Transboundary Haze Pollution Act not about national sovereignty: MEWR

The Ministry was responding to comments by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Singapore's attempts to act against Indonesian companies responsible for haze-causing forest fires.
Channel NewsAsia 15 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE: The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) is meant to deter and prosecute those responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, and is not directed at any individual or company based on nationality, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said in a statement on Wednesday (Jun 15).

Instead, MEWR said its actions are directed at irresponsible companies which clear land by burning. "The companies will hide behind any opacity if they can, to avoid being held accountable and further perpetuate the haze problem that has plagued the region for decades," it said.

The Ministry's comments were in response to media reports of comments by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar on Monday.

Dr Nurbaya had reportedly told the media that Singapore could not step further to enter Indonesia’s legal domain on the issue of forest fires because the two countries do not have an agreement in the matter. She was also quoted as saying that Singapore's actions with the THPA showed that it did not respect Indonesia's sovereignty.

However, MEWR said in its statement that this was not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity.

The purpose of the THPA is to deter and prosecute those responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign, MEWR said, adding that it was drafted with the advice of international law experts and complied with international law.

The "blatant disregard of the environmental and social consequences affecting millions of people in our region" shown by these companies should not go unchecked, MEWR said.

"Indonesia should welcome this additional tool to curtail irresponsible activities that have affected the health, social and economic well-being of Indonesians and people in the region."

SINGAPORE RESPECTS INDONESIA'S SOVEREIGNTY: MEWR

In the statement, MEWR emphasised that it respects Indonesia's sovereignty. "It is for this very reason that Singapore has repeatedly asked for the information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia from the relevant Indonesian authorities. We have yet to receive any information," said the authority.

It added that Singapore has always upheld its bilateral relations with Indonesia: "That is why Singapore companies continue to be encouraged to invest in Indonesia, and vice versa, and bilateral tourism thrives."

MEWR said it remains committed to work with its Indonesian counterparts to bring errant companies to task and "tackle the fires and haze problem which is affecting Indonesians, Singaporeans and others in the region, in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect".

- CNA/mz


S’pore’s efforts to tackle haze culprits ‘not about national sovereignty’
Today Online 15 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Indonesia should welcome Singapore’s transboundary haze laws as an additional tool to curtail irresponsible acts that have caused the haze which has plagued both Indonesians and others in the region for decades, Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said on Wednesday (June 15).

The issue, the ministry added in a statement, was thus not one of “sovereignty or national dignity”, despite recent statements by Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya Bakar that Singapore could not “tread on the realm of law that was under Indonesia”, and that the Republic’s actions showed that it “did not respect Indonesia”.

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla also entered the fray, warning earlier this week that the country would not allow Singapore to prosecute its citizens suspected of causing forest fires that led to the haze which blanketed the region last year.

His comments were in response to Singapore issuing a court warrant against an unnamed Indonesian company director after he failed to turn up for an interview over ongoing investigations into firms linked to last year’s haze, despite being served a legal notice.

On Wednesday, the MEWR said Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) is aimed at deterring and prosecuting entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign. The act, it said, “adds to the collective efforts to hold errant companies accountable for their irresponsible actions”.

“Indonesia should welcome this additional tool to curtail irresponsible activities that have affected the health, social and economic well-being of Indonesians and people in the region,” said the MEWR.

“If anything, the companies will hide behind any opacity if they can, to avoid being held accountable, and further perpetuate the haze problem that has plagued the region for decades.”

Adding that the THPA was drafted with advice from experts in international law, and complies with international law, Mewr said it is not directed at any individual or company based on nationality.

“This is, therefore, not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity.”

Stressing that Singapore respects Indonesian sovereignty, the MEWR said: “It is for this very reason that Singapore has repeatedly asked for the information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia from the relevant Indonesian authorities. We have yet to receive any information.”

“Singapore has always upheld its bilateral relations with Indonesia. That is why Singapore companies continue to be encouraged to invest in Indonesia, and vice versa, and bilateral tourism thrives,” the ministry said, adding that it remains committed to working with its Indonesian counterparts “in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect”.

