Singapore, Indonesia to launch project, may discuss haze

Tama Salim The Jakarta Post 19 Aug 16;

The inauguration of an industrial estate in Central Java will be one of the highlights of an upcoming Indonesia-Singapore leaders’ retreat later this month.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, several Singaporean ministers and CEOs from Singapore’s 14 top companies plan to visit the Kendal Industrial Estate (KIK) during a retreat held in Semarang from Wednesday to Friday next week.

The Foreign Ministry’s East Asia and Pacific director Edi Yusup said on Thursday Prime Minister Lee and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would attend a ceremony to inaugurate the 2,200-hectare industrial estate.

“The first phase of the estate’s development will cover up to 1,000 hectares of land. It is expected to finish in 2020,” Edi said, adding that the industries targeted to operate in the KIK included furniture, garment and automotive industries.

The estate is a joint venture between PT Jababeka, which holds a 51 percent stake, and Singapore’s Sembawang Corporation.

Edi said that so far, 16 companies from Singapore, Indonesia, Germany, China and Japan had started construction of business facilities in the industrial estate with total investment of around Rp 3.2 trillion (US$244 million).

“We hope the 14 CEOs from Singapore will be interested in investing in the industrial estate and also in other parts of the country,” Edi told a press briefing, adding that KIK’s development was expected to trigger economic growth in Central Java.

During the retreat, the leaders of Indonesia and Singapore will discuss various bilateral, regional and global issues that are of mutual concern for the two countries.

Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir did not rule out the possibility that transboundary haze pollution (TBHP) would be an issue that Jokowi and the Singaporean prime minister might discuss during the retreat.

He did, however, emphasize that Indonesia had repeatedly proved its commitment to mitigating forest and land fires and its adverse effect on the environment and neighboring countries. “Among the steps we’ve taken are water bombing runs, weather modification, integrated patrols, awareness-raising campaigns and canal digging — all of them underscore Indonesia’s commitment to overcoming the [fire and haze pollution] issue,” he asserted.

TBHP has proved to be a thorny issue in the otherwise solid Indonesian-Singaporean bilateral relationship, with the city-state seeking any opportunity to lambast Jakarta for its perceived inability to cope with the annual forest and peatland fires that have posed serious health concerns to neighboring countries.

Earlier in June, Jakarta rejected a request by the Singaporean government to access confidential information on culpable companies, with the city-state later threatening to enforce a politically motivated Transboundary Haze Pollution Act aimed at deterring and prosecuting entities responsible for TBHP.

Arrmanatha insisted that concrete steps have been taken to penalize errant companies connected to the fires and that such efforts had significantly reduced the number of hot spots in Indonesia, dropping by 74 percent from the same January-August period of last year. According to recent data from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 1,950 hot spots so far this year, compared to 6,312 hot spots from Jan. 1 to Aug. 17 in 2015. (vny)

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