Indonesia reviewing collaborations with Singapore over haze

An aerial view of a forest fire burning near the village of Bokor, Meranti Islands regency, Riau province, Indonesia in this March 15, 2016, file photo taken by Antara Foto.
An aerial view of a forest fire burning near the village of Bokor, Meranti Islands regency, Riau province, Indonesia in this March 15, 2016, file photo taken by Antara Foto.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia is reviewing existing and proposed bilateral collaborations with Singapore on haze and environment issues, a senior Indonesian official has said.

The confirmation came after Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar told an independent environmental news portal, foresthints.news, that some current collaborations would be terminated while upcoming ones would undergo a "substantial review process".

"This is a substantial step that needs to be taken. We have a set of clear and measured criteria in this review process," she was quoted as saying in last Saturday's report.

 
 
 

Her ministry's director-general of law enforcement Rasio Ridho Sani told The Straits Times yesterday that an assessment by the ministry's senior officials is under way. "Yes, we are reviewing our bilateral cooperation with Singapore related to many issues, not only forests and forest fires but also other environmental aspects," he said.

Ms Siti said the review is her ministry's initiative and "not a joint process with Singapore".

REVIEW NOT A JOINT PROCESS

We are going to only inform Singapore, at a later stage, of the existing bilateral collaborations that are to be terminated as well as those planned collaborations which will not go ahead.

INDONESIAN ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTRY MINISTER SITI NURBAYA BAKAR, on her ministry's review of collaborations with Singapore.

"We are going to only inform Singapore, at a later stage, of the existing bilateral collaborations that are to be terminated as well as those planned collaborations which will not go ahead," she said.

Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources "has not received any official information from Indonesia" and, therefore, "did not wish to comment", a ministry spokesman said yesterday, adding that Singapore will continue to play its role in accordance with its laws, the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and the principles of international law.

Ms Siti's comments came after Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) said last Wednesday that it had obtained a court warrant against an Indonesian company director who failed to turn up for an interview with the authorities in Singapore despite being served a legal notice to do so.

The director, whose name and company were not disclosed, was expected to explain his firm's measures to tackle fires on its land and prevent a repeat of last year's haze.

Last Thursday, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said a "strong protest" had been lodged with Singapore over "some cases where Indonesian businessmen were interrogated". But Singapore's Foreign Ministry said it had not received any representations and added that it found the spokesman's remarks "puzzling".

Errant pulp and paper companies have been blamed for wildfires in Indonesia that led to choking haze in the region last year. In line with the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014, the NEA issued notices to six Indonesia- based firms. Two responded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia reviewing collaborations with Singapore over haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe