Singapore will take law to full extent to tackle haze issue: Masagos

The authorities have issued notices to companies to facilitate information-gathering on burning forests, the Minister for Environment and Water Resources said.
Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 16;

TEL AVIV: Singapore will take the law to its full extent if anyone violates the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, said Singapore Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Thursday (Apr 21).

The Minister was responding to comments by Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya that Singapore should focus on its own role in combating transboundary haze, instead of “making so many comments”.

Mr Masagos, who is on an official visit to the Middle East with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said the Republic's authorities have issued notices to companies to facilitate information-gathering on burning forests.

The Minister cited the example of the foreign company director who entered Singapore and was served with notices under sections 10 and 11 of the Act. This director was asked to provide information regarding how the company has been working to ensure fires can be mitigated in future, he added.

"He has left but he is required to return. Should he not return, he will have violated our law and therefore, among others, we can arrest him upon entry later than the notice on which he is supposed to return as well as be detained in Singapore if he does not provide the information required," Mr Masagos said.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had sent Preventive Measures Notices under Section 9 of the Act to six companies based in Indonesia following last year's haze episodes, the Minister said during the Budget debates last week.

- CNA/mz


Singapore vows to crack down on firms responsible for haze
ALBERT WAI Today Online 22 Apr 16;

JERUSALEM — Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has vowed to crack down on companies responsible for transboundary haze using the “full extent” of Singapore’s laws, in his first response to recent comments by an Indonesian minister that Singapore should focus on its own role and not “make so many comments” on the yearly phenomenon that has blighted the region.

“We must not let companies and corporations get away with their most egregious acts… The message to everybody, whether you are Singaporean or foreigner, if you violate our laws and if our laws allow us to act within the ambit of those laws, we will take the law to its full extent,” said Mr Masagos, who was speaking to Singapore reporters covering Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s week-long visit to the Middle East.

He made this point in response to a question from TODAY on his reaction to Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya’s recent comments and whether there is perception that Singapore is doing enough to tackle the problem as well as what other additional measures should be taken.

Mr Masagos pointed out that Singapore has used the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) passed in 2014 to go after companies that started fires or let their concessions burn, and contributed to last year’s haze that blanketed Singapore and part of the region.

The Republic has issued notices to six of these Indonesia-based companies, which have to explain what steps they are taking to put out and prevent fires on their land. He said that two companies have responded to the notice so far.

On the four companies which have not responded to the preventive measure notices, Mr Masagos said that one of the directors of these companies trying to enter Singapore has been served with a notice under Sections 10 and 11 of the THPA to furnish information on how the company is mitigating fires on its land and allow investigators to examine how the company is implementing these measures.

“He (the director) has left but he is required to return. Should he not return, he will have violated our law and therefore, among others, we can arrest him upon entry later than the notice on which he is supposed to return,” said Mr Masagos.

He declined to reveal the name of the director or his company, but added that the director can also be detained in Singapore if he does not provide the information.
In an interview with an environment news portal over the weekend, Ms Nurbaya had said the Indonesian government has taken “substantial steps” to prevent land and forest fires, and the ensuing haze that envelopes the region every year.

“There is really no need to comment too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing. However, with all due respect to my Singaporean counterpart, what are they doing? And where has it got them?” she asked.

Her remarks followed a speech by Mr Masagos at a sustainability forum in Singapore last Friday where he said agro-forestry companies should take full responsibility for fire prevention and mitigation in their concessions, and that there must not be a repeat of last year’s forest fires which caused the haze.

Thousands of people were afflicted by respiratory illnesses, while tourism, schools and flights were disrupted, as a result of the haze.
In his interview with the media, Mr Masagos noted that Singapore and Indonesia enjoy a good relationship and have worked closely in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“But in the matter of haze, this is a very complex issue that need to be addressed at different levels. I’ve mentioned before that we need to address it both at the bilateral levels together as well as at the regional level,” he said, citing how in ASEAN for example, Singapore has led a peatland management programme to raise awareness of what can be done to manage and restore peatland.

Of 2.6 million hectares of land that was burnt last year in Indonesia, nearly one million was peatland, carbon-rich wetlands that burn easily when drained.

“Indeed, we are very happy that the Indonesians have put up an agency (on peatland restoration) to address these issues particularly,” said Mr Masagos.

At the same time, companies cannot be allowed to get away with irresponsible and illegal behaviour, he said, especially after Singapore’s enactment of the THPA, which allows the government to prosecute companies and individuals that cause severe air pollution in Singapore by burning forests and peatlands in neighbouring countries.

The government also served a notice to Asian Pulp and Paper Company (APP) last year to seek information regarding measures taken by its suppliers to put out fires in their concessions.

“We are now looking at them (APP) to see how we are going to move forward,” said Mr Masagos, adding it is premature to release more information on the case as investigations are ongoing.


Singapore taking action against firms behind fires
Audrey Tan, Zakir Hussain, Straits Times AsiaOne 22 Apr 16;

Singapore is taking action under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act against companies that started fires or let their concessions burn, and contributed to last year's haze, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli has said.

Advertisement
It has given notices to six of these Indonesia-based firms, asking them to explain steps they are taking to put out and prevent fires on their land.

Two have replied.

A director of one of the four firms that have yet to reply has also been served with a notice to give information on his firm's move to mitigate fires on its land and prevent a repeat of last year's haze.

"He has left (Singapore), but is required to return," Mr Masagos told reporters on Tuesday night.

"Should he not return, he would have violated our laws," he said, adding that Singapore can arrest him if he returns later than the date stipulated in the notice.

Mr Masagos declined to disclose the name of the director or his firm, but said he can be detained in Singapore if he fails to give the required information.

"We must not let companies get away with their most egregious acts," Mr Masagos added.

He made these points when asked by Singapore reporters about his Indonesian counterpart's remarks that asked what Singapore had done to combat forest fires.

Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar had told news site Foresthints.news last week that her country had been trying to prevent the recurrence of land and forest fires, and consistently enforcing the law.

"My question is - what has the Singaporean Government done? I feel they should focus on their own role," she was quoted as saying.

Singapore experts, like Dr Mustafa Izzuddin of the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, said her comments, made "in that spirit of national pride", seemed directed at her home audience.

Dr Jonatan Lassa, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that while Indonesia has committed to map hot spots, it needs to build structures like incident command systems on the ground to follow up and take action where needed.

Mr Masagos, in his media interview, also noted Singapore's good ties with Indonesia on many fronts, saying both are working together.

But the haze is a complex issue that has to be tackled not just bilaterally, but also at the ASEAN and regional level.

For instance, Singapore led an ASEAN programme to make people more aware of what they can do to manage and restore peatland, on which most forest fires take place.

The six companies given notice by the National Environment Agency include Singapore-listed Asia Pulp and Paper, which has been asked about steps its subsidiaries and Indonesian suppliers are taking to put out fires in their concessions.

"We are now looking at them to see how we are going to move forward," Mr Masagos said. He declined to say more as investigations are ongoing.

"The message to everybody is: Whether you are Singaporean, whether you are a foreigner, if you violate our laws, we will apply the law to its full extent."

Mr Chris Cheng of volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze called on firms to produce or buy palm oil and paper that are verified "haze-free".

He added: "Our financial institutions can also ensure they do not lend to or invest in potential haze-causing companies."

No comments:

Post a Comment