The Meeting was attended by H.E. Pengiran Indera Wijaya Pengiran Dr.Haji Ismail bin Pengiran Haji Damit, Minister of Development Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Dr. Panangian Siregar, State Minister for the Environment, Indonesia; H.E. Datuk Law Hieng Ding, Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, Malaysia; H.E. Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Health, Singapore, H.E. Dr. Ammone Singhavong, Ambassador of Lao People's Democratic Republic to Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. U Than Tun, Ambassador of Myanmar to Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. Thinakorn Kanasuta, Ambassador of Thailand to Brunei Darussalam; Dr. Truong Manh Tien, Deputy Director General of National Environment Agency, Vietnam; and Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, Deputy General of ASEAN and their respective delegations.
The Meeting was chaired by H.E. Pengiran Indera Wijaya Pengiran Dr. Haji Ismail bin Pengiran Haji Damit, Minister of Development, Brunei Darussalam.
The Ministers noted that a few hotspots were detected by satellite imagery since the 12th of April in the central part of Sumatra. The change in the wind direction has brought the smoke to Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. This has resulted in a rapid rise in Pollutant Standard index (PSI). Noting also that the dry season will be coming soon in parts of the region, the Ministers reiterated the importance to remain vigilant and to take immediate and firm actions in accelerating the implementation and operation of the Regional Haze Action Plan (RHAP), and agreed to intensify their efforts in addressing the incidents of localised land and forest fires which could occur during the coming drier months.
To address these issues, the Ministers agreed to take immediate actions to address the hot spots to prevent them from spreading through mobilising the fire fighting ream in these areas. The Ministers endorsed the immediate implementation of a prototype Detailed Implementation Plan in Sumatra and Borneo as a test case for the operationalisation of zero-burning policy. The Ministers also discussed the preparations to prevent the possible impacts of the forthcoming dry season.
The Ministers agreed to adopt the policy on zero-burning, and to promote this policy among plantation owners and timber concessionaires, particularly in the four countries namely Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore which were most affected during the fire and haze episodes in 1997 and 1998. In this regard, the Ministers agreed to use presumptive clause in the law and regulation against open burning. The Ministers also committed themselves to strict enforcement of zero-burning regulations and agreed to use the current burning activities in Central Sumatra to show that definite concrete action is taken on the ground to stop the fires.
The Ministers expressed high appreciation for the understanding and support from the international community in collaboration with ASEAN in addressing transboundary haze problem. Given the constraint on budget condition in the region because of the financial crisis, these assistance are particularly timely and important. In view of the increase in the potential intensity of the forest fire in the coming dry season and the predicted El Nino which will aggravate the climate condition in the region toward the end of the year 2000, the Meeting requested the donor community to participate closely in the implementation of the RHAP.
The Ministers noted that the ADB-funded RETA Project which has assisted the HTTF in implementing the RHAP, is nearing completion. The Meeting therefore endorsed the early establishment of the Coordination and Support Unit (CSU) within the ASEAN Secretariat to take over the core functions of the RETA once the latter phases out.
The Ministers launched the ASEAN Haze Action Online, which is the Internet-based Website developed through the RETA project. The Website provides the public with access to various fire-and-haze information from the region and the world. The Website address is http://www.haze-online.or.id.
As parts of the region are entering a dry season soon and since the fires have recently been detected again, the Ministers urged the Haze Technical Task Force to redouble its efforts in addressing the fire and haze problem.