RI missing out on ASEAN haze agreement: Activist Source: The Jakarta Post, December 03, 2003
By Urip Hudiono
Indonesia will likely miss out on the benefits of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, and, more importantly, lose the opportunityto show diplomatic goodwill, by delaying its ratification of the accord. It is a pity that Indonesia cannot benefit from the agreement, such as theease in receiving help from other countries in combating future forest fires,” said Sukanda Husein, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Centerfor Environmental Law (ICEL).
The agreement contains provisions on monitoring, assessment and prevention, technical cooperation and scientific research, mechanisms for coordination,lines of communication, information exchange, simplified customs and immigration procedures for emergency response and disaster relief, and theestablishment of an ASEAN Coordinating Center for activities under the accord. The agreement came into effect on Nov. 25, 60 days after Thailand’s ratification of the agreement. Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore andVietnam had already ratified the accord, which required ratification by six countries to come into force. Indonesia, where forest fires have become common, has not ratified the agreement. Sukanda said Indonesia’s failure to sign the accord could be asource of disappointment for neighboring countries. “The agreement can be seen as a diplomatic courtesy from Indonesia’s neighboring countries,rather than suing Indonesia for haze pollution,” said Sukanda. Similar sentiments were expressed by Trismardiyati, the head of ratification of international agreements at the Office of the StateMinister for the Environment. “There is the possibility Indonesia will be brought to the international court if haze originating from Indonesiahappens again,” said Trismardiyati, adding that Indonesia would technically have no say in decisions made by signatories of the agreement. Sukanda suspects vested interests in the forestry industry or a reluctance on the part of the government to compromise national sovereignty werebehind the government’s failure to ratify the haze agreement. The deputy chief of the environmental subcommission at the House of Representatives, K. Tunggul Sirait, said the government was probably notprepared to implement the agreement. Liana Bratasida, deputy for environmental conservation at the Office of the State Minister for the Environment, however, said his office had completedthe preliminary procedures for ratification and had submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Secretariat. “Unfortunately,the procedures are quite complex and it seems that the State Secretariat is still considering the matter,” said Liana, adding that Indonesia’sneighbors were continuing to cooperate with Indonesia in handling forest fires. Liana represented Indonesia in initialing the haze agreement on June10, 2002, in Kuala Lumpur, during the World Conference and Exhibition on Land and Forest Fire Hazards.