Saturday, July 30, 2016

Social and labour issues: Some parts of US Congress worry about doing TPP deal with Malaysia on labour and other concerns

30 July 2016: Some parts of US Congress worry about doing TPP deal with Malaysia on labour and other concerns

NY Times - The Opinion Pages | LETTER -- Malaysia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Pact JULY 29, 2016 -- I’ve been following your coverage of the scandal in Malaysia, in which $700 million in government funds was moved to a bank account controlled by the prime minister and billions more to the accounts of others close to him.... Our State Department has turned a blind eye to Malaysia’s complicity in human trafficking, but the Justice Department’s recent actions underscore why we shouldn’t enter into economic partnership with bad actors like Malaysia. This is one of hundreds of reasons Congress should reject the TPP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER, Rochester, The writer, a Democrat, represents New York’s 25th District in the House.

25 July 2016: Situating smallholders at the fore - need to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains, Malaysia to study request for Sri Lankan  migrant workers, Sarawak to end FFB thefts

Situating smallholders at the fore - Empowering smallholders is essential for economic development – and to protect forests  Deanna Ramsay  19 Jul 2016 --  But the fact is that now companies are making commitments to source supply that is clean, that is deforestation free. And I think that’s one of the main issues that they’re struggling with is how to build these clean sources of supply that involve smallholders. But that is going to imply for them to build some kind of agreements with these groups of smallholders that are supplying these companies. So that’s the big issue. Because the majority of smallholders are independent smallholders, like in the oil palm sector in Indonesia.....I think what is needed is business models that are able to share those costs – share the cost, share the risks and share the benefits. Because in most of the cases you have business models that then transfer the costs to the producers that are upstream in the supply chains. So they are the ones who pay for the cost. In an ideal situation, the companies also should be able – if they are targeting deforestation free in markets – they should be able if there is some reward to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains.... So the smallholders can also benefit or receive some compensation on the costs that they are investing in improving the production systems. But that is still an open question, and we don’t know if that’s going to work in that way....

Sarawak, Malaysia - FFB thefts ‘history’ by year-end  July 19, 2016 -- KUCHING: The state government hopes to put a stop to fresh fruit bunch (FFB) thefts by the end of this year. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said although the number of such cases had dropped, it remained a problem..... “There is also a ruling by Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) that only two tonnes per hectare per month can be sent to a particular collecting centre. “However, the palm oil mills, collecting centres, palm oil owners and police must also cooperate with us.”
Uggah noted it was now tougher to sell illegal FFB due to MPOB’s ruling....

Agenda to develop Felda, nation remains as govt’s top priority, Najib says - See more at:

Malaysian Government Studying Sri Lanka, Sime Darby's Plantation Worker Requests From R. Ravichandran

Govt to study request for Lankan workers BY ZULKIFLI ABDUL RAHMAN IN COLOMBO 22 July 2016

17 July 2016: U.S. lawmakers say Malaysia trafficking ratings may be too high, RAN on exploited labour, GAR's social and environmental policy

U.S. lawmakers say Malaysia, India trafficking ratings may be too high WASHINGTON | BY PATRICIA ZENGERLE, Jul 12, 2016 -- U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they were concerned that Malaysia and India were rated too favorably in this year's State Department human trafficking report although the report seemed less influenced by politics than last year's. The U.S. Department of State's closely watched annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report was released on June 30. After last year's report provoked a firestorm of controversy, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees held hearings on Tuesday to review this year's findings. A low ranking is a black mark on a country's reputation and can subject a government to sanctions limiting access to aid from the United States, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. Last year, members of Congress and human rights groups said some countries' ratings were changed for political reasons. For example, over the objections of State Department experts, Malaysia was upgraded in 2015, despite authorities' discovering mass graves of trafficking victims and rights groups' reporting continued forced labor in its palm oil, construction and electronics industries. On Tuesday, lawmakers again questioned why Malaysia had not been downgraded. "It's hard to understand that they've made progress in 2016," Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

A Hidden Ingredient In Your Candy Bar: Exploited Labor - A new Rainforest Action Network video uncovers palm oil’s high human cost.  07/12/2016

Systemic Labor Abuses, Modern Day Slavery Exposed by Palm Oil Workers’ Stories in New Animated Video July 12, 2016

Sustainable Development Goals and the GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP) - Part 2 Lim Shu Ling | 14 Jul 2016

Leveraging finance to support solutions for smallholders - Financing sustainable landscapes - especially those associated with oil palm - is a delicate puzzle, but one with possibilities.   Deanna Ramsay 31 May 2016

11 July 2016: Malaysia levy hits migrant workers, gender equality impacted, activists roadshow and RSPO labour issues under the spotlight

Malaysia slaps levy on migrant workers - Employers used to pay the sum; Bangladesh high commission working towards exemption for Bangladeshi workers February 02, 2016 -- The new levy in the plantation and agriculture sectors has been set at RM 1,500 or equivalent to Tk 28,322, while it was only RM 410 or equivalent Tk 8,496 in the past. However, the levy for foreign domestic workers remains the same RM 410. Officials at the Bangladesh High Commission observe that the new levy will put an additional pressure on the workers.... “Each foreign worker who is staying in Malaysia and who will enter here has to pay the levy once a year. So, the registered Bangladeshis will also come under it,” Sayedul mentioned. The labour counsellor expressed the hope that the Bangladeshi workers, who would be hired after signing of the MoU, can enjoy levy free facilities....

Backwards from gender equality: Oil palm’s impact on Dayak women - Land use change is transforming women's status in East Kalimantan, research shows by Kate Evans 5 Jul 2016 -- Long Segar hadn’t changed much by 1979 when anthropologist Carol Colfer, now a Senior Associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), first arrived in the community to research interactions between people and forests in Kalimantan. One of the first things she noticed was the relationship between men and women — it was much more egalitarian than parts of North America at the same time....Colfer returned to Long Segar many times over the following two decades, and tracked changes in the community as logging and timber plantation companies moved in, and the Indonesian government settled tens of thousands of Javanese ‘transmigrants’ nearby.  These newcomers had very different ideas about gender...By the early 2000s, when Colfer made her last trip to the village, many of her fears hadn’t been realized. But in 2004, the tidal wave of oil palm breaking over Borneo reached Long Segar....In 2014 Elmhirst and Mia Siscawati from the University of Indonesia, together with research assistants from East Kalimantan, spent two weeks in Long Segar, conducting a study that would become part of a new book published by CIFOR: Gender and Forests....In fact, Elmhirst found that “many of the gender norms that Colfer identified in the 1980s remain remarkably resilient in the face of large-scale landscape change. The centrality of rice cultivation remains an important pillar, not only of household food security but of feminized identities within the community.” Rice has become a less reliable form of income, though, so Pe Ligit, like most other Long Segar women, now does wage work at the oil palm plantation. But the pull of tradition is still powerful. Many women do a ‘triple shift’, working for wages in the morning, and in their fields and homes in the afternoons. Often they’ll abandon wage work when there’s lots to do in the fields.... Young women, like 20-year-old Hero, have different aspirations.  She helped her parents in the rice fields when she was a girl, but then school became a priority.  Like most of her peers, she wants to be a government official or work in the office of a plantation company....There are other pressures in Long Segar too. Elmhirst’s study found that the arrival of oil palm had increased social inequalities in the community. “Oil palm seems to be incredibly transformative in ways that perhaps logging wasn’t,” she says. Though logs were removed, Dayaks could still use those forests to collect forest products and hunt animals. So although their livelihood systems were disrupted, they weren’t completely ruled out. The way oil palm has been introduced — clear cutting forests and planting over rice fields — has been different. “It kind of eats the land — people talk about it in those terms,” Elmhirst says. What benefits there are have not been equitably distributed....The gap between the better-off and worse-off in the community is widening, Elmhirst says. “It was a classic story of dispossession really, where a deal was made between certain people in the community and the plantation, and it hasn’t worked for the majority of people,” she says. “It’s been incredibly divisive.”...

Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues -- Authors: Colfer, C.J.P.; Sijapati Basnett, B.; Elias, M.; (eds.) Topic: gender,gender relations,forestry,tropical forests   Series: The Earthscan Forest Library Publisher: Routledge, New York, USA Publication Year: 2016  ISBN:  978-1138955042

Palmed off: Women lose in West Kalimantan oil palm boom - Low wages for long, difficult and insecure work.  9 Jun 2015

Palm oil shows need for socially aware research by Kaz Janowski is editor at SciDev.Net. -- Robert Guimaraes Vásquez, a leader of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, who made an emotional statement calling European consumers to realise they are “drinking our blood” when they consume products derived from palm oil.   Vásquez said deforestation research is based on satellite data, but this is far removed from a real understanding of how deforestation and palm oil plantations affect people on the ground.  ... His lament was that governments currently rely on data from palm oil companies to decide which parts of a forest to give to which firms, but this data is tinged with bias....  

Activists from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru to EU tells of palm Horror June 24, 2016 -- A delegation of indigenous people from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru did a tour of European capitals last month to give policymakers and investors first-hand testimony of what they said were escalating human rights and environmental abuses linked to the rapid spread of palm oil cultivation. The delegation, which visited the Netherlands, Germany, Brussels and London during the 10-day tour, said that members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) frequently flout the voluntary group’s requirement to respect community land rights, and are involved in human rights abuses and destructive plantation development. At a press conference in London, Tom Griffiths of UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme, which sponsored the tour, said while the RSPO is beginning to crack down on malpractice by its members, it has a long way to go before all RSPO members’ palm oil is conflict-free. “The key message of the mission is that these [palm oil] operations should be suspended until land rights are secured and proper protections are in place,” he said....

Vulnerable and exploited: 7 things we learned about migrant labour in palm oil 10 June 2016 -- Many leave dire situations to work in oil palm plantations hoping for a better future, but they are vulnerable to deception and poor working conditions

Palm Oil's Human Cost Alleged in New Report - Indonesian plantations are accused of exploitative labor conditions and other harmful practices by a coalition of nonprofit groups. By Laurel Neme PUBLISHED JUNE 8, 2016

Damning Report Reveals Palm Oil’s Human Cost - Two certified “sustainable” Indonesian plantations, both linked to PepsiCo, allegedly exploited workers and turned a blind eye to child labor.  06/09/2016

IPOP POPS - The group that was supposed to make palm oil sustainable just disappeared By Nathanael Johnson on Jun 30, 2016 -- The skyrocketing global demand for palm oil is devastating forests in Southeast Asia, and now a group that was created to stop the destruction has been cut down, too — razed by political forces that opposed the push to end deforestation. But all is not as dark as it might look.... corporate members have said it is shutting down. “Cargill supports the dissolution of IPOP,” an associate vice president of the giant U.S.-based agribusiness wrote in a letter to stakeholders, explaining that the Indonesian government had stepped in to fill the role IPOP was originally supposed to perform. The government has instituted a moratorium on new palm oil plantations, protected areas with big trees and high biodiversity, and established an agency to restore carbon-rich peatland. But the government will need industry support to bring these policies to fruition. Responsible companies should look to the successful strategy used to reduce soy and cattle deforestation in the Amazon, which involved blocking rogue companies from access to the market, said Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy....

Why are we still losing so much rainforest in Indonesia? A hypothesis By Nathanael Johnson on Feb 8, 2016 -- a particularly awful fire season torched forests across Indonesia. Forest fires, most lit to clear land, covered the region in a choking haze and produced more greenhouse gases each day than the entire U.S. economy. It may be the worst ongoing climate change crisis. In the parched summer of 2015, fires consumed 2.6 million hectares of forest and farmland in Indonesia..... The most pugilistic environmental groups claimed that the very companies that had committed to ending deforestation were secretly encouraging the burning so as to enlarge their plantations. More measured advocates said the corporations were still doing the right thing, but needed help. Then, in the middle of all this, members of the Indonesian government began saying that no-deforestation pledges must be rolled back so that small farmers could cut down forests to make a living.....Here’s my educated guess about what has happened over the last few years. 1. Background: Between 1967 and 1998, Indonesia was a dictatorship under Suharto, who maintained control over the far-flung islands in par by giving natural resources to regional power brokers in return for political and military support. That exchange of land for allegiance is the essence of feudalism — it’s a contract between local leaders and members of the central government that excludes the people. Elements of that patronage system still linger. Of course, any system that doles out land as yet-to-be-extracted wealth is terrible for the environment.....5. As old-guard power brokers and companies like Mopoli Raya begin to feel the no-deforestation commitments biting into their wealth, they run to the government to ask for help. 6. Indonesian government ministers in charge of agriculture and timber announce that the goal of “no-deforestation” is too ambitious. But the president, along with the trade and finance ministers, supports the corporate commitments. Insiders watch to see what the weather — both political and physical — will bring this year. As I said, this is my hypothesis. There are two points in particular that are controversial and worth a closer look. First, I think evidence suggests that the big companies are honoring their commitments, but some people claim that the no-deforestation commitments are worthless and the big corporations are still encouraging land clearance. Second, the data I’ve seen leads me to think that small farmers are setting fires and clearing land at the behest of rogue companies and political bosses that have maintained Suharto-era land-for-power trades, but some people say that the poor need deforestation for economic development....In an interview last year, Rolf Skar of Greenpeace told me that organization found itself in an unaccustomed role: working alongside corporations to protect forests from rural communities.....“They ran to the government and demanded the protection they’ve always gotten in the past,” said Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. It just sounds better to say that no-deforestation pledges are hurting poor farmers rather than saying that those pledges are hurting the intimidating characters who gained power in the days of military dictatorship. The small farmers themselves aren’t clamoring for more land clearance. Mansuetus Darto, leader of the Oil Palm Smallholders Association, told Mongabay that farmers support the corporations making no-deforestation pledges, because those companies are helping them improve yields. Small farmers don’t need more land to improve their lives, he said — they simply need to make more money, and they can best do that by growing more on the land they already have. Small farmers can triple or quadruple their yields if they have access to basic training and agricultural technology, like fertilizer. And the corporations that have made deforestation pledges are working with small farmers to provide the training and technology they want....So are small farmers to blame? The evidence suggests that they were the ones striking the matches, but they didn’t do it on their own. Farmers wouldn’t be developing more land for oil palm and pulp wood if there weren’t powerful people promising to buy those products.....It looks to me like Indonesia is at an economic crossroads. If it freezes its agricultural footprint and focuses on increasing yields, the feudal political patronage system will fall apart...

SL signs agreements with Malaysia and Israel for over 5000 job opportunities May 29, 2016 by Maheesha Mudugamuwa -- Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) entered into two employment agreements with Israel and Malaysia last week creating over 5000 job opportunities for Lankans in the two countries. The Sime Darby Plantation, one of the largest agriculture factories in Malaysia had agreed to offer 5000 job opportunities to Lankan workers and the MoU in this regard were signed by the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Agency Company (FEAC) Chairman Lakshman Abeygunaratne and Malaysia Sime Darby Plantation Deputy Chairman Najeed Wahab last Wednesday (25) at the SLBFE.  Accordingly, as the first step 500 Sri Lankans would be sent to Malaysia soon. Those 500 had been selected from over 800 applicants and all of them males would be provided free air tickets, Abeygunaratne said. Chairman Abeygunaratne said all job opportunities would be in the agriculture sector at a salary above Rs. 55,000 (USD375/RM1487).

Liberia: GVL Repudiates Erroneous Allegations of Child Labour 25 May 2016 -- press release. Monrovia — Golden Veroleum Liberia strongly rejects allegations of child labor by the company as contained in recent news report published by Daily Observer Newspaper title "Advocate Demands Justice for Children" and the New Dawn Newspaper report titled "Liberian Children Alarm Danger" published on 25 and 18 May 2016. GVL policies are clear; we don't hire children at all. GVL makes similar requirement of its subcontractor and suppliers, and works to monitor their workforces.

