Media Release: 14th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution

31 October 2012
Bali, Indonesia

1. Ministers responsible for the environment from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and the Vice-Minister of Natural Resources and Environment from Thailand met at the Fourteenth Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution on 31 October 2012 in Bali, Indonesia.

2. The Ministers noted the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC’s) weather outlook of increased shower activities with the end of the traditional dry season in the southern ASEAN region in mid-October 2012. With the onset of the traditional rainy season around late November/early December 2012, the expected increase in rainfall in the region will generally subdue hotspot activities. Nonetheless, the MSC countries agreed to maintain vigilance and to continue the sub-region’s strong commitment and steady progress to tackle land and forest fires, and minimise the spread of transboundary smoke haze.

3. The Ministers acknowledged the availability of technologies that would enable MSC member states to enhance hotspot monitoring including the critical role of digital geo-referenced concession maps in efforts to hold plantation companies and land owners responsible. The Ministers also agreed to explore the sharing of such maps by MSC member states. The Ministers acknowledged that greater transparency is required to make plantation companies and land owners responsible for the haze, more accountable, and employing best management practices in land clearing activities as well as to undertake concerted effort in fire suppression. The Ministers agreed that MSC member states undertake more deterrent and effective enforcement measures against offenders. The Ministers agreed to the proposal for the formation of an MSC Technical Task Force (MTTF) to develop a fire monitoring platform at the MSC level.

4. The Ministers expressed appreciation on the substantive efforts by Indonesia in implementing its Plan of Action (PoA) in Dealing with Transboundary Haze Pollution especially the integrated efforts in the pilot districts in Riau and West Kalimantan. Other preventive and preparedness measures undertaken by Indonesia included campaign of zero burning technique, the increase of Manggala Agni operation areas from 30 to 33, revitalizing of Manggala Agni equipment, strengthening of Manggala Agni Operation procedure, and the mobilization of 144 Manggala Agni units in 10 provinces. A budget of up to IDR 127 billion has also been proposed by the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia to be allocated for addressing land and forest fire issue at all levels, which shows Indonesia’s commitment to seriously tackle the fire and haze problems.

5. The Ministers appreciated the priority that Indonesia has placed on ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.

6. The Ministers provided guidance on the implementation of the Strategic Review of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) Programmes and Activities, which covers enhancing haze control management through early warning/monitoring, fire prevention and fire suppression, including refinement of the Fire Danger Rating System; enhancing bilateral collaboration and replication of bilateral projects, where appropriate; conducting training courses offered by member states under the Regional Haze Training Network, and organising of the MSC Forum.

7. The Ministers noted the successful completion of the bilateral collaboration with Indonesia in Riau and Jambi Provinces. Malaysia and Singapore expressed interest to continue such collaboration in other fire prone areas when Indonesia is ready.

8. The Ministers noted outcomes of the 2nd MSC Forum held on 8-9 May 2012 in Brunei Darussalam. The Ministers noted that the Forum brought together over 50 participants representing local governments, regional and international NGOs, academia, financial institutions, businesses and consulting firms. The Ministers further noted that a key outcome of the Forum was the recognition that plantation companies had a key role to play in achieving the vision of a haze-free ASEAN.

9. The Ministers noted the progress of implementation of the project on Rehabilitation and Sustainable Use of Peatland Forests in Southeast Asia (funded by Global Environment Facility) and the SEApeat Project (funded by European Union), including the various activities conducted at the pilot sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam. The Ministers encouraged international and regional collaborative partnerships to support this Project as it seeks to address climate change and biodiversity loss through mitigation of land and forest fires.

10. The Ministers expressed appreciation to Singapore for chairing the MSC for the period 2011-2012 and agreed for Thailand to chair the MSC in 2013.

11. The Ministers expressed their appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for organising the 14th MSC Meeting and the excellent arrangements made and hospitality provided.

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