The Sub-regional Ministerial Meeting on Transboundary Haze Pollution was held in Pekanbaru on 13 October 2006. The Meeting was attended by the Ministers and other high ranking officials responsible for the environment from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Nine governors of Indonesian provinces, ten regents of the Riau Province as well as representatives of ASEAN Secretariat were also present in the Meeting as observer. The Meeting was conducted in the spirit of cordiality and friendship.

The Meeting discussed urgent measures to jointly tackle the common problem caused by transboundary haze pollution. It underscored the need to promote effective ASEAN cooperation particularly among neighboring countries.

            The Meeting assessed the sub-regional efforts to manage the problems caused by transboundary haze pollution and noted the haze problem has not been adequately addressed by the region, while acknowledging the efforts taken by countries in the region. The Meeting was subsequently committed to help each other’s efforts to better manage this multifaceted hazard. In this regard, the Meeting appreciated the Indonesian efforts to tackle land and forest fires that resulted in transboundary haze pollution and was committed to support Indonesia in its endeavor.

            The Meeting seriously discussed topics of importance, among others, update of regional transboundary haze situation and weather forecast; progress update by Indonesia of its measures adopted to prevent and mitigate land and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan; and operationalization of the ASEAN transboundary haze pollution control fund to which the Meeting appreciated highly Malaysia’s initiative in this regard.

The Meeting respectfully urged Indonesia to urgently finalize the ratification of ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in accordance with its national law.

During the Meeting, participants brought forward some new ideas and initiatives. In this regard, it noted Indonesia’s suggestion that regional cooperation needs to be further strengthened by inter alia empowering the regional standby arrangement in the regional effort to mitigate haze problem and encouraging member countries to contribute to and utilize the fund established under the transboundary haze agreement to operationalise the prevention and mitigation measures. The Meeting resolved to further upgrade and effectively utilise the inventory of fire fighting mechanism.

The Meeting agreed on a regional workshop to be held in Indonesia in early November 2006 to look into new measures to tackle the haze problem, including seeking international expertise so as to develop a comprehensive plan of action with effective monitoring and reporting mechanism.

The Meeting also agreed to set up a Ministerial Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of short and long-term plans to effectively tackle the haze problem. The Committee will comprise the Environment Ministers from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

The formation of the Committee and the outcomes of the regional worskshop will be submitted for endorsement at the AMME in Cebu on 9-10 November 2006, and thereafter, to the ASEAN Summit in December 2006.  The AMMH will then be convened in Brunei Darussalam in February 2007 to operationalise the decision of the Summit.