Sime Darby denies employment of children  May 23, 2016 Cholo Brooks Blog -- In reference to an article in The New Dawn titled “Liberian Children Alarm Danger” published on 18 May, Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Inc. (SDPL) denies the allegation that the company employs children in its operations. SDPL does not employ any children in Liberia or anywhere else and it respects and abides by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Liberian Law. Our workers’ union, General Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Liberia (GAAWUL) through the signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), ensures that there are no children employed with our company.

Land tenure and livelihoods: What’s the connection? New study finds that securing land rights doesn't always guarantee better livelihoods for communities in Peru, Indonesia and Uganda.  by Barbara Fraser  16 May 2016

Indigenous leaders from three continents are touring Europe begging people to boycott palm oil by Cassie Werber May 07, 2016

Liberia, 3 Others Oppose Human Rights Violation In ‘Conflict Palm Oil Trade’ 05/06/2016 tjohnson

French President Hollande's Palm Oil Tax is an Attack on Africans -- French Senate Shows Solidarity With Africans, By Rejecting Government Palm Oil Tax LAGOS, Nigeria, May 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, IMANI Center for Policy and Education, sub-Saharan Africa's second most influential think tank, and the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA), the leading Nigerian think-tank, call on the French Government to withdraw its planned palm oil tax, due to the major negative impact on African farmers and communities.

IPPA: French Government Shows Callous Disregard for Global South Time for Hollande to Support Africa and Abandon His Palm Oil Tax LAGOS, Nigeria, May 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) – the Nigeria-based public policy think tank, issued a statement condemning the French Government's planned palm oil tax.

Palm oil in Cameroon – ‘a blessing or a curse’ to small-scale farmers? 29 April 2016 / John C. Cannon As palm oil expands in Africa, researchers say more smallholders should be brought into the fold

26 Nov 2015: Palm Oil Welfare Index by Dr James Fry of LMC International Ltd 

Some links here:


23 Nov 2015: "Free and fair labour" a focus of higher standards of RSPO Next. At RSPO RT13, disquiet on high usage of "casual labour" in Indonesia and social issues for independent smallholder note the role of two layers of FFB traders / dealers. Findings on WSJ-Felda migrant worker abuse issue unconvincing to RAN.

RT13 PRESENTATIONS Updated as at 22 November 2015 ; Of especial relevance: PREPARATORY CLUSTER 1.2 ADDRESSING SOCIAL & LABOR ISSUES

3rd update RSPO response to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by the Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015, News, 21 October 2015; In relation to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by The Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015, RSPO had asked the independent accreditation body ASI (Accreditation Services International) to undertake a compliance audit on the Certification Bodies involved, as well as an investigation audit on the FELDA units situated in the area linked to the findings in the report..... Further to the report, an integrity audit of the oil palm industry in Malaysia, aimed as a check on overall compliance to the RSPO requirements, will be carried out by ASI in November/December 2015....
  • ASI publishes first RSPO compliance assessment report Posted on 20 October 2015
  • Update: The Rainforest Action Network has issued a statement on 09  November 2015 regarding ASI’s investigation of FELDA Estates;
  • Extract from RAN 9 Nov 2015: "Specifically, the RSPO P&C fails to require evaluation of workers’ recruitment process. It’s in the recruitment of new workers where deception, a critical element of forced labor and trafficking, normally occurs. “Further, the conclusions of the report on forced labor and human trafficking seem to be out of step with the evidence contained in it. Troublingly, while the report states that ‘it found no evidence that forced or trafficked labor would be used in the FELDA estates included in the assessments,’ the audit report documents numerous findings that are internationally recognized as indicators of forced labor. According to the audit report, minimum wages were not paid, workers did not understand their terms of employment, workers’ contracts were in a language they did not understand, smallholders reported “constant debt,” and passports and identity documents were retained by the company––all of which are International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators for forced labor. Simultaneously, the auditors seemingly did not investigate two of the most critical indicators of forced labor highlighted in The Wall Street Journal article: the method of recruitment and legal work status of subcontracted workers...."

Background on migrant workers issues for Malaysia feature the Rohingya issue:
The Habibie Center, ASEAN Studies Program, ASEAN Briefs, Vol 2, Issue 6, Sept 2015, Finding a Durable Solution to Rohingya Refugee Crisis: an overview of regional and domestic constraints,

16 August 2015: Migrant farm workers a significant feature of many countries - looking at US illegal immigration indicators and debate

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S. By Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel July 24, 2015; There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. The population has remained essentially stable for five years, and currently makes up 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population....Six states alone account for 60% of unauthorized immigrants — California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois...Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1% of the U.S. labor force. In the U.S. labor force, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. Among the states, Nevada (10%), California (9%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8%) had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in their labor forces....About 7% of K-12 students had at least one unauthorized immigrant parent in 2012...

Trump Says Undocumented Immigrants ‘Have to Go’  Aug 16, 2015 8:26 AM WST; Trump has made fighting illegal immigration a cornerstone of his run for the White House. Announcing his candidacy in June, he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said they bring drugs and crime to the U.S., earning rebukes from fellow Republicans and companies including Macy’s Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal unit. While those who entered the country illegally must be made to leave, Trump said, “we will expedite it so people can come back in. The good people can come back.” Trump has called for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and said he’d force Mexico to pay for it, without explaining how. A spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Aug. 13 that Trump’s suggestion showed “enormous ignorance for what Mexico represents.” There are about 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., slightly more than half of them from Mexico, and they account for 5.1 percent of the U.S. labor force  according to the Pew Research Center....

11 August 2015: RSPO starts prelim investigation on Malaysia plantations in wake of Wall Street Journal 26 July report on alleged worker issues at Felda/FGV - link to Thai-Malaysia jungle transit illegal camp system

Editor's note, 16 August 2015: At a talk at Universiti Malaya on 14 August 2015, the figure of 8% of Malaysia population being migrant workers was cited (bigger than the 7% that is ethnic Indian in the country). This suggests that it might be even larger as percentage of Malaysia labour force (will check this out).

In relation to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by The Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015. The RSPO Complaints Panel have met on Wednesday 29th July and deliberated on the Wall Street Journal article’s findings....the RSPO Secretariat to conduct an independent assessment of RSPO Certification Bodies competency in identifying non-compliances related to worker and human rights issues. This should not be confined to Felda but  should consider  and report comprehensively to the RSPO on the extent of these issues as they affect all RSPO certified members, initially within Malaysia...

Background on Malaysia labour issues, including May find of jungle/death camps:

Editor's note on background - TPP: On the importance of US-led TPP talks (geopolitical concerns widely cited as being behind Malaysia's human trafficking ranking upgrade) but how it was recently by traditional trade concerns:

14 July 2015: US Upgrades Malaysia in Annual Human Trafficking Report - Jkt Globe

US Upgrades Malaysia in Annual Human Trafficking Report By Jason Szep, Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick on 08:43 am Jul 09, 2015; Washington. The United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers, US sources said on Wednesday, a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious US-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries. The upgrade to so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” status removes a potential barrier to President Barack Obama’s signature global trade deal. A provision in a related trade bill passed by Congress last month barred from fast-tracked trade deals Malaysia and other countries that earn the worst US human trafficking ranking in the eyes of the US State Department. The upgrade follows international scrutiny and outcry over Malaysian efforts to combat human trafficking after the discovery this year of scores of graves in people-smuggling camps near its northern border with Thailand. The State Department last year downgraded Malaysia in its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report to Tier 3, alongside North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe, citing “limited efforts to improve its flawed victim protection regime” and other problems. “I would be stunned if they are upgraded. They have done very little to improve the protection from abuse that migrant workers face,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. ....... “This would seem to be some sort of political reward from the United States and I would urge the US Congress to look long and hard at who was making the decisions on such an upgrade.”... Malaysia has an estimated 2 million illegal migrant laborers, many of whom work in conditions of forced labor under employers and recruitment companies in sectors ranging from electronics to palm oil to domestic service. Last year’s report said many migrant workers are exploited and subjected to practices associated with forced labor. Many foreign women recruited for ostensibly legal work in Malaysian restaurants, hotels, and beauty salons are subsequently coerced into prostitution, the report said. An administration official told Reuters in June that the White House had been working closely with the Malaysian government and stakeholders to fight the problem. Among the 12 TPP countries, Brunei has also come under attack by human-rights groups for adopting Islamic criminal law, which includes punishing offenses such as sodomy and adultery with death, including by stoning. Vietnam’s Communist government has been criticized for jailing dissidents.... Reuters;

