Jakarta says it's yet to decide on needing S'pore help

An Indonesian soldier watches as a helicopter water bomber releases its cargo over a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra, on Sept 17, 2015.
An Indonesian soldier watches as a helicopter water bomber releases its cargo over a peatland fire in Kampar, Riau, Sumatra, on Sept 17, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia has yet to decide if it wants Singapore's help in resolving the haze crisis, said its Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Any decision on the matter, however, would ultimately come from President Joko Widodo and not her ministry, added Ms Siti during a press briefing in Jakarta on the haze situation yesterday.

"We appreciate (the offer) and we do have a cooperation framework for that... but there is a process which goes through the Foreign Minister, then the President," she said, when responding to a question on whether Indonesia will accept Singapore's assistance. "But my personal views are that we do not yet need it."

This was the third time in the last week that Ms Siti has indicated that Indonesia does not require additional resources to combat forest fires causing a thick haze, which has covered parts of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia in recent weeks.

 
 

She said her government has thus far deployed 24 aircraft - four for cloud-seeding and 20 for water- bombing operations, while another is due to arrive today.

Most of the aircraft used for water bombing are chartered from Australia and piloted by foreigners.

Last week, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen offered Indonesia an assistance package comprising a C-130 military transport plane for cloud seeding, up to two C-130s to ferry a firefighting assistance team from Singapore to Indonesia, and a Chinook helicopter with a water bucket for aerial firefighting.

But the offer was rejected by Ms Siti the next day. "One more water-bombing unit from Singapore would not make much difference," she said yesterday of Singapore's offer. "Unless if it's, say, 20 units... then that would be good."

Meanwhile, Ms Siti is expected to meet Malaysian Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar next week to discuss measures to tackle the haze, after worsening air quality forced some schools in Sarawak to close on Thursday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Jakarta says it's yet to decide on needing S'pore help'. Print Edition | Subscribe