Environment ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand gathered at the 16th meeting of the Sub-regional Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which was held on April 2 in Brunei .

Participants agreed that MSC countries should work out supplementary measures against forest fires at a time when the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) forecast lower-than-average rainfalls in most parts of the southern region until early October.

Additionally, the El Nino phenomenon could develop in the second half of 2014, which will worsen dry weather conditions, resulting in more hotspots that run a high risk of wildfires, attendees said.

They also stressed the significance of cross-border cooperation in putting the situation under control, particularly in sharing experience in improving national and regional mechanism to mitigate forest fires due to dry weather.

Indonesia was hailed for its efforts to carry out an action plan dealing with trans-boundary haze pollution, as well as the country’s commitment to accelerating the process of ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on the field.

The meeting also reviewed the progress of implementing the Rehabilitation and Sustainable Use of Peatland Forests in Southeast Asia project and the SEApeat project piloted in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

They took note of the encouraging outcomes in realising the ASEAN programme on Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystems 2014-2020, and confirmed sustainable management of fire prone areas, especially peatlands, remains a top priority for fires and smoke haze prevention as well as the mitigation of climate change impacts.-VNA