Background - Malaysia palm oil's labour needs; Indonesians stay home - Reuters, points to shift to other workers including from Bangladesh via G2G arrangement

Labour crunch hurts Malaysian palm oil growers as Indonesians stay home; Reuters, April 28, 2014, 9:42 am; "...the number of Indonesians willing to leave their homes and families for the gruelling work is dwindling due to higher wages at home and rapid urbanisation in Southeast Asia's biggest economy. Indonesian applicants for jobs in Malaysia's palm oil sector plunged to 38,000 in 2013 from more than 120,000 in each of the previous two years, according to data from the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.... Industry officials and analysts estimate that planters lose up to 5-10 percent of their fruit each year due to labour shortages, cutting Malaysia's total export revenues by about 2.5 billion ringgit ($766 million) annually.... Of the 550,000 Indonesian plantation workers currently in Malaysia, about 95 percent are in the oil palm industry, embassy data showed. About 80 percent of Malaysia's palm oil workforce are Indonesians, with Indians accounting for most of the rest.... A plantation worker can earn an average of about 900 ringgit ($280) per month in Malaysia, up to about 2,000 ringgit, compared to an average of about 700 ringgit in Indonesia. But a foreign worker in Malaysia may also have to pay more in taxes and for utilities...."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sabah & Sarawak news (update 10): Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong. Sabah pledges RSPO, 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar

17 July 2016: Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong

Two charged over murder of Miri PKR's Bill Kayong BY KANDAU SIDI - 15 JULY 2016 MIRI: A 29-year-old car repossesor was among two people charged at the magistrate's court here today over the murder of PKR Miri branch secretary and activist Bill Kayong @ Mohd Hasbie Abdullah, who was gunned down last month. Mohamad Fitri Pauzi was charged with murdering Kayong at a traffic light intersection near the E-Mart Supermarket, Jalan Miri-Kuala Baram, at 8.20am on June 21. Pub owner Lie Chang Loon, 37, and three others who are still at large, were charged with abetting Fitri with the murder. One of persons who are still at large has been named as Lee Chee Kiang. It was learnt that Lee, 45, is attached with a plantation company. Fitri was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction. Meanwhile, Lie was prosecuted under Section 109 of the same Act. Read More :

Coupon system to overcome fertilizer distribution for smallholders in Sarawak: Uggah BY BERNAMA - 2 MAY 2016 -- BINTULU: The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) will introduce a coupon system to overcome problems in the distribution of fertilizer to oil palm smallholders. Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the decision was made following claims by smallholders that they were facing difficulties to receive fertilizer.

Kemena smallholders happy with Rundi’s efforts  May 3, 2016 --  Tuai Rumah Jimbai Saban, 65, was grateful that his longhouse’s request to expand the community’s oil palm farm had been approved. “Fifty-two residents of my longhouse will be involved in this programme. MPOB has approved RM936,000 to cultivate 104 hectares. “I am confident that Rundi if elected for a third term will do much more for the people. He is very sensitive to the people’s needs,” he said. For Rundi, close cooperation with the Plantation Industries and Commodities facilitated his efforts to help the farmers in the area. “We thank the ministry for helping the smallholders. This will provide a certain amount of satisfaction for them and I believe such aid would continue,” he said. Rundi also thanked the ministry for approving RM2 million to complete the gravel road connecting the oil palm estate with the main road in Kemena. The allocation was announced by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas while launching the Commodity Smallholders Transformation Programme at the Sebauh community hall here, today.....

13 June 2016: Sabah 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar finds Cambodia medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle

Lidar system spots ‘tallest tree’ in the tropics 09 Jun 2016 -- At almost 90m, a Yellow Meranti is the tallest jungle tree ever discovered in reforestation research project. An 89.5m (293 foot) tall tree, equivalent in height to a column of 65 people standing on top of each other, has been discovered in Malaysia by conservation scientists using a laser-based system to monitor the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of a pristine rainforest. The tree, a Yellow Meranti (familiar to Minecraft players, who can create entire jungles of the variety) was spotted by a aircraft-borne lidar system an area of forest known as “Sabah’s Lost World” in the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, one of Malaysia’s last few untouched wildernesses. Its height pips the previous record-holder, an 88.3m example, found in the Tawau Hills National Park. The giant tree was discovered during reconnaissance flights by conservation scientists from the UK’s University of Cambridge working with the Sabah Forestry Department to help prot ct the area’s biodiversity. It comes at a crucial time, as the Sabah government takes measures to protect and restore heavily logged areas in the region....

3D mapping to decide on land use April 6, 2016 -- Carried out by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), a facility under the Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford University, the high resolution and three dimensional mapping will provide a good understanding of the structure and quality of Sabah’s forests, carbon stocks and biodiversity patterns – and help with conservation and restoration decisions. CAO, which is the most scientifically advanced aircraft-based mapping and data analytics system globally in the civil sector today, will map forest and non-forest vegetation carbon stocks, 3-D vegetation structure, and canopy tree diversity across the state’s 7.4 million hectare land area. This mapping process will provide government decision makers, scientists and conservationists an understanding on how past environmental management decisions have impacted the land and biodiversity, and how current and future decisions can make their status better. The maps will also set a baseline against which land and biodiversity management can be assessed in the coming years. The CAO aircraft is scheduled to collect data until early May 2016 as part of a partnership between CAO and the Sabah government through the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). The partnership was initiated and facilitated by Forever Sabah....

Revealed: Cambodia's vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle - Exclusive: Laser technology reveals cities concealed under the earth which would have made up the world’s largest empire in 12th century  11 June 2016 -- What is a lidar survey? An airborne laser scanner (ALS) is mounted to a helicopter skid pad. Flying with pre-determined guidelines, including altitude, flight path and airspeed, the ALS pulses the terrain with more than 16 laser beams per square metre during flights. The time the laser pulse takes to return to the sensor determines the elevation of each individual data point.  The data downloaded from the ALS is calibrated and creates a 3D model of the information captured during the flights.

13 December 2015: Sabah pledges RSPO and to test HCS

Sabah To Test High Carbon Stock For Sustainable Oil Palm December 11, 2015   KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Forestry Department has committed to test the High Carbon Stock plus (HCS+) methodology for sustainable oil palm development in six months following the release of the HCS+ study's findings.  "We are very keen to pursue the offer from the Sabah Forestry Department which indicated that this would be very helpful for them.  "This shows that the state is very committed towards sustainable palm oil and a sustainable economy," said Forum for the Future founder Director Jonathan Porritt.

Sabah's CSPO Pledge Will Improve Smallholders Yields: MPONGOC   KOTA KINABALU, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- Smallholders who lack knowledge and support for good agricultural practices or skills such as negotiating rates for their harvest stand to gain from the Sabah Government's move to fully produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) within the next 10 years. The Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) said the move will also help secure environmental benefits such as safe water supply and soil conservation, as all producers in Sabah will be both obliged and assisted to meet globally-accepted standards such as those advocated by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  "The commitment to help Sabah's smallholders achieve RSPO standards will future-proof their access to top-flight international markets," MPONGOC representative, Cynthia Ong, said in a statement Tuesday.

