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    Nov 04, 2015

    Haze is a crime, says Balakrishnan

    THE haze problem has been described as a man-made tragedy, a crime and an act of vandalism in some of the strongest remarks yet by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

    The Singapore Government was reviewing its procurement practices to see how it can support companies that have instituted sustainable practices, he told a forum yesterday.

    "This will take into account the practices not just of that particular company, but of your suppliers in your chain," Dr Balakrishnan said.

    The Government expects firms to be transparent about supply chains, particularly those in the oil, palm oil and the forestry sectors, he added.

    Other companies in the private sector are urged to likewise practise "sustainable procurement", he said.

    Speaking at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development, he emphasised the need to intensify regional and international cooperation to exert "effective legal and commercial pressure" on a handful of companies involved in starting fires to clear land and forest in Indonesia.

    Calling the haze "a crime", he said: "This is not a natural disaster. This is a deliberate, man-made tragedy, vandalism against society, against the environment, and ultimately, against ourselves." The forum was held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

    The thick haze, carried by winds from Indonesia, blanketed Singapore, Malaysia and even southern Thailand in recent months, forcing school closures as air quality deteriorated to hazardous levels.

    Dr Balakrishnan, a former Environment and Water Resources Minister, said the haze has also sparked growing demand for responsible and sustainable business practices.

    In September, Singapore wielded the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act, serving "preventive measure notices" on four Indonesian firms: PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and PT Wachyuni Mandira.

    Investigations indicated the haze may have been contributed to by fires in lands held via concessions under the firms.

    A notice was also served on Asia Pulp and Paper seeking information on its units in Singapore and Indonesia, as well as measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia to put out fires in their concessions.

    Indonesia has also been investigating companies. In September, it took four plantation firms to task for alleged illegal land clearing, by suspending or revoking their licences.