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Indonesia backs heftier haze fines

The incoming president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, is backing Singapore's plan to impose heftier fines against overseas polluters as long as sovereignty is respected, according to a Bloomberg report.

SINGAPORE: The incoming president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, is backing Singapore's plan to impose heftier fines against overseas polluters as long as sovereignty is respected, according to a Bloomberg report.

The Singapore government has proposed stiffer fines of up to S$2 million for companies that cause unhealthy levels of haze. Under proposed laws on transboundary haze pollution that were introduced in Parliament earlier this month, a firm can be fined up to S$100,000 a day for every day of unhealthy haze that blankets Singapore - for a continuous period of 24 hours or more - at about the same time as the company's haze-causing activities.

Also, companies that fail to comply with notices to take preventive measures during a period of haze could be fined up to an additional S$50,000 a day. The maximum penalty for each of the offences is capped at S$2 million.

Widodo, the Jakarta governor known as Jokowi who won this month's presidential election, agrees that companies implicated in unlawful fires may be fair game for Singapore's enforcers.

"We should have some detailed protocols to guarantee the sovereignty of Indonesia," said Sonny Keraf, Indonesia's environment minister from 1999-2001 and adviser to Jokowi. "But we do appreciate the commitment of the government in Singapore to penalize these companies' activities," he said, in an interview with Bloomberg this month and published on Wednesday (30 July).

Indonesia has yet to ratify the ASEAN 2002 haze treaty, which requires nations to take steps against forest fires and cooperate with neighbours. However Jakarta hopes to ratify the agreement by 2015.

According to Keraf, Jokowi will push to extend the ASEAN pact beyond haze to include other environmental threats. The incoming president also plans to continue a freeze on new permits to develop peatlands and primary forests. The ban, set to expire in 2015, was part of an agreement for US$1b (S$1.24b) in aid from Norway.

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