Monday, 26 October 2015

Haze: Offer of 1 aircraft "Insulting"

INDON MINISTER: SPORE'S OFFER OF ONLY 1 PLANE TO FIGHT FIRES IS INSULTING

In an interview with Tempo magazine, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that Singapore’s offer of only "one aircraft" to fight the raging forest fires was "insulting" to Indonesia. He also defended Indonesia's lack of enthusiasm in putting out the fires and for its delay in accepting external help.

Luhut explained:
“During the dry season, peatlands tend to be very flammable. When we bombard the land with water to put out the flames, they just come out again. So I get a headache when people get upset. What are we supposed to do? Then someone asks why we didn’t accept the assistance offered earlier. There are many reasons for that. Firstly, we wanted to try and do it on our own. Secondly, we didn’t realise the process would be so long. Thirdly, Singapore offered only one aircraft. It was insulting.”
Mr Luhut's statements were in contradiction to that of Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono who revealed in an interview with CNN Indonesia (7 October 2015) that Indonesia had rejected's Singapore's offers of assistance because it was worried that Singapore would claim credit for solving the forest fires and haze problems.

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How much do you want?

Singapore team deployed to fight forest fires in Indonesia returns
SAF, SCDF personnel deployed to fight forest fires in Indonesia return to Singapore on Oct 24, 2015. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

The Singapore team that went to help battle forest fires in Indonesia today (Oct 24) returned to Singapore after two weeks, having discharged more than 400,000 litres of water and doused more than 50 hotspots.

Two C-130s, carrying Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel and their equipment returned from Palembang, Indonesia at about 3.30pm. They were received at Paya Lebar Air Base by SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap, Chief of Defence Force Major-General (MG) Perry Lim as well as senior SAF officers including Chief of Air Force MG Hoo Cher Mou.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen expressed his “deepest thanks to our men and women who overcame difficult conditions on this mission to put out hotspots and help the surrounding villages”. In a Facebook post, Dr Ng noted that low visibility was one of the key challenges faced by the team as they conducted water bombing operations in Palembang.

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Singapore team returns from fighting haze-causing fires in Indonesia
Singapore team puts out haze-causing fires in Indonesia
SAF, SCDF teams return on Saturday after fighting haze-related fires in Indonesia
Singapore team returns from fighting haze-causing fires in Indonesia
SAF, SCDF teams return to Singapore on Saturday after fighting haze-related
Singapore troops return home after fighting haze-causing fires in Indonesia
Singapore team deployed to fight forest fires in Indonesia returns
Singapore team fighting forest fires in Indonesia returns

Singapore urges ASEAN to act on haze
The Singapore city skyline is seen shrouded in haze on October 9, 2015 as Indonesian forest fires send a choking smog across the region

Singapore on Sunday urged fellow ASEAN members to take "firm and decisive action" against the lethal haze still spreading across the region ahead of a group summit in Malaysia next month.

The city-state, one of the most badly affected by recurring smog from land fires in Indonesia, issued the call after Singaporean troops and firefighters returned from an international assistance mission in Indonesia's Sumatra island.

"ASEAN must take firm and decisive action, through enhanced regional cooperation, to help prevent the recurrence of this transboundary problem," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement.

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Indonesia Minister: Singapore’s initial offer of one aircraft to put out fire is insulting

In a media interview with the press yesterday (Oct 21), Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for politics, law and security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that Singapore’s initial offer of one aircraft to help put out forest fire in Sumatra was insulting, which is why Indonesia has earlier declined Singapore’s offer.

As of Oct 10, Singapore has revised its offer and sent two C-130 aircrafts transporting 40 personnels and equipment from both SCDF and RSAF, a Chinook helicopter and a 5,000-litre heli-bucket to Palembang, Indonesia Sumatra.

