Thursday 5 November 2015

Haze crisis a man-made tragedy: Vivian Balakrishnan

He stresses need to boost global and regional cooperation to exert effective pressure on errant firms
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2015

The haze problem was described as a man-made tragedy, a crime and vandalism by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Nov 3).

Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, he stressed the need to intensify regional and international cooperation to exert "effective legal and commercial pressure" on the handful of firms involved in starting fires to clear land in Indonesia.

"This is not a natural disaster. This is a deliberate, man-made tragedy, vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves," he said at the forum at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

The Singapore Government was reviewing its procurement practices to see how it can support companies that have instituted sustainable practices, he added yesterday. "This will take into account the practices not just of that particular company, but of your suppliers in your chain."

The Government expects firms to be transparent about supply chains, particularly those in the oil, palm oil and forestry sectors, he said. Other private-sector firms are urged to likewise practise "sustainable procurement". The thick haze has sparked demand for responsible and sustainable business practices, he added.

In September, Singapore wielded the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, serving "preventive measure notices" on four Indonesian firms: PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and PT Wachyuni Mandira.

Investigations indicated that fires on lands held via concessions under the four firms may have contributed to the haze.

A notice was also served on Asia Pulp and Paper, seeking information on its units in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

Indonesia has also been probing various firms. In September, it took four plantation firms to task for alleged illegal land clearing, by suspending or revoking their licences.

Mr Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian President's special envoy on climate change in Indonesia, told The Straits Times he agreed with Dr Balakrishnan that more collaboration is needed to tackle the haze issue. "Indonesia is suffering the most. We will try our best, and our President (Joko Widodo) has been camping there, so it is not for the lack of attention," he added.

The prolonged dry spell has also aggravated the haze situation, Mr Rachmat said on the sidelines of the forum. He reiterated that Indonesia needs time to address the haze problem, and agreed that "morally", it is right to punish errant firms, "but it has to be done carefully, that's why the government set a timeline of two to three years to settle this, including the prosecution".

At the forum, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore aims to be a leading green economy where government and businesses work to create "an eco- system of supporting infrastructure and policies" that will help the country to be energy- efficient, water-efficient, and reduce carbon emissions and waste. These, he added, are essential to Singapore's survival.

The forum also heard from Singapore businesses on their waste recycling efforts. Supermarket chain FairPrice has a framework to help it cut food waste while telco StarHub runs an e-waste recycling scheme that is open to everyone to recycle their unwanted electronic devices.

Spoke about sustainable development and climate change at a forum this morning.These issues concern all countries, but...
Posted by Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The #haze happened "not because we want it to (affect) our neighbours, but because of the wind," said Indonesian VP Jusuf Kalla.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Winds caused haze problem, says Jusuf Kalla
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor In Manila, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2015

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla blamed winds for spreading the haze to neighbouring countries, saying yesterday it was something beyond Indonesia's control.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit, he said: "I'm so sorry to Malaysia and Singapore to say that we cannot control the wind. We don't want the haze to go everywhere. (It happened) not because we want it to (affect) our neighbours, but because of the wind."

He was asked during a question and answer session with regional and international chief executives about challenges Indonesia faces to stamp out the annual haze, caused in part by farmers' use of slash-and-burn methods to clear farm land in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"I'm so sorry to Malaysia and Singapore to say that we cannot control the wind," said Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla at the APEC summit in Manila.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This year, the plumes of smoke and dust spread as far as the Philippines, and shrouded other parts of South-east Asia for several months, causing health problems, school closures and flight cancellations.

Mr Kalla acknowledged it was a "big problem" that affected the region. To tackle it, the government worked to restore forests that had disappeared rapidly due to logging.

Indonesia had about 150 million ha of forests in the 1950s. But one-third of it had been destroyed by the 1970s due to "many foreign companies teaching our people how to log for timber".

This caused land to become drier and helped fires to spread, he said. The unusually long dry spell caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon made things worse this year.

Mr Kalla thanked countries that sent planes to help put out fires, and called for more "international cooperation" to solve the problem, saying that Indonesia would not be able to do it alone.

Countries, including Singapore and Russia, sent aircraft to help douse the fires this year.

Mr Kalla said the problem would likely persist next year, but he was hopeful it would not be as serious.

He also reiterated his previous remarks about the "10 months" of good weather enjoyed by Indonesia's neighbours, saying: "Ten months every year, the good weather goes to our neighbours. You enjoyed it; we did not ask you to pay for it. But if there's some bad problem, it is our problem to the region too."

11月18日 印度尼西亚副总统尤索卡拉MUH. JUSUF KALLA:“我们的邻国每年有10个月享有好的天气,我们没有要你付钱。但如果出了问题,这也是区域的问题。”尤索卡拉表示,风势是新加坡和马来西亚面临烟霾问题的罪魁祸首,而这并非是印度尼西亚可以控制的。更多:
Posted by 8频道新闻新加坡 Channel 8 news on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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