Singapore willing to work with Indonesia, Malaysia to tackle causes of haze

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong grants an interview session with Singaporean reporters on Oct 8, 2013, before he makes his way for the Asean Summit in Brunei. Mr Lee on Oct 9 says Singapore is willing to work with Malaysia and Indonesia on implem
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong grants an interview session with Singaporean reporters on Oct 8, 2013, before he makes his way for the Asean Summit in Brunei. Mr Lee on Oct 9 says Singapore is willing to work with Malaysia and Indonesia on implementing the joint haze monitoring system and to take the countries' collaboration beyond it, to tackle the haze issue at its root. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG  

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore is willing to work with Malaysia and Indonesia on implementing the joint haze monitoring system (HMS) and to take the countries' collaboration beyond it, to tackle the haze issue at its root.

In a brief but cordial meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the sidelines of the Asean Summit on Wednesday, Mr Lee extended an offer from Singapore to "take it beyond this monitoring scheme" in projects to encourage farmers to work in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way, as Singapore had done in Indonesia's Jambi province in the past.

The republic is willing to go beyond Jambi to other provinces and "also work maybe on a trilateral basis to encourage sustainable practices and minimise this problem over time", he told reporters after the meeting.

The haze, which hit record highs in Singapore and Malaysia in June, is largely caused by illegal slash-and-burn practices which are seen as the cheapest and fastest way to clear land.

"I think they generally agreed with me so I hope that we will be able to make some progress there," said Mr Lee of his talk with the two leaders. He also thanked them for their cooperation on the HMS project, which was formally adopted by the 10 Asean leaders at the summit in Brunei on Wednesday morning.

Singapore is willing to work with both countries to implement the $100,000 monitoring system it developed, which uses high-resolution satellite images together with land use and concession maps to pinpoint errant companies and individuals who burn land.

Wednesday's meeting among the three leaders comes after meetings among the three countries' foreign ministers and senior officials over the past few months, a trilateral process first mooted by the foreign ministers earlier this year to tackle the haze.

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