Indonesia: Haze will not be so ‘serious’ this year

The Star 12 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Indonesia Thursday gave assurance that the transboundary haze will not be as serious as last year with drastic action taken to combat forest fires in the country.

Senior Adviser on Energy to Minister of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia Arief Yuwono said Jakarta has a strong commitment to prevent forest fires from the presidential level to the ground level.

“We have a lot of initiatives at the moment and we even have presidential directive which our minister has translated to action on the ground.

“For example, the establishment of 700 villagers who are ready to combat forest fires on the ground. We also strengthened our coordination from the central government to local governors plus the involvement of private sectors.

“When we make comparison between 2015 and 2016, I believe from our update forecast, there will be less haze, not so serious, only a small scale, “ he told the media after attending the 12th Meeting of the Conference of The Parties To The Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (COP-12) here Thursday.

Also present was Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

When asked whether Jakarta would be seeking Asean’s support to combat forest fires, Arief said they would use their own resources first to protect its sovereignty.

Arief pointed out that those responsible for forest fires would be penalised severely according to the laws and regulation.

Commenting on the establishment of the Asean Coordinating Centre to facilitate cooperation and coordination among ASEAN members in addressing the haze pollution, Arief said Jakarta plans to set up a workshop on the related issue by this year.

The establishment was pointed out by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during his speech when opening the meeting early this morning.

Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said Malaysia was ready to help Indonesia to put out forest fires by deploying firefighters and assets such as amphibious aircraft.

“At the moment, they want to use their own nation’s capacity and capability.

So, we have to respect that as they have their own initiative,” he said.

Touching on the meeting, Wan Junaidi said Asean ministers agreed to adopt the Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation.

He pointed out that the Roadmap would serve as a strategic framework for the implementation of the collaborative actions to control transboundary haze pollution in the Asean region to achieve a vision of Transboundary Haze-free Asean by 2020. - Bernama



Zahid calls on Asean members to revive action plan over haze issue
NURBAITI HAMDAN The Star 11 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is urging Asean member countries to revive its high priority cooperation in tackling the transboundaryhaze for the region to be haze free by 2020.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said some of the activities have been dormant for “quite some time” due to lack of resources.

“Let us not only reflect on the issues, but also focus on solutions and encourage one another in achieving our national plans and targets to eliminate the transboundary haze problem,” he said in his speech at the 12th conference of the parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) at a hotel here Thursday.

The high-priority areas or activities include technical cooperation to increase the preparedness for and to mitigate the risks to human health and the environment arising from land and forest fires and haze pollution, implementation of activities to promote zero burning and controlled burning practice, and conduct table-top and simulation exercises to enhance joint emergency response.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said last year was the worst haze experienced in the region.

The unprecedented severity of smoke haze, he said, affected millions of people in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the southern part of the Philippines and the northern part of Laos.

“We should be vigilant and undertake concrete actions particularly on preventive and mitigation efforts in order to be better prepared in the event of adverse weather condition in coming years,” he said.

The Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) was established in 2002 as one of the key steps towards air pollution management in this region to address the annual problem since 1997.

The agreement was ratified by all member states in January 2015.


Focus on high priority areas to meet haze-free Asean objective
ARNAZ M. KHAIRUL New Straits Times 11 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: The focus on high priority areas are vital towards ensuring objectives of the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) are met, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, in his opening speech at the 12th meeting of the conference of parties to the agreement here, laid out seven areas which he called on delegates to deliberate on, highlighting the urgency of the required action.

"Due to the lack of resources, some of the activities have been dormant for quite some time," said Zahid.

The high priority areas include technical cooperation in the preparedness to mitigate health risks from haze caused by land and forest fires.

This would require focus on the promotion of zero burning and controlled burning activities, along with conducting table-top and simulation exercises to enhance joint emergency responses, while building the capacity of law enforcement and prosecution.

Zahid also called for a regular forums and dialogues with international donor communities and stakeholders to promote the implementation of the agreement and for partner nations to explore international partnerships to ensure sustainable financial support.

The final priority area Zahid called for was the establishment of an Asean coordinating centre (ACC) to facilitate cooperation and coordination among parties in addressing haze pollution.

