Singapore stresses need for greater accountability on haze to Indonesia

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and his Indonesian counterpart noted the importance of maintaining close cooperation in overcoming transboundary environmental challenges.

Channel NewsAsia 2 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Singapore has stressed to Indonesia the need for greater transparency and accountability to overcome the recurring problem of transboundary haze that has been plaguing the region for decades, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Wednesday (Mar 2).

The ministry announced this, after Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli met with his Indonesian counterpart Siti Nurbaya Bakar during an introductory visit to Indonesia.

In a media release, MEWR said both ministers noted the importance for Singapore and Indonesia to maintain close cooperation in overcoming transboundary environmental challenges.

"The ministers agreed that transboundary haze is a serious problem, which has affected millions in South-east Asia. The Ministers also recognised the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation and agreed to resume the Indonesia-Singapore Environment Partnership (ISEP)," said MEWR.

During the meeting, Mr Masagos noted the Indonesian government's appeal against the Palembang district court's dismissal of the case against PT Bumi Mekar Hijau, a company which had received a notice under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for possibly causing haze pollution in the island-state last year.

"To that end, Minister Masagos informed Minister Siti Nurbaya that Singapore looked forward to greater cooperation with Indonesia in bringing to justice errant companies which were responsible for the transboundary haze," MEWR said.

During the meeting, Mr Masagos also reiterated Singapore's repeated requests for information on errant companies from Indonesia. In response, Dr Siti said she would discuss the matter with her Cabinet colleagues.

Dr Siti also said she would get back to Singapore on its request to accelerate the discussion on the Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia's Jambi province to tackle transboundary haze, stated MEWR.

On Wednesday, Mr Masagos also met with the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG)'s head Nazir Foead, and discussed the BRG's direction in peatland conservation and restoration, including the roles that governments and companies could play. Potential areas of collaboration between Singapore and Indonesia that would contribute to the region's efforts to overcome transboundary haze was also discussed at the meeting, MEWR said.

- CNA/dl

S'pore still pressing Jakarta to share info on haze culprits
Arlina Arshad Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta Straits Times 3 Mar 16;

Singapore has reiterated its stand that Indonesia should share data on company names and concession maps so it could act against plantation firms that allow the kind of slash-and-burn farming which led to the region's haze crisis last year.

During his introductory visit to Indonesia yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli told the country's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar that such official information was necessary in order for Singapore to take errant firms to task.

"We continue to ask for the details of the concession map as well as the companies that we know have committed offences where THPA is concerned," he told Singapore media after the meeting, referring to the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

"This is an issue of sovereignty, too. Even if we know from intelligence, from looking at open information (on) where and who these companies are, it's important for us to pursue this legally," he said.

Dr Siti had told him that she would need to raise the matter with the Cabinet as current Indonesian laws did not allow for such information to be shared, he said.

Mr Masagos said Indonesia must resolve the issues as "at the end of the day, we'd like to see outcomes".

"Even as hot spots appear, hot spots from accidental fires, they can be mitigated and do not produce excessive smoke and then haze that affect their neighbouring countries," he said.

He also emphasised the need for closer bilateral and regional cooperation between the two countries, to ensure such environment offences do not occur. "I'm happy that Minister Siti was responsive," he said.

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