paloh imported crude oil from Angola via a bilateral cooperation agreement with Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol.

Draft law
A draft law currently being discussed in the House of Representatives could also smooth the path for India. It says that if there is agreement between Indonesia and a foreign government to conduct geological studies, the country involved will get priority for the contract.

However, this would still require the country to meet market prices. “We called it ‘right to match.’ If there are other parties who offer lower prices, then they should follow that price,” Bisman said.

Another option would be for India to appoint one of its local companies to work with Indonesian private sector giant Adaro or state-owned coal miner PT Bukit Asam. Such a deal could be conducted as a business-to-business (B-to-B) agreement, and would be legal according to Indonesia’s Energy Law.

Or, Indonesia could assign a state-owned firm like Bukit Asam to work with India based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by both countries.

“But all these options have a potential risk,” Agung said. “They can be categorised as collusion by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).” He said a conventional bidding process should be prioritised.

Bisman said India needed to consider other risks, such as the social and political situation in Papua. The region is home to an armed pro-independence movement and has faced decades of conflict around the world’s largest and most profitable gold and copper mine, Grasberg, owned by US-based Freeport McMoRan.

‘Land grab’
Despite the presence of the mine, Papua remains Indonesia’s poorest province, with some of the worst literacy and infant mortality rates in Asia. Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), a state-funded body, has characterised Freeport’s concession as a “land grab,” for which the original stewards of the land, the Amungme and Kamoro indigenous people, were never properly consulted or compensated.

The Indonesian energy ministry’s own research says that any project must take into account the impact on Papua’s indigenous peoples, and must factor in specific local concepts of land ownership, leadership and livelihood.

Franky Samperante, executive director of rights advocacy group Yayasan Pusaka, said he was worried about the plan. “It is way too risky,” he said, pointing to the social and environmental fallout of the Grasberg mine.

“There should be communication between the mining company and indigenous Papuans,” he said, warning Jakarta to carefully calculate the social, environmental and national security impacts.

Local indigenous people need to be meaningfully involved in the decision-making process, he said, especially since the mining would occur in and near forests where indigenous people live and gather and hunt their food.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Manila brands volunteer teachers as ‘terrorists’, say Lumad advocates

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Manila brands volunteer teachers as ‘terrorists’, say Lumad advocates

By Jean Bell in Auckland

Volunteer teachers are being wrongly labelled as “terrorists” by the Philippine government while paramilitary and mining activity increases in the country, say visiting indigenous Lumad education advocates.

Fritizi Junance Magbanua, a volunteer teacher and administrator with the Save Our Schools network, says teachers, schools and communities of indigenous peoples are being targeted and labelled as terrorists by the government.

The Save Our Schools network is a collection of 215 community based schools that operate throughout the southern Mindanao island region in the Philippines.

The network is part of community groups and advocates that fight for indigenous peoples rights to “defend their land, right to education, right to self-determination,” said Lorena Sigua at a public meeting in Auckland’s Peace Place last night.

She is a volunteer at Education Development Institute (EDI) curriculum development based in Mindanao.

“Save Our Schools has documented 89 harassments of our schools, 18 military activities inside our school vicinity, 27 schools forcibly shut down because of the intensifying military presence in our area,” said Magbanua.


This does not just apply to school teachers. “The environmental activists, human rights activists are also being targeted and tagged as terrorists,” said Sigua.

The indigenous people, known collectively as Lumads, are the main people suffering. “Our indigenous peoples in the Philippines are now being attacked by our government,” said Magbanua.

“Mostly those who are killed are our parents and our tribal leaders who constructed the schools.”

Mining behind military threat
The threat of paramilitary and government military activity is part of the government’s move to allow mining by multinational corporations in the area.

“The southern Mindanao is blessed with a lot of resources. It is the mining capital of Philippines. As you know, big businesses are coming over to take advantage of that,” Sigua said.

“Ironically, we are the poorest region but it is the mining capital,” said Magbanua.

“When mining is in our area, the first step our government will do is deploy their troops to give way to the mining equipment. They harass people to vacate their land.”

It can also turn violent. “One of our supporters was killed a couple of weeks ago by a paramilitary group.”

Fritizi Junance Magbanua … “By blood I am also a Lumad. I see their plight, their hunger for education.” Image: Jean Bell/PMC

Magbanua pointed to the actions of President Rodrigo Durterte which she said were encouraging the violence.

“In the first six months that President Durterte was elected, we were hopeful for a change… he says he was a socialist, and a leftist, a pro-Lumad, and anti-mining.”

‘Changed his tune’
But in November 2017 when the APEC summit took place in Manila and President Trump visited the Philippines, Duterte seemed to change his mind.

“After the visit of Trump, he changed his tune. He welcomed all the investors to extract our natural resources. So he’s a puppet,” said Magbanua.

Sigua said: “The educators in Mindanao are being targeted as terrorists.

