Jakarta. Singapore is calling on all its Southeast Asian neighbors to help combat recurring forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan as thick haze is once again plaguing large parts of the region.
"Greater regional efforts and cooperation [are] needed to effectively combat the haze problem," Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in a statement published on Friday evening.
Shanmugam emphasized that all Asean states should follow through and fulfill their obligations under the region's Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution -- which was established in 2002 and ratified by Indonesia last September.
The agreement requires all parties to cooperate to mitigate transboundary haze pollution, as well as to respond promptly to "a request for relevant information sought by a state or states that are or may be affected" by such pollution in order to minimize the impacts.
Shanmugam insisted that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must find a longer-term solution to address the causes of the haze, given that the haze problem keeps returning.
He stressed that haze also negatively affects all the economies in the region, including that of Indonesia.
Still, Shanmugam praised the steps that Indonesia has taken thus far to address the haze issue, including the declaration of a state of emergency in affected provinces and authorities' actions against people and companies causing the fires.
Singapore previously called on Indonesia to share the names of the companies found to be involved in slash-and-burn practices and the city-state promised to take action against these companies to the fullest extent of its laws.
The head of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), Sutopo Nugroho, has estimated that economic losses from this year's fires and haze could exceed Rp 20 trillion ($1.4 billion).
Sutopo has also said that it could take 30 days to bring smoldering forest fires under control.