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Aquino on haze: Help, don't blame, Indonesia

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said that instead of pointing fingers, Southeast Asian nations should help Indonesia solve its haze problem.

“Instead of castigating an ASEAN brother country, perhaps in the ASEAN Summit, we should really look for the wherewithal, the direction, the attitude – attitudinal change whereby we can help Indonesia avoid creating this problem,” he told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Tuesday, October 27.

His statement comes weeks before the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to meet in Kuala Lumpur on November 19.

Singapore, on Sunday, October 25, urged ASEAN members to take “firm and decisive action” against the haze spreading across the region from Indonesia.

The Philippines recently fell victim to the lethal haze on Sunday when the smog reached Mindanao, Visayas, and Palawan.  (READ: Haze in parts of the Philippines: 9 ways to stay healthy)

The haze led to the cancellation or delay of 6 flights. The Department of Health warned of increasingly dangerous ash levels in some areas in Mindanao.

Aquino said the government is still studying the phenomenon in order to come up with a plan of action.

“We’re actually asking our Department of Science and Technology to study the whole matter and deliver recommendations as to what actions we should take,” he said.

Haze from Indonesia has been traced to unregulated burning of forests by palm oil and paper firms. The fires are often set off in forests atop flammable peat lands, causing fires that could go on for days, emitting smoke the whole time.

The haze this year is said to be aggravated by the ongoing El Niño phenomenon which has brought about drier-than-usual conditions.

Ten people in Indonesia have died because of the haze which has also brought upon respiratory illnesses in half a million people, according to Indonesian officials.

This year, the haze reached Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Singapore has begun legal action against 5 Indonesian companies allegedly responsible for much of the haze. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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