ASEAN agrees to stop blame game over haze issue

Antara 28 Jul 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Association South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed to stop the practice of blaming each other over the haze caused by forest fires in the region, an official stated.

"We have already established cooperation that focusses on technical approaches to overcome this problem together in the framework of the ASEAN," Director for ASEAN Political and Security Cooperation at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs M. Chandra Widya Yudha noted after a press briefing here on Thursday.

The cooperation, through the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, was signed in June 2002 and reaffirmed during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on July 24, 2016.

Yudha pointed out that the importance of the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution was not only to share the burden but also to find ways to solve it regionally.

"We agree to view this (haze pollution) as a global challenge and not just the responsibility of one country," he emphasized.

The haze had severely polluted the Southeast Asian region from the end of 2015 to the early part of 2016 when some forest areas in Indonesia, mainly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, were engulfed by fires.

During that period, the haze not only affected the locals in Sumatra and Kalimantan but also became a cause of concern for neighboring countries, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

To handle the haze issue, the Singaporean government had taken serious steps, such as banning paper and pulp products made in Indonesia and had requested to take legal action against some plantation companies in Singapore, among others.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government had not remained silent and had undertaken serious measures to extinguish the forest fires and to overcome the haze.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla remarked at the commemoration of World Environment Day 2016 in Riau Province on July 22 that the Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement was not only important for Indonesia but also for the world.

"I always said that the neighboring countries should be fair, as when the condition of forests is good, they get fresh air too. That is why during difficult times, we should share the burden too," he emphasized.

According to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Environment data, the hotspots detected in the forest areas had decreased by 65 percent from some one thousand in December 2015 to 205 in July 2016.(*)

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