CEBU, Philippines ~ Five Southeast Asian countries most affected by choking smoke haze from Indonesian forest fires agreed at the weekend to set up a fund to seek solutions to the problem and rehabilitate affected areas.
This was one of the agreements reached at the 10th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment being held in the central Philippine city of Cebu.
Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand agreed to create a committee to oversee the implementation of concrete actions to address the forest fires and the resulting haze.
The five are all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which also groups Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The five countries also agreed to start a haze fund to implement actions on the problem and to rehabilitate affected areas.
Indonesia and Singapore pledged US$50,000 each for the fund. The environment ministers of Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand signed the agreement but said that their contributions to the fund were still subject to the approval of their respective heads of state.
The other ASEAN members not affected by the haze agreed to assist those facing the problem.
At the conference on Friday, neighboring nations affected by choking smoke haze from Indonesian forest fires agreed to “adopt a fire-prone district” from the archipelago in a bid to cut the pollution.
Indonesian farmers burn forests annually to clear land for agriculture, causing a haze that spreads across Southeast Asia during the dry season, affecting tourism and increasing health problems.
Some 26 environment leaders from ASEAN and dialogue partners Japan, China and South Korea attended the two-day meeting that opened on Friday to discuss a series of environmental issues.