The ministry also reiterated that the key driver of the recurring transboundary haze is commercial, and as such, its actions are directed at irresponsible companies that clear land by burning.

“Such blatant disregard of the environmental and social consequences affecting millions of people in our region should not go unchecked, and calls for collective efforts by governments and all stakeholders,” it said.


Singapore rebukes Indonesia's remark on legal intervention on haze act
AsiaOne 15 Jun 16;

Indonesia's Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya (left) responded to comments made by Singapore's Minister of Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.

SINGAPORE - The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) has nothing to do with sovereignty or national dignity, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) emphasised in a sharply-worded rebuke to Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Ir Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Dr Nurbaya had said earlier on Monday (June 13) that Singapore could not "tread on the realm of law that was under Indonesia", and that Singapore's actions showed that it "did not respect Indonesia".

Reiterating that the THPA is targeted at commercial entities responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, an MEWR spokesperson said: "The THPA was drafted with advice from experts in international law and complies with international law. It is not directed at any individual nor company based on nationality."

"Indonesia should welcome this additional tool to curtail irresponsible activities that have affected the health, social and economic well-being of Indonesians and people in the region.

"If anything, the companies will hide behind any opacity if they can, to avoid being held accountable and further perpetuate the haze problem that has plagued the region for decades."

On May 11, Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) had obtained a court warrant against an Indonesian company director after he failed to turn up for an interview despite being served a legal notice.

The Indonesian was summoned to explain measures his company has taken to mitigate fires on its concession land.

The Indonesian government then issued a series of conflicting statements, starting with its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir, who claimed that Indonesia had lodged a "strong protest" against NEA's actions.

A spokesperson from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) clarified one day later on May 13 that it did not receive any representations from Indonesia.

"Mr Arrmanatha's remarks are puzzling," the MFA spokesperson said.

On Sunday (June 12), Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said that Jakarata would not allow its citizen to be "processed" under Singapore's law, The Straits Times reported.

"If there is an offence, Singapore can take action, but (the offence) occurred in Indonesia, that is the concern," he said in the same report.

Commenting on Dr Nurbaya's comments, veteran Singaporean diplomat Mr Bilahari Kausikan said on his Facebook page on Tuesday (June 14) that Singapore is enforcing its own laws.

"The only reason we are "entering into their legal domain" is because they have been singularly ineffective in enforcing their own laws,' he wrote.

The straight-talking ambassador-at-large added: "What they are claiming is we cannot enforce our own laws against an Indonesian national which is tantamount to claiming extraterritorial immunity for Indonesians.

"This is not merely arrogant but patently absurd, or at least absurd if one did not have reason to suspect that the individual in question was not connected to senior Indonesian figures who may be complicit in the environmental crimes we want to question him about.

"From that perspective the Indonesian position is entirely logical."

Singapore targeting private firms linked to Indonesian fires
Francis Chan, The Straits Times/ANN, Jakarta Post 16 Jun 16;

Singapore's move to go after companies linked to fires in Indonesia that led to last year's haze is not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity, said a Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) spokesman on Wednesday.

The ministry said its actions under the country's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) was aimed at deterring and prosecuting entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution.

"The THPA was drafted with advice from experts in international law and complies with international law," added the spokesman. "It is not directed at any individual nor company based on nationality."

MEWR was responding to comments in recent days by Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla as well as Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar about Singapore's decision to take court action against an Indonesian company director via the THPA.

Kalla said that Singapore cannot take action against its citizens responsible for last year's forest fires, while Siti accused the Republic of not exercising "mutual respect" by invoking the THPA.

She said the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution is a multilateral one, and not a bilateral pact between Singapore and Indonesia. As such, "Singapore cannot step further into Indonesia's legal domain", she added.

Siti also said the THPA remains a "controversial" law that is still being debated among ASEAN officials from Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

That is why she feels that Singapore's action under the law against errant firms in her country is not a show of "mutual respect".

MEWR, however, said the key driver of the recurring transboundary haze is commercial. It said companies' blatant disregard for the environmental and social consequences of the haze, which affects millions of people in the region, should not go unchecked.

"The phenomenal amount of greenhouse gases also emitted during the burning of peatland will have a profound effect on climate change that the world is battling to slow," said the spokesman.

