Three Indonesian firms with presence in S'pore linked to forest fires causing haze

One has ties to company based in Republic, the other two are pulp giants with offices here

Left: A fire burning in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on Monday. An online report at the weekend said fires had been detected in concessions belonging to pulp giants Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings and Asia Pulp and Paper. The th
A fire burning in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on Monday. An online report at the weekend said fires had been detected in concessions belonging to pulp giants Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings and Asia Pulp and Paper. The third firm with links to the haze is Hutan Ketapang Industri. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Left: A fire burning in Palangkaraya, in Central Kalimantan, on Monday. An online report at the weekend said fires had been detected in concessions belonging to pulp giants Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings and Asia Pulp and Paper. The th
An Indonesian firefighter battling a peatland forest fire in Ogan Ilir regency in South Sumatra on Monday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

As forest fires rage on in Indonesia, a Singapore connection has surfaced.

Three Indonesian firms with ties to Singapore have been linked to the haze-belching fires.

One has links to Sampoerna Agri Resources, which is based here.

The other two - pulp giants Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (April) - have offices here.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it is monitoring the situation, although it has not taken action against any firm under Singapore's Transboundary Haze Pollution Act this year.

The Act targets those responsible for causing or condoning fires if burning results in unhealthy levels of haze in Singapore. Those guilty can be fined up to $100,000 a day, capped at a total of $2 million.

An NEA spokesman said: "NEA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates as appropriate if we commence investigations on any company under the Act."

After days of hazy conditions, rain could bring some relief.

The weatherman said yesterday that showers can be expected in Singapore and Sumatra - the Indonesian island where most of the smoke-belching fires are - over the next few days.

However, the hot spot activities in Sumatra are expected to persist, and Singapore may still experience occasional slightly hazy conditions over the next few days if the winds blow in haze from there.

On Sunday, Indonesian environmental news site foresthints.news published a report saying that fires have been detected in APP and April concessions.

Citing satellite data and information from the Indonesian government, the report said fires had been detected in APP concessions in Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia. In Sumatra's Jambi province, fires had been detected in Wira Karya Sakti (WKS), an APP concession. The report also said the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry had sealed off a concession in West Kalimantan.

An APP spokesman said there had been fires within 5km of its concession boundaries in WKS, although there was none now. "However, a large majority were within areas allocated to the community."

All APP suppliers must strictly adhere to the company's no-burning policy and fire policies, he stressed.

"Should a supplier be found not adhering to this, it will be suspended pending an investigation. If there is sufficient evidence of this practice, the supplier will be terminated immediately."

The foresthints.news report also said one of the April-owned concessions, as well as that of one of its key suppliers in Sumatra's Riau province, had also been sealed off by the Indonesian government last month because of fires.

 
 
 
 

In response, April said it reports all fires on its concessions and continues to work with local police in reporting and investigating every fire incident.

"This includes supporting investigations carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry," said a spokesman, adding that work is done to protect burned areas in the concession from further damage after police investigations.

The third firm with links to the haze is Hutan Ketapang Industri.

Earlier this month, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar named Hutan Ketapang Industri as one firm whose plantation was sealed off by the Indonesian government after fires were detected.

Hutan Ketapang Industri - a West Kalimantan province-based rubber plantation firm - is linked indirectly to Sampoerna Agri Resources. The plantation firm is a subsidiary of another Indonesian firm, Sungai Menang, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indonesia's Sampoerna Agro.

Sampoerna Agri Resources owns two-thirds of Sampoerna Agro.

When The Straits Times visited its Haw Par Centre office yesterday, there were only three people around. One employee said the company is different from its parent company in that it is an investment holding company that is not involved in agriculture. The firm did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2019, with the headline 'Three Indonesian firms with presence in S'pore linked to forest fires'. Subscribe