Case of Montara Oil Spill: 10 Years, One Lawsuit

Photo released by PTTEP Australasia shows flames on the West Atlas drilling platform (right) and the wellhead platform (left) about 250 kilometres northwest of the Australian coast, 2nd of November 2009.

On the 21st of August 2009, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) Australasian oil drilling rig exploded and caught fire. Now, ten years after the disaster, there is only one lawsuit brought to court by farmers.


The Montara oil well platform is 700 km from Darwin City, Northern Australia. The location is also only 250 km to Rote Island in East Nusa Tenggara. When it exploded and caught fire in 2009, the platform spilled 23 million litres of oil over 74 days from August to November.


Crude oil spills spread to an area of ​​92 square kilometres and damaged the coast in 13 districts and cities in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), and destroyed the lives of fishermen and seaweed farmers.


Montara is operated by PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of PTTEP, a Thai oil and gas exploration company.


Local people have repeatedly called on the central government to act. But until ten years have passed, more discussion has been carried out than lawsuits or efforts to mediate compensation.


Asked for response, Head of the Coastal and Maritime Division, Indonesian Center for Environment Law (ICEL), Ohiongyi Marino claimed to be surprised by this fact. According to him, the government had indeed filed a lawsuit, but was later withdrawn on the grounds of the wrong legal position of the defendant.


“Then, why didn’t the government file another lawsuit itself? That’s what we should question. Why does the government that has filed a lawsuit, suddenly withdrew, then not file a lawsuit again, by correcting the existing mistakes,” Marino told VOA.


Is it Late to Re-Submit the Montara Case?


Is it too late? According to Marino, legal efforts or mediation outside the court had no time limit. Even though ten years have passed, all the impact and loss data have been neatly arranged. All data is also scientifically compiled, so that it can be evidence in court. Even if it is not a lawsuit, the government should ask for compensation to repair existing environmental damage.


A team from an Australian law firm once calculated, that the loss of fishermen and seaweed farmers in NTT due to this case could reach Rp5.5 trillion. While the environmental damage is estimated at Rp10 trillion. That number is due to spills and the adverse effects of using chemicals to overcome them.


Unfortunately, the Indonesian government as the owner of the area, actually set a much smaller number of losses. In April 2011, the Minister of Transportation at the time, Freddy Numberi said the value of direct and indirect compensation requested by the government was only Rp 247 billion. The figure has reportedly been conveyed to PTTEP and will be paid, but it has not been realised until now.


Lawsuit of Seaweed Farmers


Because the government did not take sufficient action, a group of seaweed farmers filed a lawsuit against PTTEP in an Australian court. They were accompanied by a team from the law office of Maurice Blackburn. This lawsuit was registered on the 3rd of August 2016 and the trial began in June 2019. The compensation requested is 200 million Australian dollars or around Rp1.9 trillion.


Marino from ICEL believed that this lawsuit would bring results.


“(Farmers’) legal standing being accepted to file a lawsuit to Australia, that has been very good. He, the seaweed farmer, as an Indonesian citizen, can file a lawsuit, is accepted by his legal standing, is accepted by his legal position, it has been very progressive,” Marino said.

A seaweed farmer, Daniel Sanda acted on behalf of 15,843 other farmers in filing a lawsuit. They were accompanied by Ferdi Tanoni, as the Head of the Montara Victims’ Advocacy Team. Since mid-2017, Ferdi Tanoni was officially appointed as a Montara task force formed by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.


According to Ferdi, the trial proceeded in court from June up until now. The examination of witnesses will continue until at least December 2019. After that, the judge will draw up a decision which is expected to come out in mid-2020.


“The hearing on the 28th-29th of October will have expert witnesses examined until December. After that, (discretion) is given to the judge, in making decisions. While we, continue to urge the Australian government to sit down with the Indonesian government, to immediately resolve this problem. It can’t be ignored like this, because the problem is too big,” Ferdi told VOA.


Only Two of the 13 Affected Districts Sued


According to Ferdi, actually fishermen and seaweed farmers affected by oil spills in 13 districts and cities in NTT. However, this lawsuit is only carried out by seaweed farmers in only two districts. Their lawyers from Sydney have not included fishermen as the party who sued.


“The witnesses were 42 people, who were presented to the trial there were 38 seaweed farmers. We have given all kinds of evidence. Previously, it was agreed that fishermen also sued, but the consideration of the lawyer was seaweed farmers first, so be it as long as it keeps going. Whereas in Sabu, East Flores, Alor, Lembata and Sumba are also used up,” said Ferdi.


