Look at the map, see where we are. If Indonesia no “hew”, even to their citizen, what can we do about the haze situation ?

    K Shanmugam Sc   (K Shanmugam Sc)

Many have commented about the haze situation, some have said – why keep talking. Why cant you do more ?

Some like Mr William Sin uses expletives ( against the PAP). I suppose for some people like Mr Sin, every occassion is an opportunity to make a political attack – doesnt seem to matter whether there is rationality in the comments.

I will ask Mr Sin – what more do you think we can and should do ?

Look at the map, see where we are.

Every country is sovereign and we cant intervene in the actions in other countries.

The burning is taking place in Indonesia.

What do you think Singapore can do about that?

Singapore has raised it with Indonesian Ministers, and over several years, we have offered technical assistance, expressed our deep distress at what is happening, and have also raised the issue internationally. The problem recurs, nevertheless.

The reality of international law, international relations must be recognised.

That is what we have been saying – in every field, our size and geography means that we are often price takers, not price makers – whether it is economics, geo politics, or the environment.

But despite that we have done well, much better than bigger countries with more resources – because we have managed to deal with most situations by anticipating them. But the haze situation is quite outside our control.

If Mr Sin or anyone else thinks we can do more about the haze that is caused by burning in Indonesia, perhaps they can tell us – but I suppose, for some, the temptation to direct expletives and use this occassion to attack the Govt and the PAP is too great . I thank those who have noted the reality of the situation, and the limitations within which we operate .

******************************************************

Joint Statement By the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam today telephoned Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Marty Natalegawa to express Singapore’s concern about the worsening haze situation. Separately, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan spoke to the Indonesian Environment Minister Prof Dr Balthasar Kambuaya to register our strong concerns.

The Singa­pore Ministers highlighted that Singapore’s PSI had breached 150 the day before, and had entered into the unhealthy zone. They emphasized the urgency of the situation while also reaffirming Singapore’s commitment to help Indonesia fight the fires in Sumatra.

Minister Balakrishnan requested that Indonesia share relevant information to improve monitoring of hotspots and land clearing activities. This had been agreed between Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in October 2012. Both Minister Shanmugam and Minister Balakrishnan referred to the claim by an Indonesian Forestry Ministry official in the media that Malaysian and Singapore palm oil companies that had invested in Indonesia may be responsible for starting the fires in Riau. They asked Indonesia to share the names of errant companies involved in illegal burning, though primary responsibility to take legal and enforcement actions against these companies lies with Indonesia as they have clearly violated Indonesian laws within Indonesian jurisdiction.

Minister Balakrishnan also reiterated that Singapore is ready to continue collaborating with Indonesia at the provincial level to mitigate the haze problem, as agreed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the recently held Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in April 2013.

Ministers Marty and Balthasar offered their assurances that Indonesia would address the haze problem. Minister Shanmugam and Minister Marty agreed that bilateral and regional cooperation could be further strengthened to tackle the haze problem, and that Indonesian Environment and Forestry officials could discuss with their Singapore counterparts ways to better cooperate and deal with the haze issue.. . . . .

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES
SINGAPORE
18 JUNE 2013

******************************************************

** update **

S’pore leaders want firms causing haze to be named, But Indonesian official says foreign parties should not meddle in its domestic affairs

SINGAPORE — As the air quality in the Republic hovered around unhealthy levels yesterday — a day after the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading hit a record high since 1997 — both Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam called on the Indonesian authorities to name corporations responsible for the fires.

But the suggestion, which Dr Balakrishnan had also posted on Facebook, was promptly pushed back by senior Indonesian government official Sony Partono, who was quoted by Reuters as saying “foreign parties should not be interfering with our domestic affairs”.

Mr Partono added: “The most important thing is that we have attempted to control the damage resulting from the forest fires” and fire trucks had been despatched to affected areas.

The haze, which has also enveloped Malaysia, continued to shroud the Singapore skyline yesterday, with the PSI reaching as high as 134 at midnight. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a photo taken from the Istana on Facebook, with the cityscape “barely visible”.

He added that Dr Balakrishnan and Mr Shanmugam have registered Singapore’s “serious concerns” and offered Indonesia help to fight the fires.

“We are all affected by the haze,” said Mr Lee. “Farmers and plantation owners in Sumatra are burning crops to clear land in the dry season, and unfortunately the winds are blowing the smoke all the way to Singapore.”

In a joint statement, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa “offered their assurances that Indonesia would address the haze problem”.

