Probability of 2015 haze repeat much lower this year: Asia Pulp and Paper official

Chan Luo Er Channel NewsAsia 12 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE: The probability of a repeat of the 2015 haze is "much lower" this year, the newly appointed managing director for corporate affairs and sustainability for Indonesia's largest pulp and paper group, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), said on Wednesday (Jul 12).

Former Singapore military general Bernard Tan - who is also Singapore country president for Sinar Mas, APP’s parent company - outlined the preparations the company have taken at a press conference to announce his appointment.

"The haze issue is a matter of deep concern to all of us, in Singapore, in Indonesia, as well as throughout the region," he said.

He said APP has invested more than US$80 million since 2015 to strengthen its fire management strategies.

This includes exploring new technologies such as infra-red cameras and mini-satellites to better monitor the ground situation, training and equipping more than 2,700 firefighters (up from 1,500 in 2015), investing in large-scale helicopters to act as water-bombing aircraft to contain fires until ground teams arrive and the setting up of a fire audit team to review the company’s and its suppliers’ concessions.

Internal data from APP has shown that 2017 is expected to be a drier season compared to the previous year.

Mr Tan said he could not predict the haze outlook for the coming year. “Having seen the efforts, and the effects, of our programmes on the ground, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the haze this year."

Mr Tan's appointment comes a few months after the National Environment Agency said it was still investigating four Indonesian suppliers of the company which have been linked to the forest fires that caused severe haze in Singapore in 2015.

Major retailers in Singapore removed APP paper products from their shelves in 2015, after the Singapore Environment Council and the Consumers Association of Singapore asked retailers to declare they had not procured or used wood, paper and/or pulp materials from companies accused of causing fires in Indonesia.

NEA said at that time that information provided by APP had been "limited".

When asked about NEA's statement, Mr Tan said that while he was unable to comment on the issue as investigations were ongoing, engagement with authorities is continuing and APP has been cooperative.

He said the company looks at Singapore as an important market for its brand.

“The first step is to show tangible action that has been taken and to reassure Singaporeans that the production of goods is done in a responsible and sustainable way."

Ex-army general lands dual role with paper giant
SIAU MING EN Today Online 13 Jul 17;

SINGAPORE — Retired army general Bernard Tan has joined Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) as its new managing director for corporate affairs and sustainability.

The 50-year-old has taken on the role concurrently alongside being the country president for the Singapore office of APP’s parent firm Sinar Mas Group.

APP, one of Indonesia’s largest paper and pulp companies, has been linked to the worst haze episode in the region in 2015.

The firm is working to set up a new fire audit team, which would be tasked, among other things, with reassessing the readiness and effectiveness of APP’s haze combat programmes.

Speaking to the media after a press conference yesterday, Mr Tan — who officially took up the positions on June 1 — said the two new roles were created to tackle the complex work involved in corporate affairs and sustainability, and to manage the brand and “issues on the ground”.

He said: “You are very aware that Sinar Mas still has issues, APP still has issues in Singapore ... (Given that) the commitment has been so much on the ground, in Indonesia ... I think the issues need to be resolved. And a lot of that requires upfront engagement, and perhaps … a different style of communication.”

Mr Tan served 22 years in the Singapore Armed Forces before retiring with the rank of Brigadier-General. Between 1998 and 2001, he also served in the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta and is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia.

Before joining APP, he was the chief marketing officer at defence and engineering group ST Engineering.

In 2015, APP was questioned by the authorities as to whether it was linked to fires responsible for a haze episode.

Wielding Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the first time that year, the NEA served notice to APP to provide information on its subsidiaries here and in Indonesia, as well as the measures taken by its suppliers there to put out fires in their concessions.

The Singapore Environment Council then restricted the use of APP’s Singapore Green Label certification, which saw supermarkets here pulling APP’s products such as tissue paper and toilet rolls off their shelves.

In March this year, the NEA said that information given by APP has been limited and it has asked for more details.

Asked about this, Mr Tan, who is also the deputy president of the Football Association of Singapore, said yesterday that engagement with the NEA is ongoing. “We are scheduled for a meeting very shortly ... we will leave that comment till after the engagement has concluded, and when investigations are resolved satisfactorily on both sides,” he added.

One of his main priorities, he said, is to look into remarketing APP’s products here.

“We are doing all the right things in terms of fire prevention, haze prevention, sustainability. I see no reason why the goods should not return to the shelves in Singapore,” he said.

APP spent a large part of the press conference yesterday explaining its integrated fire management programme, which has cost the company more than US$80 million (S$110 million) since it was introduced in 2015.

It includes preparation plans, such as the use of large helicopters to carry out water-bombing operations when needed. There have also been trials using infrared technology to identify hot spots, and a roll-out of a response regime for the 2,700 firefighters on the ground. SIAU MING EN

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