Slow Government Efforts


Since 2017, Ferdi Tanoni has joined the Montara Task Force formed by Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. The team underwent refinements in August 2018 to accelerate its movement. Unfortunately, said Ferdi, the task force formed by the government did not work effectively.


According to Ferdi, it is important for Joko Widodo as president to discuss this issue directly with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. But apparently, that was never done.


“That we are friends with Australia, okay. But in this case, the loss is huge. Australia cannot just keep it easy,” added Ferdi.


Chief of Task Force Montara: Will Not Settle the Dispute Out of Court


In an official statement delivered by the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs in April 2019, the Governments of Indonesia and Australia were noted to have ratified UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). Under UNCLOS, the two governments were equally responsible for dealing with the effects of pollution in the Indonesian seas.


The statement was delivered by the Chairman of the Montara Task Force, Purbaya Yudhi Sadhewa, who is also Deputy for Maritime Sovereignty Coordination, Ministry of Maritime Affairs.


Article 195 of the convention states that in taking steps to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment, countries must act so as not to transfer, directly or indirectly, damage or danger from one area to another or change one type pollution to other areas.


Purbaya also stressed that Indonesia would not settle the dispute out of court with a Thai company, PTTEP. She quoted a meeting between Luhut and the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-O-Cha in 2018. PTTEP representatives came to discuss the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.


“I say what if we, the government and PTTEP, appoint an independent assessor, who agrees together, then accepts the results. Fair right? But he doesn’t want it,” said Purbaya.


She added, at that time PTTEP disagreed because they were only able to provide compensation of US$5 million.


Source: oily-montara-10-tahun-satu-gugatan/5134088.html

Environmental and Natural Resources Protection is Estimated to be Increasingly Gloomy

A number of civil society organisations doubt the commitment of the government and the DPR 2019-2024 period in protecting and improving environmental and natural resources governance. This doubt can be seen from the legislative process and the drafting of regulations issued by the government and the DPR recently. Because, the substance gives a large space over the function of land and forests for business (corporate) interests.


Executive Director of ICEL Henri Subagiyo noted that there were at least 5 bills and government regulations that weakened environmental protection. Firstly, the Palm Oil Bill. According to Henri, this bill would increase plantation extensification which had the potential to increase tenure and environmental conflicts. Secondly, the Criminal Code Bill (RKUHP), in addition to containing provisions that could charge human rights and environmental activists, this bill undermines penalties that charge corporations.


Henri explained that criminal sanctions for corporations should be strengthened, so that not only were the board structures charged, but also their legal entities and corporate controllers that were outside the corporate structure. In addition, the parent corporation was responsible for the actions of the subsidiary. “For example if a subsidiary’s concession land is on fire, then the criminal must be pursued up to the parent company level,” Henri said in a discussion in Jakarta, Wednesday (16/10/2019).


Third, the Land Bill. Henri believed that the Land Bill increased excessive land tenure and did not consider environmental functions in land governance. Fourth, Government Regulation No. 24 of 2018 concerning Online Integrated Investment Licensing or better known as Online Single Submission (OSS). PP OSS does not position environmental impact analysis (EIA) as a consideration in issuing environmental permits.

Read moreEnvironmental and Natural Resources Protection is Estimated to be Increasingly Gloomy

Pursuing Corporate Responsibility for Land Burners

JAKARTA – United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), reported by the website, Tuesday (24/9/2019) reminded the impact of land and forest fires on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra on children. This fire was said to cause 10 million children exposed to the risk of air pollution.

Unicef’s representative, Debora Comini believed, every year, there were millions of children who breathed toxic air and threatened their health and caused them to be unable to study at school. They suffered physical and cognitive losses for life.

She explained, children were vulnerable to air pollution because they breathed faster. Meanwhile, their physical strength and immune system were not yet perfect. Unicef ​​also estimated that 2.4 million children under five in both regions were affected by smog and forest fires that had been taking place since July 2019.

Based on research, babies born to mothers exposed to high levels of pollution during pregnancy, have a greater risk of experiencing growth disorders in the womb. In fact, it impacts on low birth weight, until premature birth.

The suffering of children because of land and forest fires is also revealed by the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud). The ministry explained that poor air quality affected more than 46,000 schools or more than 7.8 million students. In areas that felt the heaviest impact of forest fires, many schools were forced to close, hampering children’s opportunities to learn.