Sabah’s move to produce sustainable palm oil hailed  November 12, 2015 Read more:


22 October 2015: Sarawak asks for more than "palm oil, palm oil, palm oil,"    PT Bank Mandiri - commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth as the commodity boom is over

Sarawak has to industrialise: CM 22 October 2015 by Patricia Hului BPO Newsdesk; ...In an interview with Bloomberg TV Malaysia, ‘Spotlight on Sarawak: Playing Catch-Up’ broadcast on its website Oct 21, the chief minister addressed the need for the state to industrialise, diversify its agricultural sector and increase infrastructural development....On the need for the state to industrialise, the chief minister said that Sarawak was no longer satisfied with only producing raw materials as in the old days. “We want to process these products ourselves so that we can retain the added value.” About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s economy is reliant on commodities, but contribution from manufacturing, construction, services and other industries is on the increase. “I have decided no more timber licensing, no more plantations. For the time being, give ourselves a respite and then perhaps eventually we will depend on our industry.” .... On the state’s palm oil industry, Adenan is looking to diversify the agricultural sector in Sarawak. “Food production is very slow and now we insist on palm oil, palm oil, palm oil. It’s good, but why can’t we grow other crops for production, food crops and so on,” he said, foreseeing increased interest in this area coupled with Sarawak’s availability of land for food production. Read more:
Analysis: The effect of commodity price changes on Sumatra and Kalimantan Mamay Sukaesih, Jakarta | Business | Wed, October 21 2015, 5:45 PM; .... Our analysis has revealed that commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth in the future. The main reason is simply that the commodity boom is over, implying that they can’t rely on commodity-based development anymore. One of the alternatives is to promote resources-based industries such as manufacturing and adding the value of goods that have been produced in the regions. PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk. - See more at:


20 October 2015: Smallholders to get stake in independent Beluru mill project, one of 5 independent mills planned for Sarawak, Sarawak rejects trade barriers

Sarawak rejects trade barriers  By OOI TEE CHING - 17 October 2015 @ 11:00 AM; Wilmar’s refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak, was the main buyer from 41 palm oil mills across the state, absorbing 1.7 million tonnes of CPO, or half of the state’s production. In sourcing CPO to feed its refinery, the Wilmar-Unilever pledge dictated to planters in Sarawak that starting January, it will stop buying oil from estates where there are allegations of land grabbing from natives. The pledge will also lead to a halt in the sourcing of palm oil from farmers who have planted their trees in areas of “high carbon stock” and peat swamp. In an interview at his longhouse in Silas Estate near Bintulu, village head Meikle Ding spoke about his people’s sentiment.  When asked if the native customary rights (NCR) landowners had seen any tangible benefits from the Wilmar-Unilever pledge, Meikle replied: “It looks protective of us natives, but in reality our genuine business partner is Ta Ann Plantation.” He said Ta Ann, as the 60 per cent shareholder in Silas Estate, had taken considerable risk in coming up with up-front capital to lay in infrastructure to plant oil palms.  From the start of planting, even before the trees have started to bear fruit, it had given incentive payments to landowners....“As rural folks, we are simple people, but we’re certainly not simple-minded. Many of our children are working as doctors, lawyers and high-ranking diplomats serving the government in overseas missions. When asked to comment on anti-palm oil campaigns run by green activists, Meikle explained that natives were landowners as well as shareholders in the business of oil palm planting... Meikle also questioned whether the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements would address discriminatory and oppressive business dictates from buyers like Wilmar and Unilever. His query has struck a poignant chord on global edible oils trade politics.... Earlier this week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to harmonise and combine palm oil certification standards. Indonesia’s Chief Natural Resources Minister Rizal Ramli told the Parliament that it was time for Indonesia and Malaysia to fight and regain sovereignty on their own turf....
Smallholders welcome independent Beluru mill project September 19, 2015, Saturday; “This would be the first in Sarawak where smallholders can also purchase shares and be stakeholders in a palm oil mill,” Entri said during a project progress briefing to about 1,000 smallholders and representatives yesterday.... The projected cost of the mill would be between RM40 million and RM50 million, which would involve RM5 million worth of shares for smallholders. Entri said smallholders can enjoy multiple benefits when the mill is operational. Registered members of farmers organisations would enjoy dividends through SFO’s involvement apart from direct shares, while smallholders can also tap into technical advice, farm maintenance and production items such as weedicides and fertilisers without worrying about being fleeced by mills or collection centres while selling their fresh fruit bunches (FFB).... A special investment scheme would be set up to assist smallholders interested in purchasing shares, including loans where payment instalments could be made through deductions by the mill from FFB sales. Meanwhile, MPOB Sarawak regional head Sulim Lumong said Beluru will be one of five independent mills planned by Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas for the state... Read more:

22 August 2015: Rimba Sarawak forestry study

Adenan hits out at ‘stupid’ forest policies BY DESMOND DAVIDSON Published: 20 August 2015 5:50 PM; Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem today described the  decision by the previous administration to bar foreign researchers, ecologists, conservationists and naturalists from conducting studies on the state's forests, particularly its totally protected forests, as “stupid”.
Launching a new study called Research for Intensified Management of Bio-rich Areas of Sarawak (Rimba) and later witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding on it, Adenan, who became chief minister last year, said it was “stupid” not to seek foreign expertise “when we don't have the expertise”. Rimba Sarawak will be the first collaborative international study to gather what the Sarawak Forestry describes as “credible scientific information on the status and health of our totally protected forests so that the appropriate management prescriptions can be formulated for these and other bio-rich areas”.
- See more at:

20 July 2015: Wetlands International - About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems

Wetlands International Press Statement - Peatlands of South East Asia are heading towards a socio-economic disaster 6 Jul 2015; Agricultural production in vast regions of South East Asia will be lost in the coming decades as a result of flooding of extensive lowland landscapes due to unsustainable development and management of peat soils. About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems. This will increasingly impact local communities, the economy and biodiversity and will develop over time into disastrous proportions unless land-use on the region’s peatlands is radically changed. Therefore Wetlands International calls for conservation and sustainable management of peatlands in South East Asia. A study commissioned by Wetlands International and executed by Deltares suggests that extensive drainage of peatlands for oil palm cultivation in the Rajang river delta results in such massive land subsidence that this will lead to extensive and devastating flooding incidents in the coming decades.....

23 June 2015: Ta Ann new NCR JV for 60% stake in 17,000 ha (60% plantable; Sibu and Kapit area) replaces 2012 agreements revoked for lack of land owners' interest; BLD questioned over "no deforestation, no peatland" policy; Palm oil a matter of national security for Malaysia - opinion

Bunge palm oil supplier plans to clear peatlands for plantations by Rhett A. Butler June 22, 2015  BLD Plantation Bhd, a Malaysian palm oil company, plans to clear some 14,000 hectares of peatlands in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, potentially putting it in conflict with the deforestation-free sourcing policy established by American agribusiness giant Bunge, say campaigners who filed a grievance over the matter.  In a statement issued last week, Forest Heroes announced it has formally filed a complaint via Bunge's grievance system in anticipation of BLD Plantation's peatland clearance. The complaint urges Bunge to suspend sourcing from the company, which supplies the multinational with palm oil via the Kirana refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak. It also asks BLD to adopt a zero deforestation policy and restore an area of peatland equivalent to the 6,000 ha it has already cleared.... Ta Ann and Sarawak state government in new oil palm JV projects Monday, 22 June 2015  By: M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR; KUALA LUMPUR: Ta Ann Holdings Bhd is making a second go at doing joint-venture (JV) oil palm development projects with Sarawak state-owned Land Custody and Development Authority (Pelita) after an aborted earlier attempt. Ta Ann had to cancel earlier planned projects with Pelita - a statutory body under the Sarawak Ministry of Rural and Land Development - to develop jointly three parcels of land in Mukah and Kota Samarahan totalling about 39,000ha. These agreements, signed on Sept 28, 2012, were revoked due to the land owners’ lack of interest. However, Ta Ann’s unit Ta Ann Plantation Sdn Bhd (TAP) signed two new agreements on Monday with the authority’s unit Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd to implement oil palm development projects in partnership with the Sarawak state government and native customary rights (NCR) owners. In a statement to Bursa Malaysia, the company said it would have a 60% stake while Pelita H oldings as trustee of NCR owners would have 30% and Pelita itself 10%. (For the 2012 agreenment, the proposed equity interests had been 55%, 30% and 15% respectively.) This time the JV companies plan to develop the parcels of NCR land situated in Sibu, with aggregate gross area of 17,017ha (of which an estimated 10,210.2ha are plantable area) and NCR land situated in Kapit with aggregate gross area of 11,178ha (of which an estimated 6,706.8ha are plantable).

