ASEAN back on track to fight haze

ASEAN back on track to fight haze
File Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd R), Singapore's K Shanmugam (L), Vietnam's Pham Binh Minh (2nd L) and Brunei's Mohammad Bolkiah (R) pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 2, 2013.

BRUNEI - ASEAN is back on track to tackle the haze issue with all 10 members on board as part of the solution, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told The Straits Times on Tuesday at the close of meetings with his counterparts.

He praised the ASEAN spirit and pointed to good "building blocks" that have been put in place to tackle the air pollution which plagues the region around this time each year. The source of the problem is the Indonesian farmers and plantation companies which resort to fire to clear their land.

In the past three weeks, the haze hit Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunei, and the amount of pollutants in the air rose to dangerous levels in many of these countries. But air quality has since returned to the good-to-moderate range after sustained firefighting efforts by Indonesia in the past week.

Tuesday, Dr Marty said after four days of meetings: "We're back on track in terms of all presenting themselves as part of the solution. It's about partnership, it's about working closely together, communicating, understanding what the problems are."

On Sunday, ASEAN directed its senior officials to both consolidate current initiatives to combat the haze and recommend steps to prevent a recurrence.

A joint communique issued after the 10 foreign ministers met also stated that a progress report on anti-haze efforts would be sent to the top leaders at the next ASEAN summit in October.

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