Natural disaster response centre could expand scope beyond ASEAN

Regional governments’ responses to future natural disasters outside of Southeast Asia, or even human disasters, could eventually be facilitated by ASEAN’s response centre in Jakarta.
Saifulbahri Ismail Channel NewsAsia 17 Nov 15;

JAKARTA: Regional governments’ responses to future natural disasters outside of Southeast Asia, or even human disasters, could eventually be facilitated by ASEAN’s response centre in Jakarta.

The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA) is currently tasked with facilitating cooperation and coordination among member states in the event of natural disasters and is involved in monitoring phenomena such as typhoons, floods and volcanic activity.

But the mandate of the AHA Centre could be expanded, as ASEAN strives to become a more integrated community by the end of this year, according to centre’s executive director, Said Faisal.

“The mechanism is in place for crisis, the mechanism has been tested and can be easily expanded to the needs of ASEAN,” he said.

“Whether there will be an expansion of the role of the AHA Centre from only the natural disaster, maybe beyond from only the ASEAN region. This can be expanded. I believe this will be done in stages.”

The crash of AirAsia QZ8501 in Indonesia waters in December 2014, is a reminder of how ASEAN countries can work together in times of adversity. Two Southeast Asian countries - Malaysia and Singapore - were part of the international effort led by Indonesia to respond to the disaster.

In the future it is possible such missions could come under AHA’s scope.

Early next year, the AHA Centre will move to a new location, sharing the same building with Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BPNB).

Mr Said said that being physically closer to BNPB will enhance the centre’s cooperation and coordination with the government on disaster management.

Besides the AHA Centre, there is also the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control, which is designed to help Southeast Asian countries work together to manage the impact of land and forest fires.

Indonesia is expected to take over the running of this centre from the ASEAN Secretariat, with ASEAN recently in the spotlight for its lack of response in dealing with this year’s haze crisis, the worst on record.

“We need to strengthen, in fact intensify, efforts among the Asean countries to try to make sure that the centre will be well equipped to respond, whether in terms of scientific information, manpower, expertise, but also coordination to get the countries involved to really have some kind of stand-by arrangement and to have preparedness,” said Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, the deputy secretary-general of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department.

- CNA/jb

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