Background news:
  • Sarawak timber firms step up tree planting to ensure constant supply Monday, 8 June 2015  By: JACK WONG;KUCHING: Timber companies in Sarawak, hit by falling log production, are stepping up tree replanting efforts to ensure future supply. WTK Holdings Bhd is expanding its forest plantation area by 12% this year, as it targets to replant 1,000ha more with fast-growing commercial timber trees. “Effort is being made on research and development to increase the seedlings’ yields and reduce planting costs,” chairman Datuk Wong Kie Yik (pic) said. The group has planted 8,000ha and Wong said it was a long-term goal to replace timber from natural forest concessions with trees from the forest plantations for downstream products in line with the state’s sustainable forest management practice.....
  • Chong blames ‘Big Six’ for deforestation Posted on May 29, 2015, Friday Chong who is also Bandar Kuching MP claimed concessions given to the ‘Big 6’ are: •Ta Ann Group of Companies:  433,003 Ha /1,069,935 acres •RH Group of Companies : 1,001,877 Ha / 2,475,604 acres; •Shin Yang Group of Companies: 500,904 Ha /1,237,716 acres; •Samling Group of Companies: 1,288,389 Ha / 3,183,565 acres; •KTS Group of Companies: 144,485 Ha / 357,017 acres  •WTK Group of Companies: 357,017 Ha / 882,176 acres.....

Palm oil a matter of national security  By Dr Ahmad Ibrahim - 22 June 2015 @ 12:00 PM; MANY may not be fully aware that oil palm is a strategic crop for the region. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, which together control almost 90 per cent of the global supply of palm oil, depend to a significant extent on oil palm for their economic wellbeing.... Oil palm has, for years, been a lifeblood of the rural economy in both countries. In fact, it would not be wrong to suggest that any serious disruption to the palm oil market may even spell dire consequences for rural households in both countries. Many families are entirely dependent on the income from oil palm for their livelihoods..... Malaysia now has about 5.4 million hectares of oil palm. Indonesia has almost twice that. Production in Malaysia has been stagnating just under 20 million tonnes a year. It has been estimated that around 250,000 small farmers contribute towards the nation’s production. In fact, smallholders account for about 50 per cent of planted hectarage in the country. But the more important statistic is that close to 2.5 million people in the country make their living from the palm oil industry. The continued wellbeing of the industry is, therefore, important to them. It has been reported that some of the nation’s richest individuals owe much of their fortunes to activities linked to palm oil.... ....... In Malaysia, Sarawak is a good example of one such case. The plan by the state to expand oil palm cultivation was met with serious opposition by NGOs. Unsavoury tactics have been used to trigger negative market sentiments among palm oil buyers. The European Union (EU) market has been especially influenced. The EU has put up non-tariff barriers to palm oil export, using greenhouse gas emission as the criteria. This has been vehemently contested by the palm oil industry.... The industry has started questioning the sincerity of such groups offering sustainability schemes. Many among industry members have expressed concern about the changing criteria of their certification schemes. They keep moving the goal posts. It is as if the agenda is not at all about sustainability. Instead, it is about making it difficult for palm oil. Smallholders are especially worried. And smallholders are naturally the ones most affected if such actions lead to reduced demand for palm oil. The ultimate pain for smallholders is the risk of a decline in demand leading to big drop in palm oil prices. Which is what is happening now. Many small farmers are now suggesting that the negative campaigns by the NGOs may be tantamount to deliberate sabotage. And as a strategic crop for the nation, palm oil must now be viewed as a matter of national security for the country. The writer is a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.....

7 June 2015: Sabah to pledge 100% CSPO by 2025? Dolphin Int sees strong East Malaysia demand, CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect

23 June note: On Sabah CSPO plan - one industry expert reckons that this move was initiated by Sabah authorities.

Malaysian state eyes 100% certified palm oil by 2025  May 30, 2015  Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, is weighing a proposal to produce only palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative, by 2025. The move, if approved, would represent the first time a sub-national or state entity has committed to 100% certified palm oil production.  Sabah currently produces 12 percent of the world's palm oil, making it one of biggest global players. Production comes from a wide range of actors, from smallholders to some of the biggest palm oil companies. That diversity however, makes a state-wide certification approach challenging, since smallholders typically cannot afford the cost of certification.   But some officials think that obstacle may be worth overcoming if it enables Sabah to differentiate its palm oil from other producers, especially given the rise in the number of companies that have adopted social and environmental safeguards for palm oil sourcing.  “Both global demand and downstream industries will increasingly pull the supply chain for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and Sabah must act to be ahead of the curve,” said Sam Mannan, Director of the Sabah Forestry Department, which owns about 100,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in the state. "With time, large competitors will inevitably outpace Sabah’s total output of palm oil but with certification, Sabah can build itself as a niche producer of a branded good – i.e. certified palm oil, and compete on the basis of governance and not size.”  Read more:

Upcoming listing Dolphin International sees strong demand from East Malaysia by Ronnie Teo Posted on June 4, 2015, Thursday KUCHING: Dolphin International Bhd, which aims to list on the main market of Bursa Malaysia next Tuesday, anticipates strong demand from Sabah and Sarawak for its palm oil machinery. As a company involved in the design, development, fabrication and sale of products for the palm oil milling machineries sector, Dolphin International is indeed in a unique position to tap into the many demands of the plantations sector. Within Malaysia, Dolphin’s role mainly focuses on machineries and automation in palm oil milling. As such, plantation owners, as well as commercial palm oil millers are key customers for the group, it told The Borneo Post in an interview yesterday. Read more:
CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect: A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the state of Sabah, prompting concerns that palm oil output from Sabah, which account for 31% of Malaysia’s palm oil production, could be affected. Our checks with the planters reveal that their palm oil operations have either been unaffected or just minimally impacted by the event as most of their estates are located some distance away from where the earthquake struck. We maintain our Neutral rating.
News links 

26 April 2015: Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names - FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern

Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names; Posted on April 18, 2015, Saturday; KUCHING: Sellers of palm oil fresh fruit bunches (FFB) are now required to put down their names and particulars to be sent to Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) for monitoring and checking purposes.
This is a new strategy introduced with the aim to curb the never-ending thefts of fresh fruits bunch in the state, says Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah.
He said mills and collection centres were only initially required to record the quantity of the FFB sold to them but now they had to get the names of the sellers as well. “Failing to get their names means the collection centres are committing an offence and stern action will be taken against them,” he told a media conference after chairing a second meeting to discuss FFB issues here yesterday. Deputy Home Minister Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and representatives from other relevant agencies were also present; Uggah lamented that the FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern because despite the operation code-named Ops Sawit Kenyalang mounted from July 1 to December last year there was still no end to the problem. Ops Sawit Kenyalang 2015 was launched on April 2.
He said that from January to March this year the authority had received 82 reports of FFB thefts throughout the state involving a total area of 18,192 hectares including Samarahan, Sibu, Mukah, Kapit and Miri. “To prevent the sales of FFB from suspicious sources MPOB has issued a directive which restricts mills from buying more than two tonnes of FFB per hectare,” he said. Uggah said through the operation conducted by MPOB and various other enforcement agencies including the police from July to December last year a total of 278 compounds and 41 show cause letters had been issued to several operators to explain why their licences should not be suspended......
Read more:

24 April 2015: Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun

Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun Posted on April 24, 2015, Friday; SARAWAK Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) has obtained approval from Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to construct a new palm oil mill in Merindun in line with its development plan.
According to Assistant Minister of Land Development Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, the new mill located near the old mill that was partly destroyed by a fire last year, would have a processing capacity of 60 metric tonnes (MT) per hour and upgradeable to 120MT per hour. “Site preparations and other civil works for the new mill commenced in July last year and is expected to be operational by the end of 2016,” he said in response to Johnichal Rayong’s (BN-Engkilili) query on whether Salcra would build a new palm oil mill in Merindun. On a related matter, Abdul Wahab said Salcra would continue to purchase FFBs from smallholders who have signed long-term contracts to sell their FFBs to Lubok Antu Palm Oil Mill..... Read more:

18 April 2015: Drag plantations to Environment Court over riparian says CJ of Sabah and Sarawak

Drag plantations to court: CJ April 18, 2015; Kota Kinabalu: The best way to get plantation bosses and others to ensure they respect riparian areas is to sue them for growing oil palm or other crops illegally right to the river bank, thus affecting wildlife movement and river quality. "Encroachment of riparian reserves is subject to challenge in court especially if the evidence is good now that the Environment Court has been set up since January 2015.  "If only anybody such as NGOs take an action in court and say 'look we want this to be declared a wrong action, get a judicial review or declaration in court, it's there," said Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
Malanjum said this when asked to clarify on Land Ordinance Sabah (Cap 68) Section 26 (1)(2) which specifies riparian reserves along all rivers , even small rivers must be kept.
He spoke at a joint press conference, Thursday, with State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, in conjunction with the Workshop on Environment organised by the Judiciary-initated Sabah Working Group on Environment, at UMS.

