ASEAN ministers vow to fight transboundary haze

|     James Kon     |

ASEAN member countries of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have pledged to remain vigilant and step up preventive efforts to minimise any possible occurrence of transboundary smoke haze during periods of dry weather.

In a joint statement issued after the 20th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution (20th MSC) held on June 1 in Bangkok, ASEAN ministers underscored the importance of combating transboundary haze.

The meeting was attended by ministers/representatives responsible for the environment, for land, forest fires and haze from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand as well as the Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi.

The 20th Meeting of the Technical Working Group on Transboundary Haze Pollution (20th TWG) preceded the MSC.

Brunei Darussalam was represented by Minister of Development Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar along with Acting Permanent Secretary (Administration and Finance) at the Ministry of Development Dr Nor Imtihan binti Haji Abdul Razak and officials from the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation.

The ministers noted the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC’s) weather outlook that the dry season in the southern ASEAN region was expected between June and October 2018 during which neither El-Niño nor La-Niña condition was forecast. During the season, occasional dry periods could result in an increase in the risk of hotspot activities in the region.

The ministers noted ASMC’s continual efforts in improving its monitoring and early warning of transboundary haze and appreciated its new five-year Regional Capability Building Programme that will benefit the ASEAN member states through the sharing of technical knowledge and skills in haze monitoring and weather and climate prediction.

Minister of Development Dato Seri Paduka Awang Haji Suhaimi bin Haji Gafar in a group photo with ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand as well as the Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi. – JAMES KON

In the joint statement, the ministers also noted with appreciation various initiatives and actions by MSC countries to address the transboundary haze pollution in the region. The MSC countries reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance such as deployment of technical resources for firefighting assistance on emergency response situation, if requested, and to collaborate among MSC countries with enhanced cooperation and coordination to mitigate land and forest fires, when necessary.

The ministers recalled the commitment and guidance of the ASEAN leaders at the 31st ASEAN Summit held on November 13, 2017 in Manila and the 32nd ASEAN Summit held on April 28, 2018 in Singapore, towards regional cooperation on transboundary haze pollution control.

The ministers also reiterated their commitment to fully and effectively implement the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) and the Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control (THPC) with Means of Implementation (the roadmap) to achieve a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

They welcomed the progress towards the finalisation and operationalisation of the Establishment Agreement and Host Country Agreement of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre (ACC) for THPC in Indonesia.

The ministers also welcomed the progress on the implementation of the roadmap and looked forward to the mid-term review of its effectiveness as well as to sustain momentum in ensuring demonstrable improvements so as to achieve the vision of creating a haze-free ASEAN by 2020.

The ministers noted the discussion and substantial progress on the implementation of the strategic review of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee programmes and activities which include enhancing haze control management through early warning/monitoring and fire prevention and suppression, refinement of the Fire Danger Rating System (FDRS), revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for monitoring, assessment and joint emergency response under the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

The statement recalled that the ministers at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (COP-13) held on September 12-13, 2017 in Brunei Darussalam had welcomed the endorsement of the modality for sharing hotspot information among MSC countries as recommended by the Seventh Meeting of the MSC Technical Task Force (7th MTTF). The ministers noted that the information sharing mechanism has been operationalised during the dry season in southern ASEAN.

The ministers noted the significant progress of the implementation of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS 2006-2020) through the ASEAN Programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems (APSMPE 2014-2020) and expressed appreciation for the support from ASEAN dialogue and development partners.

The ministers recalled the Financing Agreement for the ASEAN-EU Programme on Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) which was signed on December 27, 2016 with an indicative budget of EUR24.5 million for the duration of 60 months and looked forward to the programme implementation in 2018.

They also looked forward to the finalisation and signing of Large Grant Agreement of the Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA), a programme supported by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), amounting USD3.5 million for duration of 60 months.

The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate the implementation of programmes/projects under APSMPE (2014-2020) through ASEAN mechanisms, enhanced national level efforts and multi-stakeholder partnership. They also supported the second review of APMS to be undertaken by the ASEAN Task Force on Peatlands.

The ministers expressed their appreciation to the Royal Thai Government for hosting the 20th MSC Meeting, the excellent arrangements made and the generous hospitality provided.

The 21st MSC Meeting will be held in Brunei Darussalam in 2019.