Brunei 22nd ASEAN Submit
Singapore and Malaysia are the victims of the continuous haze havoc from Sumatra's burning forest. In 1997, Malaysia declared state of emergency in Sarawak and most of the states in Peninsular were affected badly; Selangor was also being declared under state of emergency. Mahathir's quick respond was "send firemen to help the Indonesia". In 2006, haze returned back to Malaysia and Singapore although ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution was initiated in 2002.
This week's haze has choked the Singaporeans, Malaysian and Indonesia and going to be worsen in few days to come if there is no rain. Marina Sand Bay casino towers are hidden in the white thick haze and a few schools in Johore state are closed due to stern warning by the government on the worst Air Pollution Index reading.
Indonesia rebuked Singapore for being "childish" in commenting on Indonesia's burning forest disaster. Prime Minister Lee Hsen Loong in his media conference yesterday said that the Singaporean government will help the Indonesian government to investigate the if there are Singaporean companies involved in plantation industry "disaster" in Indonesia.
Indonesia is the world biggest oil palm producer after Malaysia. They still have vast unexplored forest in Kalimantan and Sumatra that seduces investors from other countries to venture in plantation. There are foreign companies who keen and interested to invest in Indonesia due to the country's attractive policies on foreign investment, trade, labour and out-sourcing. Cheap labour, attractive taxation policies, FDI and other's economic opportunities have put Indonesia as one of the fast growing country in South East Asia with 5% increase in GNI.
Nevertheless, there are certain economic negligence's happened in Indonesia and one of them is environmental precaution. Investors came, put-in some money, explore lands and burn it for plantation. In few years to come they reap the harvest and getting rich. The environment issue was made as secondary priority to the foreign company for there might be no strict law to protect the country from such man made nature hazards. In Papua, forests are logged leaving the aborigine's tribe to be displaced in nowhere. One of the logging companies is from Sibu, Sarawak. Rivers are badly polluted, animals habitats have been destroyed. No rehabilitation has been initiated for the environmental damage done.
Should this disasters are caused by Indonesian government excitement on foreign direct investment that put Indonesia at 5% GNI? Or could it be a gold rush in Indonesia after they have struggle the worst economic crisis? People saw opportunity to reap from Indonesia's ignorance in tightening their law on environmental issue. Indonesia should keep their eyes on plantation disasters more closer so that ASEAN cannot blindly abuse their forest for a gold rush. ASEAN must review perhaps imposed ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary since it was delay for a long periods.
ASEAN has to be creative in developing their lands to protect their environment from repeated disasters that caused by the economic demands and gold rushers. Perhaps, ASEAN have to hold their China's aggressiveness in claiming it's territories in South China sea and solve their very mistake that has been made in Indonesia for the name of economic growth