Indonesia's parliament agrees to ratify Asean haze pact

Singapore's Marina Bay is shrouded in haze on June 21, 2013. Indonesia's parliament agreed on Monday to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The delay in ratifying the 2002 pact became a sticking point during last year’s haze
Singapore's Marina Bay is shrouded in haze on June 21, 2013. Indonesia's parliament agreed on Monday to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The delay in ratifying the 2002 pact became a sticking point during last year’s haze when pollutant levels reached record highs in Malaysia and Singapore. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Indonesia's parliament agreed to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution Tuesday, 12 years after the country signed the pact alongside all other Asean members.

All nine parties in Parliament gave support in acclamation to the ratification during Tuesday's plenary session. The Bill will be formally signed into law by the president at a later date.

“Indonesia can make use of the human resource and equipment available within the Asean countries... to prevent, mitigate, anticipate, monitor, address and contain forest and land fire that may trigger transboundary haze,” Mr Milton Pakpahan, a key MP who was involved in the deliberation of the bill, told Parliament.

Parliament had earlier delayed in ratifying the 2002 pact which became a sticking point during last year’s haze when pollutant levels reached record highs in Malaysia and Singapore.

Indonesia had been the only Asean country that had yet to ratify the treaty, as some MPs felt certain clauses may infringe on the country's sovereignty.

The adoption of this Asean pact today would also lead to the strengthening of Indonesia's regulations and policies with regard to dealing with forest and land fire.

"We appreciate the full support of Parliament on this Bill," Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya, representing outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said in a speech before the lawmakers after the House agreed to ratify the Bill into law.

"By adopting this Asean pact, the Indonesian government will be able to get international help to deal with forest fire," Prof Balthasar added.

Yesterday, Indonesian authorities said they would start seeding clouds to induce rain later this week to try and douse forest and plantation fires raging over large parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

On Sunday and early Monday morning, Singapore was shrouded in haze brought by northeasterly winds blowing over Riau. Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Monday counted 281 hot spots in South Sumatra, 94 in Riau, 53 on Bangka and Belitung and 48 in Jambi provinces, in addition to 972 hot spots in three provinces in Kalimantan.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg

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