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Jakarta Post

RI refuses Singapore'€™s help in forest fires

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, September 12, 2015   /  04:18 pm

Indonesia has declined Singapore'€™s offer to assist the Indonesian government in fighting forest fires as Singapore and parts of Malaysia continued to be blanketed by clouds of smoke originating from the island of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

While Indonesia greatly appreciates the offer, the government is well-equipped to handle the current situation, according to Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

'€œRight now there are already 17 aircraft ready for water bombing and cloud seeding and we will also deploy an additional three planes,'€ she told The Jakarta Post on Friday, adding that the aircraft have been stationed in five provinces affected by forest fires.

Singapore again extended the assistance package it has been offering the Indonesian government since 2005. Singapore Environment and Water Resources minister Vivian Balakrishnan conveyed Singapore'€™s concern at the deteriorating situation to Siti, according to a press statement by the
Singapore National Environment Agency.

Siti denied talking to Vivian on Thursday.

The package Singapore offered comprised one C-130 aircraft for cloud seeding operations, up to two C-130 aircraft to ferry a fire-fighting assistance team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), a team from SCDF to provide assessment and planning assistance to their Indonesian counterparts in their firefighting efforts, high resolution satellite pictures and hot spot coordinates and one Chinook helicopter with one SCDF water bucket for aerial firefighting.

'€œAccording to available information, Singapore will send one or two aircraft with the water bombing capacity of around 5,000 liters. What we use [at the moment] already have capacities of between 3,000 and 5,000 liters, plus
we rent Air Tractors from Australia. So I think [the assistance from Singapore] is not yet needed because our fleet is already numerous. But we thank them for the offer,'€ Siti said.

Vivian also called for urgent action to be undertaken, including stricter enforcement against the perpetrators and the identification of those responsible for the haze in order to facilitate appropriate action.

Singapore has repeatedly urged Indonesia to publicly share maps on agricultural concessions owned by oil palm, timber and other commodity companies, which are often blamed for starting the fires, particularly in neighboring Sumatra.

Doing so will send an unequivocal signal that ASEAN countries are prepared to be transparent and hold individual companies accountable for their actions, according to Singapore.

The Indonesian government, however, has refused to comply, with Siti saying that Indonesian laws prevent the government from sharing concession maps.

During a meeting in Jakarta in late July, environment ministers from five ASEAN nations, including Indonesia, agreed to sharing information on a government-to-government basis that would help identify plantation companies on whose land fires start and cause haze.

The director general of climate change at the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry, Nur Masripatin, told the Straits Times, however, that Indonesia could not disclose any plantation concession information, even on a government-to-government basis.

'€œDisclosing whose concession a certain hot spot is in would amount to disclosing a concession map,'€ said Masripatin, who is in charge of overseeing efforts to contain forest and land fires and who reports to Siti. '€œThat is classified information. The government cannot do that.'€

Singapore and Malaysia recorded alarming levels of air pollution on Thursday as the Indonesian government has yet to quell forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

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