The statement added that both Dr Balakrishnan and Mr Shanmugam had, in their conversations with their Indonesian counterparts, referred to the claim by Indonesian Forestry Ministry official Hadi Daryanto — which was reported in the media — that Malaysian and Singaporean palm oil companies investing in Indonesia may be responsible for starting the fires in Sumatra’s Riau province.

“(The ministers) asked Indonesia to share the names of errant companies involved in illegal burning, though primary responsibility to take legal and enforcement actions against these companies lies with Indonesia as they have clearly violated Indonesian laws within Indonesian jurisdiction,” the statement added.

Writing on Facebook, Dr Balakrishnan added that “we need to exert commercial pressure against companies causing the haze”. He also said that Singapore is waiting for Indonesia to publish concession maps which, combined with satellite images, would “enable us to pinpoint the errant companies”.

The 24-hour PSI reading at 4pm ranged from 112 to 123 for various parts of Singapore, while the PM2.5, which measures levels of fine particulate matter, was 149 to 169 microgrammes per cubic metre — concentrations prompting advice to those with heart or lung disease, as well as children and older adults, to avoid all physical activity. The National Environment Agency reported 187 hotspots detected in Sumatra yesterday, up from 113 detected on Monday.

Supporting the suggestion to name errant companies, Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Jose Raymond and Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Irene Ng said consumers could boycott products of these firms. Mr Raymond said consumers “should demand that the names of the business owners be made public” to show collective displeasure at their conduct, and “perhaps this will force them to change the way they operate”.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said the “answer to the problem” lies with the Indonesian authorities. “The ball is not in our court and we can only hope that more will be done to discourage the burning of the forest,” she said.

Some observers had suggested last year for Singapore’s pollution laws to apply to all polluters, wherever they may be located.

But Singapore Institute of International Affairs Executive Director Nicholas Fang pointed out that the Singapore authorities would need to be present on the ground to monitor the companies’ activities. Satellite technology “does not negate the need for on-the-ground surveillance, as solid evidence will be needed if offending companies are to be taken to task”, he said.

Singapore can do more to engage Indonesian provincial authorities, as it did previously in Sumatra’s Jambi province, said Mr Fang.

Meanwhile, two corporations here with palm oil plantations in Indonesia reiterated that they have a zero-burning policy.

A Golden Agri-Resources spokesperson said the company and its subsidiary PT SMART Tbk use only mechanical means such as excavators and bulldozers in land preparation and step up fire surveillance patrols during dry months.

A Wilmar International spokesperson said that, while it is committed to zero-burning, “we cannot prevent local practices of slash-and-burn for agricultural and other purposes”. “This may lead to high incidences of uncontrolled fires which inevitably spread over to our plantations. To minimise the impact of fire and haze in our operations and surrounding environment, we have a fire management programme that is based on principles of prevention and suppression,” she added.

Link : todayonline : S’pore leaders want firms causing haze to be named, But Indonesian official says foreign parties should not meddle in its domestic affairs

***********************************************************

‘Emergency conditions’ in Riau as PSI hit 341 on Tuesday

By Zakir Hussain Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta And Jonathan Kwok, ST, Jun 19, 2013 

While the skies above Singapore cleared a little yesterday, the Pollutant Standards Index reading in the coastal city of Dumai, Riau, hit 341 at 4pm as fires continued to rage in neighbouring districts.

“The situation is very critical. These are emergency conditions,” city government spokesman Darmawan told The Straits Times.

Visibility was down to 50m in some parts, he said, adding that local officials will meet today to discuss response measures.

Streets in Dumai were near empty as many people stayed indoors, and health officials reminded residents to drink lots of water and wear masks when outside.


A main street in Dumai, Riau, at around 2pm local time on Tuesday. While the skies above Singapore cleared a little yesterday, the Pollutant Standards Index reading in the coastal city of Dumai, Riau, hit 341 at 4pm as fires continued to rage in neighbouring districts. — PHOTO: REZI ANDIKA FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

*Riau is a province of Indonesia, located in the centre and eastern coast of Sumatra along the Strait of Malacca.*

******************************************************************

References : 

1.   Cargill in Singapore   (link )  – We have a strict no-burn policy and confirm that there are no hot spots nor fires on our plantations in South Sumatra (PT Hindoli) and West Kalimantan (PT Harapan Sawit Lestari and PT Indo Sawit Kekal). Click here to learn more about how Cargill is committed to the sustainable production of palm oil.

2.  Reuters –   Singapore pressures Indonesia to identify firms behind haze  — Indonesia is the only ASEAN member not to have ratified a 2002 pact on preventing haze pollution.

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