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Blocking Access to Palm Oil Information, Deputy Coordinating Minister for the Economy Reported by NGOs

JAKARTA – Dozens of civil society organisations reported Musdhalifah Machmud, Deputy for the Coordination of Food and Agriculture, to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy Darwin Nasution on Wednesday (21/8). The report is in connection with the issuance of Letter Number: TAN.03.01/265/D.II.M.EKON/05/2019 dated the 6th of May 2019, concerning Data and Information related to Palm Oil Plantation.


“The Deputy letter was used as an excuse for several Public Bodies to refuse providing public information. In Jambi, for example, requests for information by our researchers were denied by the Plantation Office, on the basis of the Deputy’s Letter. Obviously this is a violation of procedure,” explained the Director of Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) Henri Subagiyo in his statement to, Wednesday (21/8).

Read moreBlocking Access to Palm Oil Information, Deputy Coordinating Minister for the Economy Reported by NGOs

Wistful Song of Indonesia Raya on the Edge of Jakarta Bay

One hour after the flag-raising ceremony of the 74th anniversary of RI, Saturday (17/8) this morning, the head of the Traditional Fishermen Group (KNT) of Muara Angke Iwan Carmidi sailed on his small fishing boat. Two other ships followed behind, transporting other fishermen and several children. In line with the slowing boat speed, their voices faintly heard singing Indonesia Raya.


“We want to celebrate independence in the style of fishermen. We with our families and children want to celebrate independence in the middle of our own sea,” said Iwan, after his ship was anchored at the edge of the Maju Bersama Beach, D Island, the reclamation area of ​​Jakarta Bay. The red and white flag fluttered on his boat.


Accompanied by a number of activists from the People’s Coalition for Fisheries Justice (Kiara), dozens of fishermen also expressed their disappointment over the implementation of the 74th anniversary ceremony by the Provincial Government of DKI Jakarta on D Island Reclamation this morning. For them, the development of the area or reclamation in the Bay of Jakarta really hit their livelihoods as fishermen.

The impact of the Jakarta Bay reclamation development began to be felt by fishermen from the Muara Angke area, Penjaringan, North Jakarta. Dodo, a fisherman from Muara Angke who participated in the demonstration came to hold Vanessa, his 9-year-old daughter. They wanted to go up to see the appearance of D Island.

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ICEL: The New and Renewable Energy (EBT) Draft Bill is Still Far from Expectations

Jakarta, – The issue of managing new and renewable energy (EBT) is considered not to be optimally accommodated in the EBT Draft Bill.


Deputy Director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), Raynaldo Sembiring, said that a large-scale evaluation of the EBT Draft Bill was needed. Starting from the issue of supervision, project evaluation, and data inventory related to regional potential.


“Then the existing regulation is not yet optimal to create a conducive EBT investment climate for investors, including those related to prices and incentives,” Raynaldo said, Tuesday (20/8).


Besides, ICEL highlighted the overlapping rules and roles of the national and regional governments in the management of EBT. So that the EBT Draft Bill is still far from expectations.


President Jokowi appreciated the rapid response of the Regional Representative Council (DPD) addressing the challenges faced by the regionals, one of which is related to EBT.


DPD initiated the EBT Draft Bill, which is currently being discussed in Commission VII of the DPR with the government.




Forest Protection Becomes a Base

The highest level of deforestation, which was 3.5 million hectares (ha) that had occurred in Indonesia in the 1996-2000 period, dropped dramatically to 0.44 million ha in the 2017-2018 period.


The Intergovernmental Panel for the United Nations Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued a special report entitled Climate Change and Land. The panel, which is filled with experts from around the world, emphasises forest protection and reforestation as the key to curb climate change so that the temperature of the Earth does not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius.


The report shows that throughout history, land use by humans accounted for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the report also mentioned in the 2007-2016 period, global emissions from land-based sectors (agriculture, forestry, and land use change) reached 23% of global emissions.


Reflecting on these data, the IPCC recommends all countries, including Indonesia, to reduce deforestation, protect peat, mangroves, and restore ecosystems. The report also recommends that the world reduce 30 gigatons of carbon emissions per year by 2030.

Read moreForest Protection Becomes a Base

NGOs Will Sue the OSS Investment Licensing System

OSS Service Office. (CNN Indonesia/Yuliyanna Fauzi)

A number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in the environmental field, ICEL, Walhi, JATAM East Kalimantan, Kaoem Telapak, BEM UI, and others will sue the ease of online integrated investment licensing (OSS) processes run by the government.