He said the 11th meeting in Hanoi in October last year had endorsed a revision of the standard operating procedures (SOP) for monitoring, assessment and joint emergency response, incorporating alert levels, trigger points and action on fire prevention and suppression.

This, Zahid said, had been successfully adopted in Malaysia, particularly in dealing with localised haze incidents in Sabah and Sarawak.

"The AATHP in Hanoi had also adopted a new initiative on developing a roadmap on cooperation towards transboundary haze pollution control, with eight key strategies, measures of progress and actions towards achieving a haze-free Asean by 2020," said Zahid.

"We should not rest on our laurels even with all the initiatives being taken. The haze incidents of 2015 saw the region experiencing unprecedented severity of smoke haze, affecting millions of people.

"Using 2015 as a benchmark of the worst haze incidents in the region, we should be vigilant and undertake concrete actions."


Asean agrees on plan for a haze-free region by 2020
Today Online 12 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR — South-east Asian leaders on Thursday (Aug 11) agreed on a roadmap to ensure the region is free from transboundary haze by 2020, as part of a series of joint actions to combat the annual problem.

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said at the conclusion of the 12th meeting on the Conference of the Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) on Thursday that he was glad Asean had agreed to implement the roadmap.

“We adopted the roadmap to overcome haze by 2020. That is one concession that I appreciated. All ministers and Asean representatives have agreed with the adoption and have accepted this roadmap,” Mr Wan Junaidi told reporters.

“The Asean member states pledged to remain vigilant and continuously monitor and step up their haze preventive efforts... the Ministers underlined the need for members to place priority and commitment to resolve the haze problem within the expected targets and timelines.”

The AATHP was established in 2002 as one of the key steps towards eradicating the transboundary haze problem by 2020. The agreement was ratified by all member states in January 2015.

A press statement issued at the end of the meeting noted the progress in the implementation of activities and programmes in the AATHP which included the setting up of the Asean Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control.

“The roadmap will serve as a strategic framework for the implementation of the collaborative actions to control transboundary haze pollution in the Asean region to achieve a vision of Transboundary Haze-free Asean by 2020,” it added without elaborating.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who was also at Thursday’s meeting said with the adoption of the roadmap, Asean now have a “time-bound, action-oriented framework” to complement efforts to tackle transboundary haze.

“As transboundary haze pollution is a shared challenge, Singapore is committed to work with our Asean neighbours to explore how we can better coordinate and prepare for the dry season, including offering timely assistance under the AATHP,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

“With greater national and regional commitment, we can resolve this decades-long problem by successfully implementing the AATHP. I am hopeful that closer collaboration among Asean (member) states will bring us towards the goal of a transboundary haze-free Asean.”

He also highlighted the Asean Haze Monitoring System (AHMS) as an important initiative to tackle the haze problem. Developed by Singapore, the AHMS is a computerised system to enhance hotspot monitoring by combining hot spot data, high resolution satellite pictures and concession maps. It was adopted by Asean leaders in 2013 but has yet to be operational.

“Our Asean Leaders have acknowledged the AHMS as a useful tool to assist in monitoring and internal enforcement actions against irresponsible parties contributing to fires. I hope we can operationalise the Asean Haze Monitoring System soon,” he added.

Mr Wan Junaidi also said on Thursday that both Singapore and Malaysia are ready to share skills and resources to help countries like Indonesia tackle forest fires, but they need to be asked.

“Don’t assume that just because we have something here, we can just bulldoze (through) anything, that when we know there is a fire somewhere, we can just go in on a boat or ship or truck or car, and cross over to the border and start doing it, we can’t do it like that,” he said.

“That’s still a foreign country and we have to deal with them and we must respect our neighbour’s sovereignty. We cannot assume that because the agreement already exists and we want to set up certain things, that we (can) do it whatever way we want to. We can’t.”

Absent from Thursday’s meeting was Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Dr Siti Nurbaya Bakar. She was said to be busy at a Conservation Day event in Bali.

When asked about Indonesia’s commitment to the commitment of ensuring a haze free region, Mr Arief Yuwono, senior adviser on energy to the Minister of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia said Indonesia have also “suffered from forest fires, which is why we have many initiatives, not just on the police level, but by the local government as well”.

He also said penalties for errant companies who are suspected of causing forest fires that contributed to the haze were “more stringent than before” but did not elaborate further.

