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APP working with stakeholders as part of its forest conservation policy

We thank Mr Chris Cheng for his letter “APP should focus on preventing peatland fires, pay for damage” (May 2) and will address the specific concerns he raised.

Jose Raymond, Vice President, Corporate Affairs (Singapore), Asia Pulp & Paper

We thank Mr Chris Cheng for his letter “APP should focus on preventing peatland fires, pay for damage” (May 2) and will address the specific concerns he raised.

He cited a lack of evidence showing that yield from our existing plantations and new species being developed will meet the full demand of the new OKI mill in South Sumatra.

As I had set out in an earlier reply, “APP committed to stopping haze and zero deforestation” (April 27), this point is immaterial.

We have pledged firmly, as part of our forest conservation policy, to never use natural forest fibre in our mills. The mill will run on available supply of plantation fibre; if that supply is inadequate, we will adjust production accordingly. Since we made our zero-deforestation commitment, in February 2013, to stop using natural forest fibre in our production, we have not deviated from it.

Mr Cheng asked that we specify our potential woodchip sources in the event of any shortfall in supplies from our plantations. This is business-sensitive information that would give our competitors a commercial advantage if disclosed publicly. As far as we are aware, even sustainability reporting guidelines do not request companies to mandatorily report potential suppliers.

On the issue of peatlands, we are following the guidance set by the Indonesian government, and we are supporting the Peatland Restoration Agency to establish ecosystem restoration models.

With regard to communities, it is well established that slash-and-burn practices used by unauthorised parties and some smallholders are a cause of fires. Some smallholders resort to this mostly owing to a lack of choice: They do not have access to more sophisticated methods of land clearance.

In attempting to tackle one of the main causes of forest fires, we will continue working with communities to educate and support them in alternative methods of land clearance and to find them alternative sources of living through our agro-forestry programmes.

Likewise, we are working to establish an inclusive framework to help resolve social conflicts between stakeholders in the landscape — a key pillar of our forest conservation policy.

Fire prevention, in the context of landscape-level forest conservation, remains a priority. So far, we have invested US$20 million (S$27 million) in fire prevention and suppression efforts following last year’s haze episode. Tackling fires, however, must be part of a wider strategy to protect the environment and empower communities, as the underlying causes of fires and deforestation are similar: Peatland degradation, slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal encroachment and land conflict.

A long-term solution to fires can be found only by addressing these issues, which is what we have been doing with our partners for the last three years as part of our forest conservation policy.

I invite Mr Cheng to work with us in finding long-term solutions to the challenges discussed.

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