18 November 2014: RSPO RT12: Sabah considering 100 percent RSPO by 2025?

Moderator Cynthia Ong on the Reaching the Market discussion reports that Sabah stakeholders are discussing 100 percent CSPO by 2025. She says authorities, industry, civil society and small holders are discussing. She is championing this move for Sabah.
Cynthia Ong asked Wilmar if they would support such a Sabah move. Wilmar notes that there are many who are not RSPO members abd that various types certification may be used.
Darrell Webber (RSPO Secretary General) notes there is more talk of jurisdictional approach as it's hard to certify smallholders.
MR Chandran (RSPO Advisor) suggests getting downstream players getting uptake commitment. He notes the Sabah Chief Minister has recently endorsed the RSPO. If Sabah can pull this off it would be an example for the rest of the world.
Companies who have cleared after 2005 may need to comply with the RSPO's Compensation Liability. Darrell Webber notes that 280,000 hectares (globally) need to be compensated for. He says that it would be good if the government is involved as they could help with conservation area planning for the RSPO Compensation if Sabah were to go 100 percent RSPO certified.
MR Chandran picks up on question on cost or cost sharing. He reckons the downstream players need to be involved in this cost share. On cost Cynthia Ong reckons that Sabah government, industry and RSPO could help fund Sabah smallholder certification. She asks if others would help too.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Climate politics and finance: Funds and forests - DFID on Green Climate Fund, Credit Suise Invt Bank view

10 July 2016: Financiers, funds and forests - DFID on Green Climate Fund, Credit Suise Invt Bank view 

CIFOR’s Peter Holmgren on investing in landscapes - First installment in a series of interviews from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum - The Investment Case 16 Jun 2016

2016 Global Landscapes Forum: Connecting funds to farms and forests (Part 2) - Attendees of this year's Global Landscapes Forum in London discuss concrete solutions to boost private sector investment in landscapes- from greening supply chains to leveraging fintech and GPS software. LEONA LIU 13 Jun 2016

Balancing Transparency and Non-State Actors in the Climate Negotiations by STEPHEN LEONARD  14 Jun 2016

DFID’s Andrea Ledward on the Green Climate Fund - Third installment in a series of interviews from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum - The Investment Case CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL FORESTRY RESEARCH  23 Jun 2016

A Q&A with Mark Burrows, Managing Director and Vice Chairman of Global Investment Banking at Credit Suisse - Well, as I’ve said several times, the future is sustainable development, and is landscapes. And frankly, that’s going to be a 5 to 7 trillion-dollar investment space within 10 to 15 years. Every bank, every institutional investor, is now turning its attention to this space.

Watch: Highlights video from the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum- The Investment Case - Private sector investment in landscapes is no passing fad- it’s here to stay. That was the driving consensus among the 300+ participants at this year's Forum.  LEONA LIU 10 Jun 2016

Civil society organisations: Let’s brainstorm sustainibility in Indonesia by Maria Andreasdottir • June 5, 2016 -- The Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) organises seminars to gather civil society organisations in prioritised rainforest countries.... On the occasion of the conference in Jakarta, CIFOR and The Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta made a video about Indonesia’s work on reducing deforestation and the civil society’s crucial role in promoting this. (You can watch the video on

10 reasons to be optimistic for forests 5 June 2016 / Commentary by Rhett A Butler  The post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

Land tenure and livelihoods: What’s the connection? New study finds that securing land rights doesn't always guarantee better livelihoods for communities in Peru, Indonesia and Uganda.  by Barbara Fraser  16 May 2016

Analysis - Glaring gap: Countries are overlooking how the private sector can help meet national climate goals - As the Bonn Conference gets underway this week (May 16-26), here's a review of seven Asian countries’ plans to finance climate mitigation through land use.  Steven Lawry  17 May 2016

Measuring national REDD+ performance for the promise of results-based finance 18 May 2016, Bonn, Germany

Who is really bearing the cost of REDD+? The answer may surprise you - A forthcoming study brings a reality check on who is footing the bill for REDD+  MICHELLE KOVACEVIC  11 May 2016

What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm? New study examines the factors driving commitments to responsible production of a controversial global commodity.  JACK HEWSON  10 May 2016

Paris Agreement signed. Now what? - Here’s what to consider as the global climate agreement set in motion at the COP21 in Paris moves towards implementation. by STEPHEN LEONARD  23 Apr 2016

22 December 2015: The Economist - The Paris agreement will not stabilise the climate; but the efforts it makes possible could still achieve a lot

Climate change - Hopelessness and determination. The Paris agreement will not stabilise the climate; but the efforts it makes possible could still achieve a lot
...For someone to propose means that fall so far short of their purported ends might seem like cynicism or stupidity. Sure enough, some of the keenest devotees to action on climate change have accused the Paris negotiators of both. In fact, the deal really did demonstrate collective intelligence.... The nations of the world know that they cannot suddenly force each other to stop emitting greenhouse gases, because fossil fuels are fundamental to the way that economies work. But many countries also want to reduce the risks posed by climate change and know that they need to find ways to work together. The Paris agreement offers a range of mechanisms to make this happen (see page 94)....Countries now have a framework to ensure that each is doing what it said it would; they have pledged more money to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the effects of climate change; they have a task force for looking at the issues raised by those who cannot adapt and need to find new places to live; and they have the basis for new carbon-pricing deals. They have also agreed that big developing countries, which were largely spared by earlier deals, should consider making a greater contribution.

14 December 2015: COP21 deal and key links; headlines of "end of fossil fuel era" but naysayers call it "fraud" and undermined. The US political system is not on board?

COP21: Paris climate deal is 'best chance to save planet' 13 December 2015

Paris climate deal: nearly 200 nations sign in end of fossil fuel era - Two decades of talks have come to this: an ambitious agreement to hold states to emissions targets – but already low-lying countries are worried

Obama's fragile climate legacy - More than his other achievements, the international climate agreement relies on the good will of Congress and the next president to keep it in place.  By Sarah Wheaton 12/13/15.... "The President is making promises he can’t keep, writing checks he can’t cash, and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an ‘agreement’ that is subject to being shredded in 13 months," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.... Key parts of the Paris pact are nonbinding, the only way Obama could avoid seeking approval of the deal in Congress, something he knew would be impossible. He learned that lesson in his first term, when cap-and-trade legislation failed on Capitol Hill, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to develop its own set of greenhouse gas rules. Those regulations are now at the mercy of the courts, which will decide over the coming years whether the president overstepped his authority as president....
It’s a reminder that even as consensus grows among scientists and world leaders about climate change and what must be done to limit its consequences, the U.S. political system is not on board. Read more:

James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud' - The former Nasa scientist criticizes the talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, as ‘no action, just promises’ 12 Dec 2015

Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments by George Monbiot

12 December 2015: US Presidential candidate viewpoints, Leaders’ Statement on action for forests at COP21, but financing is not there says Nigeria economist

Climate Change According to U.S. Presidential Candidates   12/4/2015 Where do U.S. presidential candidates stand on climate change and how to address it? A cheat sheet of the frontrunners' positions and plans

CIFOR DG’s Column - Climate isn’t everything … so welcome to the Global Landscapes Forum - Many solutions for a sustainable future are tied to landscapes and must meet local needs, while building on global talks....Landscapes, therefore, are places where many of our solutions for a more sustainable future must happen... The recent fire and haze crisis in Indonesia demonstrates why we need to take a broader landscape approach and a longer-term perspective. The mainstream media tend to characterize the fires as primarily issues of greenhouse gas emissions and nature conservation. While these are indeed critical, the fires really go way beyond. Health, poverty, food, rights, land tenure, law and order, and economic growth are all issues that come into play. Framing the haze crisis mainly around climate concerns is simply not accurate, especially for those closest to the scene that depend on these landscapes...

