Haze fires: Indonesia blames 16 firms, identifies them by their initials

A child holds a sign asking for help to save them from the haze  Central Kalimantan on Borneo island last month.
A child holds a sign asking for help to save them from the haze Central Kalimantan on Borneo island last month. PHOTO: GARY GOH

Indonesia has released the initials of 16 plantation companies that it said were responsible for illegal fires that caused this year's transboundary haze crisis.

The companies - most of them pulp wood plantations operating on concession land in Sumatra and Kalimantan - have had their business licences suspended, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told reporters at a media briefing on Monday evening.

The government is mulling over whether to initiate legal proceedings against them for breaching environmental laws, she said. The firms include BMH and SWI, which have concessions in South Sumatra.

The suspensions would be lifted if, within the next two years, the companies show that they have made significant progress in efforts to prevent future fires, Ms Siti said.

"The rights of use for the portion of land that has been burnt must be returned to the state," she added.

Checks on data available at the Environment and Forestry Ministry show that BMH is Bumi Mekar Hijau and SWI is Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industry.

BMH is a supplier to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) in Indonesia. BMH, SWI and APP have the same parent company, the Sinar Mas Group.

The government also revoked the licences of three firms, including one with the initials MAS, which has pulp wood concessions in West Kalimantan, and HSL, which has pulp wood concessions in Riau.

Checks show that MAS is Mega Alam Sentosa, another Sinar Mas company.

Asked for his response yesterday on the government's move to suspend Sinar Mas companies, its managing director, Mr Gandi Sulistyanto, said in a text message to The Straits Times: "We follow the existing regulations and legislation. Legal certainty and business sustainability are the platform."

This year's haze will go down as the worst on record, surpassing even the 1997 and 2013 crises.

The Indonesian government has pledged to get tough on firms that many believe used illegal slash- and-burn techniques to clear land.

"We are tightening the standard operating procedure, hoping the previous fire episode will not recur," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters.

Indonesia has said it is probing more than 100 firms over forest fires. In September, the permits of three - PT Tempirai Palm Resources, PT Waringin Agro Jaya and PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo - were revoked after they were found guilty of setting fire to land and forest areas.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg