JESSICA LEGASPI WRITES — Indonesian President Joko (‘Jokowi’) Widodo and Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister established a new approach to effectively elicit environmental change. Palm oil companies found responsible for clearing land through illegal burning will now be prosecuted.

After Korindo, a South Korean palm oil company, was accused of illegally burning 50,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest in early September 2016, President Widodo was determined to strengthen his fight against environmental crimes though issuing a moratorium on opening new palm oil plantations in forest areas..

Indonesia is infamously known for having the highest level of deforestation on the planet, beating out Brazil in 2010 by almost twofold in the rate of tree cover loss.

Palm oil is a lucrative commodity as it is used for cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel worldwide, and Indonesia is the leading supplier to meet this global demand. This had serious benefits for the economy; however, it also made Indonesia the third-leading country in both greenhouse gas emissions and one of the fastest deforestation rates, according to the Council of Foreign Relations.

Unfortunately, Korindo, not willing to forsake such a demanded commodity, ignored the moratorium.

As one of the largest plantation companies in eastern Indonesia,  Korindo holds a total of 160,000 hectares of oil palm concessions and contributes significantly to the country’s environmental distress, especially when it ignores protection laws and violates its “no deforestation” policy.

If this company were to try this a few years ago, the government might not have acted as harshly as it did.

“Natural resources are an important contributor to Indonesia’s GDP and Government budget. Agriculture, forestry, and mining contribute about 25% of Indonesia’s GDP and about 30% of overall Government budget revenue,” according to The World Bank