Thu, 13 Oct 1994

Indonesian forest advertisements not accurate: Minister

JAKARTA (JP): The government, conceding that its reforestation program has been slack, has ordered the Indonesian Forestry Society (MPI) to change its television advertisements which have been suspended in Britain and Japan.

"It is true that the MPI's ads have recently been suspended in Japan because they conveyed incorrect information about Indonesia's reforestation efforts," Minister of Forestry Djamaludin Suryohadikusumo said after meeting with President Soeharto yesterday.

"We did not replant as many trees as the commercials claim," he said, while adding that Indonesia practices selective-cutting and not clear-cutting.

The government, therefore, suggests that the MPI improve the TV ads by extending their length and providing some written text, Djamaludin said.

The ads were frequently shown last month on Dutch TV, CNN International, CNN of the United States, the Hong Kong-based Star TV as well as on all Indonesian private TV channels.

The MPI ads were suspended by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) of Britain two months ago following complaints from a number of viewers and environmental groups.

The minister also conceded yesterday that the government's reforestation program "is still lax and has not achieved its target."

"But don't doubt our determination. We will pursue this goal," he said.

The Ministry of Forestry has recently announced that it will spend Rp 538.82 billion (US$244.54 million) out of the reforestation funds and about Rp 98 billion ($44 million) out of the interest of the funds for reforestation activities this fiscal year.

It has been reported that for the last five years the reforestation funds collected by the government have totaled Rp 3.04 trillion. All of the money has been placed in time deposits in several state banks and in commercial papers issued by the central bank, Bank Indonesia.


Meanwhile, the Indonesian Working Secretariat of Forest Protection (Skephi) said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Monday that the Netherlands will soon follow both Britain's and Japan's decision to suspend the ads because "the MPI ads are unrealistic and, therefore, they are lies."

Tjipto Wignjoprajitno, the MPI's secretary general, told the Post Tuesday night that he was not aware of Japan's decision to cancel the ads.

"We have not received any reports on this," he said in a telephone interview.

Tjipto conceded, however, that one can easily "misperceive" the 60-second ads. "How can we explain a complex matter in such a brief time?" he said.

Tjipto, nevertheless, insisted that the facts proclaimed in the ads are "accurate" and based on data gained on location.

"We are prepared to counter any attacks forwarded by environmental organizations," he said.

A number of environmental organizations, including Down to Earth, Earth ARC, Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace, complained about the advertisements and produced evidence querying the statements and inferences made by the commercials.

In a recent report, the World Bank warned Indonesia that it had logged its rain forests at a rate which threatens their sustainability. (hdj)