SINGAPORE – The Singapore government is taking action against Indonesian companies in response to the hazy conditions that have polluted the country since the beginning of September; the haze is the result of forest fires resulting from illegal slash-and-burn practices, principally in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.
On 25 September, the Singapore government announced that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is “conducting investigations and the gathering of evidence”, and said “there are indications that the haze may have been contributed by fires in lands held via concessions under four Indonesian companies.”
The four Indonesian companies are PT Rimba Hutani Mas; PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries; PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa; and PT Wachyuni Mandira.
Pursuant to Section 9 of Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA), NEA has sent Prevention Measure Notices to these four companies requesting they implement action to extinguish and/or prevent the spread of fire on land owned or occupied by them, discontinue or not start any burning activities, and submit to NEA any plan of action to extinguish any fire on such land or to prevent its recurrence.
On 30 September, NEA also sent a Prevention Measure Notice to PT Bumi Mekar Hijau, and yet another to PT Bumi Andalas Permai on 12 October.
In addition, NEA has served Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)’s Singapore-registered subsidiary Asia Pulp & Paper Company Ltd a notice pursuant to Section 10 of the THPA, seeking information from APP on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.
When asked by PackWebasia.com whether it is building a legal case against APP, NEA declined comment and its spokesperson said, “This is an ongoing investigation and we will release further information and updates when we are ready to do so.”
In response to PackWebasia.com’s enquiry about the NEA notice, APP stressed that it is “fully committed to transparency over forest fires” and said, “On 2 October 2015 we provided information in response to a request by the National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore. We have also invited NEA officials to visit our operations in Indonesia to learn more about APP’s no burning policy which has been in operation since 1996.
“APP looks forward to working closely with the NEA on long-term solutions to the causes of haze and fire.”
Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA)
In 2013, a particularly serious bout of haze pollution pushed the frustrated Singapore government to develop its own Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA), which was implemented on 25 September 2014.
THPA creates extra-territorial criminal and civil liability on businesses engaging in setting fires abroad (i.e. not in Singapore) that cause transboundary haze pollution in the island-state, whether these be Singapore-registered companies or otherwise.
An entity is guilty of an offence under THPA if it engages in conduct, whether in or outside Singapore, which causes or contributes to any haze pollution. It is also guilty if it condones any conduct by another entity or individual which causes or contributes to any haze pollution.
Under the THPA, the maximum fine for companies found guilty of starting fires is S$100,000 per day, capped at S$2 million in total.
The complete analysis of the potential legislation fallout impacting Indonesian paper businesses in the packaging supply chain is available in the October 2015 issue of Packaging Business Insight Asia.
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