“The indigenous peoples are now being empowered and educated because of the schools. If they are empowered, they know their rights.”

Magbanua said: “Duterte was the one who says he would bomb our schools… Under his regime, 37 Lumads have been extra-judicially killed under martial law.”

Sigua said: “There is massive militarisation in the in area. Students are evacuating, the community is evacuating.”

“There is now militarisation in the indigenous communities,” she said. This was a reaction against the fear and tension caused by other military forces in the area.

‘Land is life’
Land is often at the center of the conflicts. “We believe that land is life,” says Magbanua.

“We, the indigenous people, need to protect it from mining and multinational corporations. We have to defend this for the next generation.

“We get all our needs from the mountains. From our medicines, our foods it is our supermarket and hospital.

“We call our land the land of promise. The greedy people want to take it away from us and convert it into banana plantations and mining areas.”

After getting her university degree, Fritzi Junance Magbanua committed herself to serving indigenous people.

“For six years now I’ve been teaching and monitoring my co-teachers, facilitating the training, and doing some psychosocial therapy with my students.”

Magbanua has never thought about doing anything different than being a volunteer teacher.

‘Indigenous need me’
“After I graduated, a lot of opportunities came my way but I turned them down. Somebody needs me and it is the indigenous people.”

“It is my commitment and responsibility to be with them and serve them without anything in return.”

A turning point for her was her personal connection to the Lumad’s struggle. “By blood I am also a Lumad. I see their plight, their hunger for education. When I have this knowledge, I just want to help and educate them also.”

I am a part of their struggle to defend their land. Their plight at Mindanao is to uphold their right to self-determination.”

Lorena Sigua is from Manila. She is a graduate of the the University of the Philippines and currently is a volunteer at the Education Development Institute (EDI) curriculum development based in Mindanao.

Sigua was inspired to get involved with Save Our Schools after witnessing the Lakbayan march, where indigenous peoples were protesting about their concerns.

Challenging life
Life as a volunteer teacher in Mindanao is challenging, said Magbanua.

“Once you are a volunteer, you are not just a teacher. You are a counsellor too. The community respects us and sees us as their hero because no body cares. Especially the government in our communities, but only us teachers and the institutions we came from.

Being a teacher for the indigenous peoples has a lot of sacrifices. We are not salary based. We receive NZ$100 a month.

The teachers often must travel to remote locations to reach local communities. “We are deployed in far flung areas.”

The furtherest place the network serves requires a two-day walk through a snaking path to travel to. “We cross one river 52 times. But it’s just a little sacrifice. For us we are ready to commit ourselves to the less fortunate who are hungry for education.”

The organisation demands no payment for their work. “Our education is free for all. We don’t ask for anything in return. In fact, we provide school supplies, toiletries to continue and sustain their education.

“On our island in Mindanao, there is no electricity, no signal. You have to walk an hour to search for a signal. You literally have to climb up a tree just to search for the signal.”

Asia-Pacific consultation
Kevin McBride, national co-ordinator of Pax Christi Aotearoa, hosted the talk.

“I had expectations it would be a good revelation of the situation in Mindanao of the Lumad people,” said McBride.

In December 2017, McBride represented Pax Christi in attending an Asia-Pacific Consultation in the Philippines.

Student journalist Rahul Bhattarai (left) speaks with Pax Christi’s Kevin McBride about the Lumad’s struggle. Image: Jean Bell/PMC

With the New Zealand government being in touch with President Duterte, McBride believes New Zealand should try to do more to help.

“We do have opportunities to raise these issues and hold them to account for their activities. Shamefully, too often we don’t as it would affect our trade.”

Appeal for help
Every year the indigenous peoples go to the capital region in the Philippines to rally and send a message to the government about their concerns.

It is called a Lakbayan, said Sigua, and it was similar to the Hikoi taken by indigenous Māori in New Zealand.

“We are sharing a struggle with Māori,” said Magbanau.

Human rights advocates at the Peace Place meeting last night. Image: Jean Bell/PMC

“We are appealing to your government to support our calls to stop the attacks on the activists. The activists in the Philippines are being tagged as terrorists.”

Jean Bell is contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project. Additional reporting by Rahul Bhattarai who is an Auckland University of Technology student studying towards a postgraduate diploma in Journalism.

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Indonesian president recognises land rights of nine more indigenous groups

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesian president recognises land rights of nine more indigenous groups

ANALYSIS: By Basten Gokkon in Jakarta

The Indonesian government has relinquished control over nine tracts of forest to the indigenous communities that have lived there for generations, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced at a recent conference on land tenure in Jakarta.

The move follows the government’s recognition last December of nine other communities’ rights to their ancestral forests, in line with a 2013 decision by Indonesia’s highest court that removed indigenous peoples’ customary forests from under state control.

