Firms behind forest fires 'must be punished': Masagos

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Companies responsible for the illegal forest fires that cause the haze must be taken to task, and Singapore hopes to work with Indonesia to bring the culprits to justice, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

"Hope that all of us can work together to bring these recalcitrant companies to task. These companies have been profiting at the expense of the well-being of others and should not go unpunished," said Mr Masagos on Facebook.

The comments by Mr Masagos, who recently took on the new portfolio, come on the same day that Asean environment ministers gathered in Hanoi for the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

In a statement yesterday, the ministers jointly expressed concern over the unprecedented severity of the haze which has affected millions in parts of South-east Asia.

Among other things, they also noted and appreciated the collaborative efforts undertaken by Indonesia, the neighbouring Asean countries and the international community to address the forest fires and the associated smoke haze.

"Singapore has passed the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) in 2014, so that we can take action against companies, and not against countries. We have no interest to take friends to task, since they are doing their best," said Mr Masagos.

"I appreciated Indonesia's efforts to bring these companies to task and reiterated our calls for Indonesia to share information on these companies to facilitate our effective enforcement of the THPA."

Mr Masagos added that while he respects Indonesia's sovereignty and understands that details under investigation cannot be shared, he looked forward to receiving information that can be shared, including the names of these companies and their managers, as well as the charges brought against them.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Firms behind forest fires 'must be punished''. Print Edition | Subscribe