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  Yahoo News 11 Nov 06
SE Asia nations pledge to support fund against haze
By Manny Mogato

Straits Times 12 Nov 06
S'pore among first to give to haze fund
By Alastair McIndoe, Philippines Correspondent Cebu

Channel NewsAsia 11 Nov 06
ASEAN begins voluntary contribution towards fund to fight haze
By Channel NewsAsia's Philippine Correspondent, Sujadi Siswo

CEBU, Philippines: ASEAN's efforts to involve other countries in tackling the regionís haze problem have received an early boost. China, Japan and South Korea will join next month's planned conference on fighting forest fires and haze pollution in the region.

As ministers from ten countries wrapped up an environment conference in the Philippines on Saturday, three ASEAN members have already put forward funding for a haze reduction programme.

A wide range of environmental issues were discussed by representatives from the 10 ASEAN countries during their two-day meeting in the resort island of Cebu in the Philippines.

Dialogue partners - China, Japan and South Korea - joined the grouping on the final day, to explore various areas of co-operation. Among these areas are sustainable development projects and environmental law enforcements.

But the haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia, dominated the proceedings.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the haze this year, announced they were contributing US$50,000 each towards the proposed Haze Fund. Brunei and Thailand have also expressed interest in contributing.

No target amount has been set for the voluntary fund, but observers say it is unlikely to reach US$60 million, which is the amount that Jakarta says is needed to fight the annual forest fires.

The trans-boundary haze pollution problem that has plagued parts of the region annually certainly has caught the attention of the rest of the ASEAN countries in this 2-day meeting.

The region's efforts to garner international support and assistance also got a boost when its three dialogue partners indicated that they will participate in the international conference on forest fires and haze pollution in Indonesia next month.

Dr Amy Khor, Head of the Singapore Delegation, says: "I think they have the expertise, knowledge and resources to share with us in different areas. They are also looking into how they can help us tackle this haze problem."

The conference will feature global environment experts and institutions.

Apart from providing direct assistance to Indonesia's farming communities, ASEAN members are hopeful that contributions from funding institutions will help alleviate the problems caused by Indonesia's forest fires.

This is all part of the Regional Action Plan endorsed by the group with the hope of overcoming the haze problem. - CNA/so

Straits Times 12 Nov 06
S'pore among first to give to haze fund
By Alastair McIndoe, Philippines Correspondent Cebu

THE five Asean countries most affected by choking smoke haze from Indonesian forest fires, including Singapore, agreed yesterday to contribute to a fund to seek solutions to the problem.

The Asean Haze Fund received an early boost when Singapore and Indonesia pledged to contribute US$50,000 (S$78,000) each. The pledges were made as ministers wrapped up a three-day meeting held to discuss environmental issues, which were dominated by the haze.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, said the pledges show 'a commitment to kick-start the fund', adding that it will need to be capitalised with a 'significant' amount.

Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand signed the agreement but said their contributions to the fund were subject to approval back home. Other Asean countries will contribute according to their capabilities, Philippine Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes said.

'This is an attempt to jump-start the entire thing, and hopefully international cooperation and support would be forthcoming,' he said.

Indonesia's Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said his country will need around US$60 million every year for firefighting and prevention. That amount would include the cost of infrastructure projects to irrigate highly combustible dry peatlands, a major cause of Indonesia's fires.

At the end of the meeting, Singapore also announced it would team up with a province in Sumatra to fight haze-producing fires there.

The move followed an agreement by Asean environment ministers on Thursday with Jakarta's proposal 'to adopt one or more fire-prone districts/regencies for enhancing capacity to deal with land and forest fires'.

Jambi province is on the east coast of central Sumatra and it has an area more than 70 times the size of Singapore.

A National Environment Agency spokesman said the main thrust of Singapore's involvement in Jambi will be in fire prevention. It will work with small farmers to clear land by using alternative methods to burning, and by developing early-warning systems on outbreaks, he said.

The NEA said Jambi was chosen because it is near Singapore.

Other countries directly affected by the cross-border air pollution are also expected to work with blaze-prone areas in Indonesia.

Indonesia plans to hold a conference next month to bring the international donor community on board to strengthen Asean's anti-haze measures.

The haze is seen as a global problem, not just a regional one, because of the massive emissions of greenhouse gases. Whether Asean's dialogue partners - China, Japan and South Korea - will play a role in a wider regional effort to tackle the haze remains to be seen.

Environment ministers from those three economic powerhouses met their Asean counterparts yesterday to discuss regional cooperation on a range of green issues.

A senior member of Asean's Secretariat said: 'We expect the 'plus three' will consider supporting this issue.' amcindoe@yahoo.com

Yahoo News 11 Nov 06
SE Asia nations pledge to support fund against haze
By Manny Mogato

MACTAN ISLAND, Philippines (Reuters) - Southeast Asian nations pledged on Saturday to contribute to a regional fund to help fight forest fires in Indonesia that have spread smoke across the region, environment officials said.

The 10 ministers from Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), meeting on a resort island in the central Philippines, ended two days of talks on environment issues, focusing on how to prevent land and forest fires in the region.

"We were committed to continue assisting member countries affected by the recurring smoke problem," said Angelo Reyes, Manila's environment secretary, after Singapore and Indonesia committed an initial $50,000 each to jumpstart the fund.

Reyes said further discussions on the mechanism and modalities of the haze fund would be taken up by ASEAN leaders due to meet next month on Mactan island.

Indonesia's neighbors have grown increasingly frustrated by the fires, most of which are deliberately lit by farmers or by timber and palm oil plantation companies -- some owned by Singaporeans and Malaysians -- to clear land for cultivation.

The smoke from the fires, known in the region as haze, affected much of Southeast Asia for months until rains a few weeks ago, triggering fears of a repeat of the choking smog that hit the region in 1997-98.

Indonesia's environment minister Rachmat Witoelar has told reporters about 90 percent of land and forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo islands had been extinguished, but was worried that these could flare up in early 2007 should El Nino conditions intensify.

"We're watching closely potential spontaneous burnings in the uninhabited areas," Witoelar said, adding the two Russian planes used in dousing fires would continue flying until February 2007 to make sure there were no more burning lands.

Southeast Asian environment ministers also called on Indonesia and the Philippines to ratify a 2002 agreement on ways to prevent the haze.

They also endorsed Jakarta's plans to set up an early warning system, build dams to block streams and rivers to divert water to underground peatlands and set up community-based firefighting brigades on Indonesia's Sumatra and Borneo islands, where most fires have raged.

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