"This is therefore not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity."

The ministry emphasized that Singapore respects Indonesian sovereignty and it is for that very reason that Singapore has repeatedly requested local authorities to share information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia.

Fires burning on concession land owned by private companies are said to have caused the haze crisis which affected many countries in South-east Asia.

The smoke from fires last year sent air pollution to record levels, resulting in at least 19 deaths from haze-related illnesses and more than half a million Indonesians suffering from respiratory infections.

The World Bank estimates that the fires and haze caused at least US$16 billion in economic losses for Indonesia alone.

Indonesian officials, however, do not expect a repeat of the crisis this year, though that may be due more to favorable weather than progress in addressing the underlying causes of the blazes, reported Bloomberg News Wednesday.

Satellite imagery detected about 730 hot spots so far this year, down from more than 2,900 in the first six months of last year, according to government data.

Raffles Panjaitan, the Environment and Forestry Ministry official tasked with overseeing fire prevention, said integrated fire patrol teams have been deployed in villages where forest fires are an annual occurrence.

"Normally forest fires are quite rampant in February and March, but there are no fires in villages where patrols are deployed," he said.


Singapore calls on Indonesia for information on suspected polluters
Reuters 16 Jun 16;

Singapore appealed to Indonesia on Wednesday for information on companies suspected of causing cross-border pollution, saying stopping smoke from fires set by plantation firms was not an issue of "sovereignty".

Fires in Indonesia, often set in the dry season by companies clearing land for plantations, causes an annual "haze" crisis over large parts of the region. Indonesia has often promised action but the problem persists.

Singapore passed a cross-border haze act in 2014, making those who cause haze both criminally and civilly liable, but it has been having trouble getting information.

"Singapore has repeatedly asked for the information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia from the relevant Indonesian authorities. We have yet to receive any information," Singapore's ministry of environment and water resources said in a statement.

Indonesia's environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said this week Singapore could not "tread on the realm of law that was under Indonesia", and Singapore "did not respect Indonesia", media reported.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla was also quoted as saying that Indonesia would not allow Singapore to prosecute its citizens over forest fires that blanketed the region in toxic smoke.

Singapore said its law complied with international law to "deter and prosecute entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign, as well as persons holding positions of responsibility in these entities".

"It is not directed at any individual nor company based on nationality. This is therefore not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity," the ministry said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency had summoned the director of Indonesian company suspected of pollution but he failed to turn up for an interview.

Last month, the agency got a court warrant to secure his attendance when he next enters Singapore.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Singapore calls on Indonesia for information on suspected polluters
EDGAR SU Reuters 15 Jun 16l
Singapore appealed to Indonesia on Wednesday for information on companies suspected of causing cross-border pollution, saying stopping smoke from fires set by plantation firms was not an issue of "sovereignty".

Fires in Indonesia, often set in the dry season by companies clearing land for plantations, causes an annual "haze" crisis over large parts of the region. Indonesia has often promised action but the problem persists.

Singapore passed a cross-border haze act in 2014, making those who cause haze both criminally and civilly liable, but it has been having trouble getting information.

"Singapore has repeatedly asked for the information on companies suspected of illegal burning in Indonesia from the relevant Indonesian authorities. We have yet to receive any information," Singapore's ministry of environment and water resources said in a statement.

Indonesia's environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said this week Singapore could not "tread on the realm of law that was under Indonesia", and Singapore "did not respect Indonesia", media reported.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla was also quoted as saying that Indonesia would not allow Singapore to prosecute its citizens over forest fires that blanketed the region in toxic smoke.

Singapore said its law complied with international law to "deter and prosecute entities that are responsible for transboundary haze pollution in Singapore, whether Singaporean or foreign, as well as persons holding positions of responsibility in these entities".

"It is not directed at any individual nor company based on nationality. This is therefore not an issue of sovereignty or national dignity," the ministry said.

Singapore's National Environment Agency had summoned the director of Indonesian company suspected of pollution but he failed to turn up for an interview.

Last month, the agency got a court warrant to secure his attendance when he next enters Singapore.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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