SINGAPORE - The Singapore team sent to help Indonesia combat haze-related fires has returned home after the two-week deployment as requested by Indonesian authorities, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Saturday.
He wrote on Facebook: "The Australian and Malaysian teams left Palembang earlier, on 19 and 20 Oct respectively. With the two-week period concluded, our SAF and SCDF personnel returned home today."
A 40-man team from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was deployed to Palembang in Sumatra on Oct 10.
Dr Ng said that Indonesian authorities have realised that "prevention and enforcement" are key in dealing with the haze.
He added that the scale of the disaster required a systemic, deliberate and multi-prong response to be effective, and noted that there is no shortage of expertise, both regional and international, to deal with such fires, if requested.
Dr Ng went on to highlight how the haze has impacted the lives of millions in the region: "Schools have closed and the volume of business has dropped. Tourist arrivals will plummet if this becomes a chronic issue."
"But to me, the strongest motivation to deal with the haze for Indonesia must be a moral one – the health of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens are affected by this man-made disaster as they breathe in high levels of pollutants," Dr Ng wrote.
"These are strong reasons to act decisively."
The team was welcomed home at Paya Lebar Air Base by their loved ones as well as Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim, Chief of Air Force Hoo Cher Mou and senior SAF officers.
The six SCDF Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team officers deployed for the mission were received by SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap.
Team Leader Ahmad Faizal said: "We have done our best and hope that our collective efforts, including those from Indonesia and other countries, would improve the haze situation there for the locals and for us in Singapore."