Minister Luhut then expressed his reluctance to declare the haze as a national disaster because taxpayers should not be paying the bills to put out the fire set by the very wealthy private companies and land owners.
“Should the government be dousing fires all the time? If we call it a national disaster, they will benefit from it. They have 500 million pounds sterling in London banks, but they demand that we douse the flames.”
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Indonesia Minister: Singapore’s Lone Aircraft Aid to Fight Forest Fires an Insult

Insulting – that’s what one of Indonesia’s ministers just described Singapore’s offer of “only one aircraft” to help fight the forest fires in the country which are giving rise to the haze in Southeast Asia.

Speaking to local magazine, Tempo, Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan also defended Indonesia’s effort to fight the forest fires.

When questioned as to why this year’s forest fires were worse the previous year, Mr Luhut said:
“During the dry season, peatlands tend to be very flammable. When we bombard the land with water to put out the flames, they just come out again. So I get a headache when people get upset. What are we supposed to do?”
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Singapore’s one-plane offer to help fight fires ‘insulting’
A fireman battles a peatland fire on a field in Simpang Pelabuhan Dalam, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Tuesday, July 28, 2015. Photo: AP

Singapore’s offer in September of only “one aircraft” to Indonesia to help fight forest fires that have caused thick haze to descend around the region was “insulting”, said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

Speaking in an interview last Friday (Oct 16) with the country’s Tempo magazine, Mr Luhut defended Indonesia’s perceived tardiness in putting out the fires and in accepting foreign aid.

“During the dry season, peatlands tend to be very flammable. When we bombard the land with water to put out the flames, they just come out again. So I get a headache when people get upset. What are we supposed to do?” he replied when asked why this year’s forest fires are worse than those of last year’s.

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Indonesian Minister Slams Singapore’s Offer Of One Plane To Help Fight Forest Fires
Indonesia criticises Singapore’s offer of helping with forest fires

Singapore’s offer of one aircraft to Indonesia has been branded as an insult by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law, and Security, Mr Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

The offer, intended to help Indonesia out in their combat against forest fires, has not gone down too well with the country.

According to Today Online, the Minister explained his reasons for delaying acceptance of Singapore’s help.

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Haze may last to 2016 as Indonesia fires rage on

FOREST fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, which are shrouding parts of South-east Asia in haze, are unlikely to disappear until next year despite international effort to put them out, experts said yesterday.

Meanwhile, hot spots had popped up in Indonesia's eastern Papua province, where widespread fires have been rare, Reuters reported.

Last week Indonesia received help from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia in containing the annual "haze" crisis, which is caused by illegal slash-and-burn practices involving plantation companies.

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Malaysia, Singapore water-bomb hot spots in Sumatra
The Singapore Armed Forces helping out in water-bombing efforts in Palembang on Oct 11, 2015. — TODAY pic

JAKARTA, Oct 12 — Aircraft from Singapore and Malaysia yesterday began water-bombing missions to put out the raging fires in South Sumatra that have caused weeks of unhealthy haze in neighbouring nations.

In all, seven helicopters and four fixed-wing aircraft are involved in the mission, Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) said in a statement today.

Singapore has sent a Republic of Singapore Air Force (SAF) Chinook helicopter with a 5,000-litre heli-bucket and 34 SAF personnel to help fight the ongoing forest fires, together with a six-man Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and a 5,000-litre heli-bucket. Two RSAF C-130 aircraft were also deployed to transport SAF and SCDF personnel, as well as their equipment, said Singapore’s Ministry of Defence.

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Singapore’s One-Plane Offer To Help Fight Fires ‘Insulting’

Singapore’s offer in September of only “one aircraft” to Indonesia to help fight forest fires that have caused thick haze to descend around the region was “insulting”, said Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.

Speaking in an interview last Friday (Oct 16) with the country’s Tempo magazine, Mr Luhut defended Indonesia’s perceived tardiness in putting out the fires and in accepting foreign aid.

“During the dry season, peatlands tend to be very flammable. When we bombard the land with water to put out the flames, they just come out again. So I get a headache when people get upset. What are we supposed to do?” he replied when asked why this year’s forest fires are worse than those of last year’s.