National Walhi Campaign Coordinator Edo Rahman said the lawsuit was filed because according to them the investment licensing system posed problems for environmental protection. Environmental problems mainly occurred in investment in the forestry, electricity, palm oil plantations sector.


Apart from that the investment licensing was also considered by the NGOs to be in conflict with the law. The conflict is related to the management of EIA as an investment condition that can be dealt with later.


“This is certainly contrary to Law No. 32 of 2009 concerning Environmental Protection and Management which places EIA as a condition before the issuance of environmental permits and business license,” explained Edo, Monday (12/8).

Read moreNGOs Will Sue the OSS Investment Licensing System

Government Created A One-Data Policy, Will It Be Open To Public?

  • Last month, President Joko Widodo enacted President Regulation No. 39 Year 2019 Regarding Indonesian One Data. This President Regulation aims to help government to collect, manage, and utilize data accurately, sophisticatedly, integrated, accountable, accessible, and usable.
  • In Indonesia, numerous ministries, national and local institutions don’t have data and they are inaccessible. Difficulties lie in synchronising those institutions due to strong sectoral egos.
  • in this one data policy, National Development Agency is appointed to collect and calibrate data across ministries and institutions to eliminate differences.
  • Civil Society Organisations emphasised on the importance of data implementation so that the public can access the data and deliver an information or objection if necessary


Although Indonesia is almost 74 years old, Indonesia doesn’t have one data and map that can act as guidance for government. Land overlap, legal uncertainty, and unsynchronised ministries often happen due to strong sectoral egos. To improve this condition, last month President Joko Widodo issued President Regulation No. 39 Year 2019 Regarding Indonesian One Data.

Data is highly important in determining many things including governance. Different data across ministries and institutions might result in fallacious policies.

This government regulation which was signed on June 17th 2019 aims to help government to collect, manage, and utilize data accurately, sophisticatedly, integrated, accountable, accessible, and usable.

Minister of National Development Agency heads this regulation. The member consists of Minister of State Officials Utilization, Minister of Communication and Information, Minister of Domestic Affairs, Minister of Finance, as well as Statistics Management Officials and Geospatial Officials.

“(President Regulation No. 39 Year 2019) is part of an integration, one map policy is part of the one data policy,” said Joshaphat Rizal Primana, Director of Energy, Mineral, and Mining Resources of National Development Agency, in Jakarta (7/10/19).

Before that, in 2019, President Joko Widodo signed President Regulation No. 9 Year 2016 Regarding Acceleration of One Map Policy Implementation. This step is taken to push geospatial information utilization in development through map scale 1:50.000.

He hopes that this one map can be a guidance for thematic geospatial information and integrated large scale spatial utilization plan in a spatial plan.

One map policy is still in process, President Jokowi enacted Indonesian One Data Policy on June 17th 2019.

Rizal explained that government used to have their own mapping which is different from one another. It’s not a wonder that overlap often happens. “This is what we’re trying to integrate. This kind of coordination is the hardest,” said him.

Read moreGovernment Created A One-Data Policy, Will It Be Open To Public?

Indonesia, Facing a Waste Crisis, Plans to Burn It for Electricity

  • The Indonesian government has targeted four cities in Java island to build incineration facilities this year to tackle the country’s plastic waste crisis.
  • Environmentalists say burning waste to generate electricity is not a sustainable solution to the issue, and will only add more problems, including the emission of toxic gases.
  • They instead suggest tackling the problem at the source, by reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place.
  • Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest source of the plastic trash that ends up in the oceans, after China.

JAKARTA — The Indonesian government plans to burn waste to fuel power plants in four cities on the island of Java this year as part of efforts to tackle the country’s plastic waste crisis.

Indonesia is the second-biggest contributor, after China, to the plastic waste that end up in the oceans, and is among a growing number of Asian countries refusing to import waste from developed countries.

President Joko Widodo called for a solution to the waste problem during a July 16 cabinet meeting, and criticized the lack of updates on plans to build waste incinerators.

“To this day, I haven’t heard any progress on which ones are already online and which ones are already built,” he said in a statement issued by the government.

“This isn’t about the electricity. We want to resolve the trash issue; the electricity comes afterward,” he added.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said that 12 cities had proposed building waste-fueled power plants, but only Jakarta, Surabaya, Bekasi and Solo were ready to do so before the end of this year.

Read moreIndonesia, Facing a Waste Crisis, Plans to Burn It for Electricity