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Singapore sends notices to four Indonesian companies over haze

The Singapore government has written to four Indonesian companies for contributing to haze pollution under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, it said on Friday.

The Singapore government has written to four Indonesian companies for contributing to haze pollution under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, it said on Friday.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is closely monitoring hotspots and smoke plumes from fires in the region, drawing on information from sources such as maps, meteorological data and satellite imagery.

From investigations so far, there are indications that the haze may have been contributed by fires in lands held via concessions under four Indonesian companies: PT Rimba Hutani Mas; PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries; PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa; and PT Wachyuni Mandira.

NEA has sent Preventive Measure Notices to these four companies, requesting them to deploy fire-fighting personnel to extinguish the fire on land owned or occupied by them; discontinue any burning activities; and inform NEA of any plan of action to prevent its recurrence.

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In addition, NEA has served Asia Pulp & Paper Company in Singapore (APP) a notice, seeking information from APP on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

NEA has further written to its Indonesian counterpart on Thursday with coordinates of hotspots detected over Sumatra with the request that they assist to analyse the coordinates and share the names of the companies that hold the concessions for these areas, including the names of the office bearers of these companies.

The information will help NEA's investigations, and the agency will share more information when ready, it said.

At a briefing, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan told media that Indonesia has taken some positive measures. For instance, Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry has apparently revoked the licence of one company and suspended operations of three companies that operate palm oil plantations in Sumatra. Seven corporate executives were said to also have been arrested over illegal forest fires, one of whom was apparently from Bumi Mekar Hijau, a unit of APP.

But clearly much more needs to be done, Dr Balakrishnan said.

The Singapore government is now examining how to apply more economic pressure against errant companies.

The results of NEA's investigations will be shared with the public, particularly because the Act makes errant companies liable for civil claims.

The government will also review its procurement to see how it can weed out errant companies, and it will do more to promote green procurement.

For example, the government will look into how it can support companies which are recognised by their industry or by international bodies to have instituted sustainable practices.

"As far as possible, this would take into account the practices of their suppliers further down the supply chain to ensure that they meet social and environmental standards," NEA said.

"This will lead to the expectation for companies to be transparent about their supply chains, particularly those involved in the palm oil and forestry sectors."

As Dr Balakrishnan said: "Ultimately, errant companies must know that there is a price to be paid for damaging our health, environment and economy."