Ministry seeking passage Of ASEAN haze agreement

Ministry seeking passage Of ASEAN haze agreement

23 January 2011

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Indonesia — Arief Yuwono, the deputy minister for environmental damage control, said on Friday that his ministry would try once again to get the House of Representatives to ratify the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which has already been signed by the other nine ASEAN nations.

“We’re preparing steps to ratify the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze,” he said.

“It’s already been rejected once, but we’re trying to propose it again because we stand to benefit a lot from this agreement.”

The agreement was drawn up by the regional group in 2002 in response to the pollution caused by forest fires used to clear land in Sumatra and surrounding areas.

The pollution created a heavy haze that affected other countries in the region.

The worst of the haze came in the late ’90s. Thick smog drifted as far as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, costing an estimated $9 billion in losses to tourism, transportation and farming.

Indonesia is the only ASEAN nation that has not yet ratified the pact, with the House stating in 2008 that it threatened the country’s sovereignty.

But Arief said signing the agreement would bring benefits, such as allowing Indonesia to seek support from its neighbors in preventing forest fires.

“It’s also in our national interest, not just theirs, to tackle forest fires, because we’re affected by the haze too,” Arief said.

“It impacts our ability to meet our 26 percent emissions reduction target, and if forest fires get worse, we’ll need to make extra efforts to achieve our targets.”

Satya Widya Yudha, a House legislator with the Golkar Party, agreed there were benefits and said he was in favor of ratifying the agreement, but on the condition that Indonesia had full control in handling its pollution.

“The House rejected ratification last time because we feared other countries interfering in our domestic issues. At that time we were also questioning Singapore’s dumping of its waste in our territory,” he said.

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