“The spirit of agrarian reform and community forestry program is how lands and forests, as part of natural resources in Indonesia, can be accessed by the people, and provide economic justice and welfare for the people,” the president said in a speech to open the conference on October 25.

The nine newly designated “customary forests,” or hutan adat in Indonesian, cover a combined 33.4 sq km, on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi.

The move is consistent with Jokowi’s campaign pledge to give indigenous and other rural communities greater control over 127,000 square kilometers of land, which helped him earn the first-ever presidential endorsement of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) ahead of the 2014 election.

Three years into his presidency, however, the programme is running behind schedule. The administration has rezoned just 10,800 sq km of community forests, of which 164 sq km are customary forests, according to data from the Presidential Staff Office. The latter figure includes the nine customary forests the administration recognized at the beginning of the year and the nine last month.


Dozens of other indigenous communities are hoping to secure rights to their ancestral lands, too. The day after Jokowi’s speech, three groups from Enrekang district in South Sulawesi province submitted their own proposals to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The proposed customary forests there would cover 4.04 square kilometers.

“The government hasn’t really been performing in making this promise happen,” AMAN researcher Arman Mohammad said.

Land mapped out
AMAN has mapped out 19,000 sq km of land, home to 607 indigenous communities, which it says must be rezoned as customary forests. These groups have already obtained the required documents from district and provincial governments for state recognition of their rights, Arman said.

The official recognition last month represented just a fraction of what AMAN had proposed, he said.

As the agrarian reform conference wrapped up, a senior official said the president would issue a decree by year’s end to help indigenous groups like that in Enrekang obtain control of their forests. Yanuar Nugroho, a deputy at the Presidential Staff Office, told reporters that the decree would lay out the framework for regulation, bureaucracy and accountability.

Details of the decree were not immediately available. However, Yanuar said at the time that one of the key points was to iron out overlapping authorities between related ministries.

For instance, he said, the environment ministry would concentrate on recognizing land rights inside forests, while the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning would oversee those outside forests. Currently, the matter is handled by those two ministries as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Villages, Underdeveloped Regions and Transmigration.

“The country is returning sovereignty to the people, and I believe this program for community forestry and agrarian reform is the spearhead,” Yanuar said.

Some observers welcomed the promise of a decree, saying it would help streamline the process for indigenous communities in obtaining state approval of their land rights.

Single agency
“There should be a single agency focusing on the land reform program so that the people don’t get confused,” said Dewi Kartika, general secretary of the Agrarian Reform Consortium, an NGO.

Arman called on the government to involve NGOs in drawing up the decree in order for it to be effective once implemented on the ground.

But even with a decree in place, the government may miss its target.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar noted at the conference that the government would only realistically be able to approve a total 43,800 sq km, just over a third of the promised total, for community forestry schemes by 2019, when President Jokowi will stand for re-election.

To achieve even that pared-down goal, the minister called on local governments to accommodate indigenous groups, who depend on district chiefs and local legislatures to issue decrees that recognise them as indigenous.

“We must now push for getting more areas that will potentially be appointed as customary lands in order to reduce conflicts,” Siti said on the sidelines of the conference.

Observers say the Jokowi administration’s actions and policies in general have failed to resolve land conflicts, which have led to the wrongful eviction of indigenous communities from their homes over the years.

Agrarian conflicts
“The locations that the government has been targeting so far are not the ones with agrarian conflicts or where there are overlapping claims between local communities,” Dewi said.

She added that policies issued by the federal government often failed to be implemented at the local level.

“A clean and just bureaucracy is our top concern,” said Rukka Sombolinggi, AMAN’s general secretary. “We have trust in the president and the ministries, but not quite in [officials at] the regional levels.”

Others also highlighted land conflicts resulting from other government programs, including its flagship infrastructure development projects and issuance of plantation permits. Efforts at land reform have also been criticized for overlooking communities in coastal areas.

“The president must take groundbreaking actions so that land reform will truly happen, otherwise it’s just a fake agrarian reform,” Rukka said.

A list of the new customary forests (from the Presidential Staff Office):

Hutan Adat Tawang Panyai (Sekadau district, West Kalimantan province, 0.4 sq km)

Hutan Adat Marena (Sigi district, Central Sulawesi province, 7.6 sq km)

Hutan Adat Batu Kerbau (Bungo district, Jambi province, 3.2 sq km)

Hutan Adat Belukar Panjang (Bungo district, Jambi province, 3.3 sq km)

Hutan Adat Bukit Bujang (Bungo district, Jambi province, 2.2 sq km)

Hutan Adat Hemaq Beniung (West Kutai district, East Kalimantan province, 0.5 sq km)

Hutan Adat Baru Pelepat (Bungo district, Jambi province, 8.2 sq km)

Hutan Adat Bukit Pintu Koto (Merangin district, Jambi province, 2.8 sq km)

Hutan Adat Rimbo Penghulu Depati Gento Rajo (Merangin district, Jambi province, 5.3 sq km)

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