Singapore and Indonesian officials discuss haze situation

SINGAPORE - Singapore representatives met with Indonesian officials today in Jakarta to discuss the severe haze situation at an urgent meeting in Jakarta this afternoon. The meeting was arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and involved senior Indonesian officials.

The Singapore delegation, led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Mr Andrew Tan, expressed Singapore's serious concerns over the severe haze situation to Mr Yuri Thamrin, Director General for Asia-Pacific and African Affairs of Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who chaired the meeting.

Singapore also stressed that haze remains a transboundary problem that affects not only Indonesia but regional countries. Indonesia assured Singapore that it would give the issue greater attention.

At the meeting, Indonesia briefed Singapore of its plans to increase their capacity to deal with the fires and to get their agencies to report twice a day to a national task force chaired by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Agung Laksono.

Indonesia also intends to step up its law enforcement on the ground by sending investigators to Bengkalis to clamp down on errant plantation companies. Singapore noted the ongoing measures and urged the authorities to step up their efforts.

As there had been a report from the Indonesian Forestry Ministry that Singapore companies may be involved in illegal burning activities, Singapore requested that Indonesia share the names of such errant companies, though the primary responsibility to take legal and enforcement action against these companies lie with Indonesia.

It was emphasised that it would be better if Indonesia reveal all the companies involved in such errant acts regardless of whether they are registered in Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore so that they can all be brought to task. The haze is after all a transnational issue.

Singapore also offered Indonesia an assistance package, similar to previous haze episodes which includes among other things, an aircraft for cloud seeding operations as well high resolution satellite pictures and hotspot coordinates. Indonesia said they would consider these proposals.

Singapore also requested Indonesia to ratify the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement which Indonesia signed in 2002. Indonesia informed Singapore that they would be seeking their parliament's approval on this.

Singapore reiterated its commitment to work with Indonesia at both bilateral and regional levels to tackle the haze. Singapore stands ready to collaborate at the provincial level as agreed at the Leaders Retreat in April this year.

Indonesia will also consider agreeing to the Sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution to be brought forward from August this year. Singapore also requested Indonesia to share its concession maps for the overlaying of hotspot data as discussed by the MSC Technical Task Force.

Speaking after the meeting, CEO of NEA said, "We had a frank and useful exchange of views where we conveyed the deep concerns of the public over the deteriorating haze situation. Both sides recognised that the situation was serious and needed urgent attention.

"We urged Indonesia to take decisive actions to stop the fires and prevent further burning with the onset of the dry season. We reiterated the points and offers raised by Singapore's Environment and Foreign Affairs Ministers when they spoke with their counterparts on 18 June. The meeting agreed to consider these and other suggestions made to them. Singapore hopes to work closely with Indonesia to make further progress together in the near future."

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