Feedback on Haze Bill: harsher penalties needed, enforcement a challenge

Office workers wearing masks make their way to work in Singapore's central business district in this June 21, 2013, file photo. The criminal penalties in a draft Bill to tackle transboundary haze are too low, said those who gave their feedback o
Office workers wearing masks make their way to work in Singapore's central business district in this June 21, 2013, file photo. The criminal penalties in a draft Bill to tackle transboundary haze are too low, said those who gave their feedback on the proposed piece of legislation earlier this year. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The criminal penalties in a draft Bill to tackle transboundary haze are too low, said those who gave their feedback on the proposed piece of legislation earlier this year.

For example, the original draft Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill had proposed a fine of up to $300,000, or up to $450,000 if a company failed to comply with Singapore's request to prevent, reduce, or control haze pollution.

The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources told reporters on Friday that the feedback had indicated the sum was too low, and there should be penalties for continous offences.

Others said the terms in the draft Bill ought to be more clearly defined, and that enforcement would be challenging.

The ministry said it would amend the Bill, to be tabled in Parliament on July 7, to take into account this feedback. For instance, the penalty formula could take into account how long the haze lingered.

The ministry received 52 pieces of feedback between February 19 and March 19. Some 85 per cent were from the general public and the rest from non-government organisations, civil society, and corporations.

"It's very clear there is overwhelming support for this bill," said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. "The feedback that was provided has been very constructive, and in fact it has been so substantive that we have to amend the Bill," he added.

The Bill could take effect by October or November this year if it is passed, he added.

But legislation "is not the main or the only means of making progress", he said. Rather, Singapore continues to work with Indonesia to offer assistance during haze episodes, and to push for official concession maps necessary to complete an agreed-on Asean haze monitoring system.

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