Asean sets up anti-haze fund

Asean sets up anti-haze fund

12 November 2006

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Enviroment ministers from the member-countries ofthe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agreed to set up a haze fundand to work together in enforcing environmental laws in the region.

The establishment of the fund shows “our strong commitment” to combat thehaze, which has been plaguing the region since the 1990s, Dr. Amy Khor Lean Suan,Singapore’s deputy minister for environment, announced at the close of atwo-day meeting in Cebu.

The fund will be used to fight forest fires in Indonesia and the choking hazethey produce.

Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand kick-started theestablishment of the haze fund with Indonesia and Singapore committing aninitial US$50,000 each, said Dr. Soeung

Rachtchavy, deputy secretary general of the Asean secretariat.

Other Asean countries will contribute depending on necessity and the individualcountry’s capability, Philippine Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes said.

During the 10th Asean Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in Mactan lastFriday and yesterday, environment ministers also passed the Cebu Resolution onSustainable Development stating, among others, their commitment to furtherenhance environmental cooperation.

They also launched the 3rd Asean State of the Environment Report 2006, whichhighlights the environmental conditions of the region, the challenges that it isfacing and the actions being taken to address them.

Aside from the 10 member-countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar,Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines), theenvironment ministers of Japan, China and South Korea also joined the 5th Asean+ 3 Environment Ministers’ Summit yesterday.

The meeting focused on the various areas for collaboration between the Aseanmember-countries and the three dialogue partner-countries: environmentaleducation, environmentally-sound technologies, urban environmental managementand awareness, climate change issues, biodiversity management and integratedwater resources management.

Secretary Reyes, also the chairman of the Asean environment ministers, said thecommon agreement to address environmental issues between Asean and Japan, Chinaand South Korea is a good start, considering that together they make upone-third of the world’s population and one-tenth of the world’s land area.

Due to the recent haze that affected half of Southeast Asia, trans-boundary hazepollution was thoroughly discussed during the ministers’ meeting.

Haze—a mix of dust, smoke and other pollutants—is caused by land and forestfires in Indonesia, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and blows towardsneighboring countries.

Last month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized for thehaze and his spokesman said his country was prepared to sign on to the Aseanagreement, but did not provide a timeframe.

Suan, environment minister of Singapore and vice chairman of the Aseanenvironment ministers, clarified that their commitment to the haze fund is stillsubject for approval by their respective heads of state.

Rachtchavy also said they have not discussed in detail how the haze fund will beestablished—whether it will be in a form of an endowment fund—and how itwill be used.

These are matters that will be discussed by senior officials, Rachtchavy said.

A sub-regional ministerial steering committee made up of ministers from the fiveaffected countries was created to oversee the implementation of concrete actionsto address land and forest fires that result in trans-boundary haze pollution.

Reyes said that during their meeting, the Philippines introduced the idea ofsetting up a network among Asean member-countries for a more effectiveimplementation of environmental laws, particularly in illegal trade of wildlife,both in the national and regional level.

But Reyes clarified that they do not envision the establishment of a SoutheastAsian regional environmental force.

They merely want Asean to establish a system of collaboration andcapacity-building, as well as exchange of technology, experts, training,information and data.

While this initiative was accepted by the other Asean member-countries, Reyessaid they still have to create a working group for this.

The environment ministers also expressed their support and commitment to therecently established Asean Centre for Biodiversity.

Reyes said the Philippines and some countries in Southeast Asia are among themost mega-diverse countries in the world.

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