Regional environment ministers will meet in Singapore next month to discuss the haze problem.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim on Tuesday said international media scrutiny of the haze situation in Singapore would be inevitable during this month’s F1 race and the November Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meetings.
He said Singapore has offered to help Indonesia combat its forest fires if the country needs assistance.
Southeast Asia is bracing itself for stronger El Nino conditions in the next few months. Dr Yaacob said this could worsen the dry conditions in the region and result in increased hotspots. That is why the regional ministerial meeting on transboundary haze has been brought forward to October 28.
One issue that remains unresolved is that both Indonesia and Philippines have yet to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution which was signed in 2002.
Dr Yaacob said: “Even though Indonesia has not ratified, we have moved forward because we realise that we have other challenges which cannot wait. When the haze outbreak in 2006 came about, we felt it was important for the five ASEAN countries to come together and deal with it collectively.
“Thus far, Singapore and Malaysia have made progress by collaborating with some of the local provinces. We acknowledge that Indonesia has been trying to implement measures to bring down the hotspots.
“As to whether or not their plan of action is on target will be up to Indonesia to review, but we believe that the Indonesian government remains sincere in combating haze, as it affects the health and quality of living of their citizens as well.
“Where the region lacks the expertise and resources, we should invite international participation to enhance our efforts. It will take strong political resolve by Indonesia to enforce their laws to prevent forest fires, support and cooperation within ASEAN, as well as resources from the international community, to successfully battle the transboundary haze problem.”
Dr Yaacob stressed that Singapore is prepared to help Indonesia combat the haze problem by sharing best practices.
The 24-hour reading of the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), taken at 4pm on Tuesday, was at 55 – the highest so far this month and puts Singapore’s air quality in the moderate range.