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Indonesia needs better aircraft for water-bombing operations
An Indonesian helicopter crew deployed for water bombing by the National Disaster Management Agency walking past their aircraft, which was grounded due to thick haze, in Palembang on Sept 30.PHOTO: AFP

Indonesia said it needs aircraft capable of hauling more water and flying farther, to put out forest fires which cause the haze that has been spreading throughout the region.

The country's disaster management agency, BNPB, yesterday said it is open to assistance from neighbours Singapore and Malaysia in acquiring larger water-bombers such as the Russian-made Beriev Be-200 or the CL-245 from Canada.

This came after talks to land those aircraft from the Russians and Canadians stalled in recent weeks.

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Indonesia water-bombs forest fires to fight haze

Helicopters Monday water-bombed raging forest fires that have cloaked parts of Indonesia in thick haze and pushed air quality to unhealthy levels in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

Fourteen helicopters were dumping water on blazes on western Sumatra island and the Indonesian part of Borneo island and “cloud-seeding“, which involves using chemicals to induce rain, the country’s disaster agency said.

Authorities had struggled last week to start such operations as the haze was so thick that it was too dangerous for aircraft to fly.

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Jakarta rejected earlier offers ‘over concerns S’pore would claim credit’
A wooden boat is seen on Air Sugihan river during haze shrouds in Ogan Komering Ilir, Indonesia's South Sumatra province, October 7, 2015 in this picture taken by Antara Foto. Photo: Reuters

Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said that Jakarta had earlier rejected Singapore’s offers of assistance to combat the transboundary haze crisis in the region because it was concerned that the city state would claim credit for solving the problem, even while the officials were worried about the rapidly deteriorating situation.

“The (Indonesian) government is not closing ourselves off to assistance. But if we are assisted, the government does not want them (Singapore) to claim the credit. It is the government that is working hard to resolve (this smog disaster) … So we do not want it to reach the point of them claiming credit for it,” Mr Anung told CNN Indonesia yesterday (Oct 7).

According to Indonesian media reports, President Joko Widodo held an unscheduled closed-door meeting yesterday to discuss the haze problem, which has worsened this week.

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Singapore should help solve haze issue, not just talk about it: Indonesian V-P Jusuf Kalla
Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said that Singapore should help solve haze issue, not just talk about it.PHOTO: AFP

The Indonesian government welcomes any country, including Singapore, that wants to help extinguish forest and land fires in the country to remove the haze, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has said.

"Go ahead, we are open. Singapore can come and see for themselves if they want to help. Don't just talk (about it)," said Mr Kalla on Sunday (Sept 27) in New York, according to a report by the Antara news agency.

Singapore has previously expressed frustration with Indonesia regarding the smog that has affected the country and expressed its willingness help to battle the fires - offers that Indonesia has so far rejected.

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Indonesia provides “nice air” most of the time, and all you do is complain about the pollution
The neighbors just will not stop complaining. (Reuters/Beawiharta)

Every year during Indonesia’s six-month dry season, which lasts until around October, a noxious haze rises from the island of Sumatra. Generally lasting about a month at its worst, it’s so large that it hovers over an entire region, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The haze is caused by massive amounts of dense smoke coming from fires that are illegally set to cheaply burn trees or peat off the land—land that can be more profitably used for producing paper or palm oil. The haze regularly leads to school closures, canceled flights, and serious health problems.

Neighboring nations, of course, complain about this—not that Indonesia’s government officials much seem to mind. In March, Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla said:
“For 11 months, they enjoyed nice air from Indonesia and they never thanked us. They have suffered because of the haze for one month and they get upset.”
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Indonesia Says Singapore 'Behaving Like a Child' Over Haze
Agung Laksono

Indonesia on Thursday accused Singapore of "behaving like a child" by complaining about severe haze from raging forest fires on Sumatra island that has cloaked the city-state.

"Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise," Agung Laksono, the minister who is coordinating Indonesia's response to the haze crisis, told reporters in Jakarta.
"This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature."
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Get Your Facts Right on Indonesia's Haze Problem