Transboundary haze caused by widespread fires in Indonesia blanketed the region from September to November last year and affected tens of millions of people.

Last year, Singapore’s National Environment Agency sent notices to six companies directing them to put out fires allegedly contributing to the haze.

Earlier on Thursday, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urged Asean members to revive “high priority” cooperation to tackle the transboundary haze problem, noting that some activities have been dormant for “some time” due to lack of resources. AGENCIES


ASEAN adopts roadmap for transboundary haze-free region by 2020
Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 11 Aug 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: ASEAN nations have adopted a roadmap on collaborative actions to control transboundary haze pollution, with the goal of achieving a transboundary haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

This was announced at a press conference for the ASEAN ministerial-level meeting on tackling transboundary haze held on Thursday (Aug 11), the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. It was the first such meeting since smoke shrouded parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for weeks in 2015.

Slash and burn fires in Indonesian forests were largely blamed for triggering the haze that kept people indoors or having to wear masks before stepping out of the house. Even neighbouring Malaysia was forced to close schools for days.

The meeting also looked back on the year that was and planned for the year ahead.

SINGAPORE HOPEFUL GOAL WILL BE ACHIEVED

A haze-free ASEAN by 2020 is an ambitious goal given haze has been almost an annual occurrence in some of the region's nations. However, Singapore, one of the countries hit hardest by the smoke, is hopeful.

Said its Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli: "I think if everyone sets out (to do) what they want to do, and if there's political will and the enforcement of the national laws that will prevent those things from happening, I'm very certain this will be achieved.

"But everyone must play their part. Even our own consumers in Singapore must play their part. We can't be complaining about the haze and then buying the products that are produced in the concession areas which produce this haze."

Malaysia's Minister for Natural Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said his Indonesian counterpart has assured him the haze this year will not be as bad as the last.

However, Dr Siti Nurbaya Bakar was absent from the meeting for the second year in a row, as she was busy with a Conservation Day event in Bali.

"We have suffered from forest fires, which is why we have many initiatives, not just on the police level, but by the local government as well," said Mr Arief Yuwono, senior adviser on energy to the Minister of Environment and Forestry in Indonesia, when asked about the country's commitment to the cause.

ASEAN REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR INDONESIA'S COORDINATING CENTRE PLANS

At the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, ASEAN reaffirmed its support for Indonesia's plans to host a ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control, which is a place to arrange and sync up regional assistance when combating haze.

Singapore and Malaysia already say they stand ready to share skills and resources to help countries like Indonesia tackle forest fires, but they need to be asked.

Said Mr Wan Junaidi: "Don't assume that just because we have something here, we can just bulldoze (through) anything, that when we know there is a fire somewhere, we can just go in on a boat or ship or truck or car, and cross over to the border and start doing it, we can't do it like that.

"That's still a foreign country and we have to deal with them and we must respect our neighbour's sovereignty. We cannot assume that because the agreement already exists and we want to set up certain things, that we (can) do it whatever way we want to. We can't."

Meanwhile, Malaysia is looking to implement laws similar to Singapore that will allow it to take action against companies responsible for haze affecting the nation.

The next ASEAN meeting on transboundary haze pollution takes place in Brunei next year.

- CNA/hs


President Jokowi to lead meetings on forest fires, super holding firm
Ayomi Amindoni The Jakarta Post 12 Aug 16;

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will lead a limited Cabinet meeting on several issues on Friday including forest fires and holding firms for state-owned companies.

Jokowi is scheduled to lead a meeting at the presidential office on the prevention and management of forest and peatland fires at 2 p.m., according to President's official agenda sent out by presidential staff. Following the meeting, the President will then discuss holding firms for state-owned companies at 3 p.m.

Indonesia suffered its worst forest and peatland fires in history in some parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan last year. At least 19 people died and 500,000 people suffered acute respiratory illness from the haze crisis. The crisis was sparked by the slash-and-burn practices for clearing land during the dry season last year.

As for holding firms for state-owned companies, the government has been considering the possibility of moving its state-owned enterprises into a giant holding company in a bid to improve their performance and increase their role in the economy. State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said in June the plan would transfer state-run firms into a "super holding" company. (rin)

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