It is no secret how the smoke haze disrupts the daily activities of people in some provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Not only in Indonesia, smoke haze is also exported to cities in Malaysia and Singapore. The burning of forests and peatlands by palm oil producers and pulp and smallholders is believed to be the main cause. Approximately 27 million hectares or 12% of land in Southeast Asia is peatlands.
Wetlands International noted that 83% of the total is located in Indonesia, such as Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, while the rest are in Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and Vietnam. Data from Global Forest Watch shows the majority of 4,327 hotspots in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, and 4,509 hotspots in West and Central Kalimantan are tangled or in the concession areas of oil palm companies. Still from the same data is largely affiliated with Asia Pacific Resources International Group and Asia Pulp and Paper Group. Both not only operate in Indonesia, but also have offices in Singapore. In addition, there are still many palm oil companies owned by Malaysian, Singaporean, and USA entrepreneurs supplied by their subsidiaries in Indonesia.
This makes the smoke haze not only a matter of Indonesia, but also the neighboring countries. ASEAN itself has an ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Hazard Pollution (ATHP) adopted in 2002, Indonesia ratified in 2014. This Agreement contains a cooperation agreement to resolve the haze disaster across borders due to forest fires by first giving the country a fire source to handle it. If the country concerned is not capable, then it may request assistance from other ASEAN member countries.
On September 17, 2015 Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Singapore could help Indonesia after the Singapore Defense Minister offered C-130s aircraft for weather modification. This aid was then rejected because according to Minister Siti Nurbaya Indonesia already has enough aircraft. The emergence of these two different statements would be confusing. According to the ATHP, if necessary, Indonesia's assistance is entitled to specify what assistance is required and ASEAN member countries shall endeavor to fulfill the request. However, the government may still be prestigious to admit that this smoke disaster can not be solved by itself both in terms of law and disaster management. It is also possible that Indonesia is concerned that such assistance is a form of intervention that would harm Indonesia's interests.
But it is only natural that the governments of Singapore and Malaysia protest to Indonesia because of this disaster. Similarly, Indonesian citizens who become victims. Over the years we have to meet again with smoke that not only endangers health, but also threatens the economy. Handling is always slow to make both citizens of Indonesia and the two neighboring countries growled. Vice President Jusuf Kalla's remarks on how Singapore is not grateful for the clean air over the previous 11 months is regrettable. Is not clean air the right of every human being? Is not the smoke haze, which is a man-made disaster, should be prevented?
ATHP said ASEAN member countries are entitled to information about any efforts that Indonesia has and will take to address the haze disaster. Unfortunately the meeting with Malaysia to discuss the cross-border smoke MoU was postponed indefinitely. Malaysia itself says it will not protect Malaysian companies if it is proven to be involved in forest fires. Singapore has also requested the names of oil palm companies suspected of involvement in forest and peat fires. What remains of Indonesia's concern is that Indonesian citizens in Singapore can be tried by the country's Boundary Smoke Act.
Another issue that remains an issue is how politics plays here. When Singapore brought the smoke haze to the United Nations in 2006, Indonesian representatives also took issue with the extradition treaty. Both the governments of Indonesia and Singapore consider one issue to be a package with another issue. No one request by one party is filled with the other without the fulfillment of other requests. So no wonder when again ASEAN deadlocked in implementing ATHP.
The absence of sanctions when a member state fails to meet the objectives of ATHP opens a gap for member states not to carry out what should be a commitment. Implementation or not cooperation as contained in ATHP will be one of the benchmarks will be what the ASEAN Community will be. Finally, in spite of the comments Singapore is playing the smoke haze issue to press Indonesia, do not let us assume clean air can be traded. Air b