CIFOR welcomes Leaders’ Statement on action for forests at COP21 2 Dec 2015

Landscapes for sustainability: Potential, yes. Finance, not so much. New areas of investment are needed to bring the private sector on board, speakers say at Global Landscapes Forum.  by Thomas Hubert @tom_hubert 6 Dec 2015; ....speakers at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum in Paris warned today, achieving such sustainable land-use management will require massive amounts of investment. And those amounts are not yet there, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian economist and former Minister of Finance, pointed out in the opening session of the event. The Forum, organized by CIFOR and a consortium of partners, brought together more than 3000 people to explore the role of land use in reaching climate and development goals. Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the fact that most African countries had included land-use interventions in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) as part of ongoing climate negotiations, especially given FAO estimates that one-third of agricultural landscapes are degraded—mostly in developing countries.... She then went on to quote a new paper by the New Climate Economy Project showing that $250 billion is needed each year to fund landscape conservation and restoration, activities she described as “essential to achieving a vital triple win for development and climate: increasing rural productivity, resilience and mitigation simultaneously”.

3 December 2015: By the numbers - India report says OECD exaggerates aid, Oxfam says it is myth that citizens in rapidly developing countires are most to blame - look at the world's richest 10%; Indonesia and Malaysia pledges

By the numbers

Paris climate talks: Indian officials accuse OECD of exaggerating climate aid by John Vidal 2 December 2015; ... Officials suggested that the true amount figure mobilised by rich countries may only be $2.2bn, not $57bn. “This is far from the $100bn a year goal,” the Indian paper said, which included a disclaimer that “the views and analysis contained in this discussion paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the government of India”.

World's richest 10% produce half of global carbon emissions, says Oxfam by AFP  2 December 2015 - an average person among the richest 1% of people emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 1%, Oxfam said. .... Oxfam said its analysis “helps dispel the myth that citizens in rapidly developing countries are somehow most to blame for climate change.” ...

Indonesia and Malaysia pledges

April Group Invests US$100 Million for Peat Restoration 2 Desember 2015, Aside from doubling the land restoration up to 150,000 hectares, the company operating in Riau will invest money at around US$100 million to around Rp1.36 trillion for the restoration program within 10 years. The investment value is the largest that a private company has invested in the single eco-restoration in Indonesia. Investment of April covers the studies, restorations and coverage, along with management and partnership.

Malaysia pledges 45% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, 2 December 2015; ... Six years ago in Copenhagen it set a target of cutting emissions by as much as 40% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. The government said it had achieved a 33% reduction as of end-2013...

1 December 2015: High politics, projects & campaigns, corporate news links

High politics of the Paris talks

Two Big Fights in Paris Climate Talks   11/30/2015 6:00AM       President Obama faces two major battles as delegates meet in Paris this week to tackle climate change -- one with developing nations, and the other with Republicans in Congress. WSJ's Jerry Seib explains.

Paris climate summit: world leaders told to iron out differences before talks end - France steps up diplomatic efforts to get consensus on a global deal six days before official talks conclude by Fiona Harvey and Kim Willsher in Paris 28 November 2015

Christiana Figueres: the woman tasked with saving the world from global warming - The UN climate chief is confident that the Paris summit can make history and produce a landmark deal to limit future carbon emissions – but any success depends on her pivotal role, UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres: ‘We are going to get an agreement [in Paris], because there is enough political will.’ by Fiona Harvey 27 November 2015

Fewer than 50% of CEOs say Paris deal would make them act on climate change - New poll reveals most business leaders are failing to get to grips with long-term implications of global warming by Oliver Balch 4 September 2015

Paris climate talks: powerful business lobbies seek to undermine deal - Tackling climate change means drastically transforming our economies. Our political leaders, not business, are best placed to do that by Pascoe Sabido is a campaigner and researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory 27 November 2015; ...A recent report from the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory reveals that what’s on offer at COP21 is nothing short of a climate catastrophe, a guaranteed recipe to cook the planet. But rather than sending the dish back, political leaders have asked for seconds, bringing the very companies responsible for the problem ever closer into the UN fold.....  The problem, however, is that is has also succeeded in creating several platforms to ensure business-friendly proposals are at the heart of climate policy-making, rather than vice versa. New markets, experimental technologies, all endorsed so polluters don’t have to change their business models. The UN’s climate chief, Christiana Figueres – who before taking up her post was principal climate change advisor to Latin America’s leading energy utility, Endesa – has even told the world to “stop demonising oil and gas companies”.... If enough people get behind it, Paris could mark a watershed moment: the beginning of the end for the cosy affair between politicians and polluters...

Projects and campaigns

Prince Charles in plan to help investors take polluting firms to court - Commonwealth Climate and Law Initiative will lay out risks to financial returns amid increasing government curbs on emissions by Daniel Boffey Policy editor 27 November 2015; Prince Charles is taking part in a project to expose major polluting corporations based in Commonwealth nations to big-money legal action if they fail to accurately disclose their impact on climate change or reform their ways...

Bill Gates to launch clean energy project on sidelines of Paris climate talks - Microsoft co-founder will announce multi-billion-dollar Initiative Cleantech on opening day of two-week climate summit alongside Barack Obama - Gates will join Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, US president Barack Obama and French president François Hollande to announce Initiative Cleantech. Photograph: Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP/Getty Images  Reuters in Washington 27 November 2015; ...Gates has pledged $2bn of his personal wealth over the next five years to “bend the curve” on climate change, he said this summer.In a blogpost in July, Gates said more breakthrough technologies are needed to combat climate change and that current technologies can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a “beyond astronomical” cost. He said accelerating government funding for clean energy research and development is crucial to attracting private investment to the field..

World Bank Group unveils $16 Billion Africa Climate Business Plan to Tackle Urgent Climate Challenges  November 24, 2015; One third of funds expected to come from Bank’s fund for the poorest countries

Corporate news

Unilever to stop using coal for energy within five years  - Consumer goods giant pledges to go ‘carbon positive’ by 2030, generating 100% of its energy needs from renewables with more to spare - Paul Polman, chairman of Unilever, will be attending Paris climate talks with other business leaders. by Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent 27 November 2015  Unilever, the consumer goods giant, has pledged to eliminate coal from its energy usage within five years, and derive all of its energy worldwide solely from renewable sources by 2030. The company will become “carbon positive” by 2030...

TTIP talks: EU alleged to have given ExxonMobil access to confidential strategies - Documents and emails obtained by the Guardian reveal ‘collusion’ between Brussels and industry over the fossil fuel push in free trade negotiations by Arthur Neslen Brussels 26 November 2015; .... The US has banned fossil fuel exports for 40 years but the policy was relaxed towards Mexico in August. Previous leaks of TTIP documents have revealed the EU is pressing for a guarantee in the trade deal that the US will allow free export of oil and gas to Europe, alarming environmentalists who fear imports would impact on the EU’s climate change plans.
It would cost $100bn to build the infrastructure necessary to export the US fossil fuels, according to industry estimates, also released in the freedom of information trawl.

Two-faced Exxon: the misinformation campaign against its own scientists - 100% global warming consensus in Exxon scientists’ research contrasted its $31m campaign to cast doubt on that consensus by Dana Nuccitelli 25 November 2015; ...Investigative journalism by Inside Climate News (ICN) into Exxon’s internal documents revealed that the company was at the forefront of climate research, warning of the dangers posed by human-caused global warming from the late-1970s to the late-1980s. As Harvard climate historian Naomi Oreskes noted...