Indonesia needs no help from Singapore yet

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia will not need help as of now from Singapore to overcome forest and land fires currently raging in the country, cabinet secretary Pramono Anung said here on Monday.

"We will first strive to overcome them (the fires) by ourselves. So far, there has not been any agreement with Singapore (about dealing with these fires)," he added.

He said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry were continuing to coordinate with regard to updating steps that could be taken to overcome the crisis.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said there were certain technical constraints in accepting assistance from Singapore.

She said Singapore has offered a water bomber with a capacity of 5,000 liters while Indonesia has already used two to three water bombing units of a similar capacity.

"The BNPB has also prepared 17 water bombing planes with a capacity of 500 liters each," he said.

Singapore has offered to help with a C-130 aircraft to conduct cloud seeding operation and also a Chinooks helicopter to fight forest fires.

"It is used to transport a huge number of personnel and is good but according to the national police chief, it needs an extraordinarily amount of fuel," she said.

Singapore has also offered to send an assessment team and a planning team but Minister Siti said it would be difficult to coordinate with them.

"I cannot imagine it. We are working in five provinces of Riau, West Kalimantan, South Sumatra, Jambi and Central Kalimantan. Should we have to report to these teams? I have explained this to the President," she said.

With regard to the issue of haze, she said the Indonesian government has made it clear that any party, be it an individual or a company, violating the law will be blacklisted, their permits will be revoked and they will face legal action.

So far, legal action has been initiated against seven companies in connection with land fires and if new violations are found, similar action will be taken, she said.

She said the government has also been discussing a long-term solution to the problem, including encouraging the communities to change the tradition of burning forests for land clearing.(*)