The Role of Indonesia in Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) in Dealing with Haze and Air Pollution
The haze caused by forest fires impacted both domestic and internationally, especially Indonesia and neighbor countries. Indonesia as one of the founding members in ASEAN with its strategic location and rich cultural heritage, Indonesia has an important role in ASEAN’s development and regional integration. But with the huge damages caused by haze pollution such as health damages, economy damages, crop productivity damages, transportation damages and social damages and other damages such as decreasing number on tourism and investments is bring lots of joint losses to ASEAN member of states.
The ASEAN agreement on Transboundary Haze Polution showed how important the concern of haze pollution in Southeast Asia region. Singapore and Malaysia, the two countries that suffered the most damage from the haze pollution sees that this issues could be resolved through regional cooperation because of theirs limited capabilities in resolving this issues. So Indonesia’s government takes appropriate sanction to 23 companies that are guilty with the incident of forest burning
Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) is a regional organization that is located in South East Asia. ASEAN was established in August 8th 1967 with five states as its founding members such as Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines and now ASEAN has 10 members of states, With the goal of ASEAN’s founding father which is to improve the lives of its people that is reflected on South East Asia’s economic and cultural development, social progress and regional peace and security, ASEAN Community was made in 31 December 2015, that consisted of three pillars which is ASEAN Socio–Cultural Community that is focused on Conservation and Sustainable Management on Biodiversity and Natural Resources to be exact strengthening regional cooperation in forest management through the implementation of ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution., the second pillar is ASEAN Political–Security Community and the third is ASEAN Economy Community.
Southeast Asia region with 24 million hectares of peat lands has been dealing with haze issue since 1990s (ASEAN, n.d.). The cause of the haze is the illegal burn of peat lands and prolonged dry weather. The illegal burn of peat lands mostly happened in the forest of Sumatera and Kalimantan, Indonesia. The haze from the burning of peat lands reached Indonesia’s neighbor country such as Singapore and Malaysia. Recently in 2016, the haze reached Singapore and the air in Singapore is considered as unhealthy, Data from the National Environment Agency (NEA) mentioned the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) under 200 categories of ‘unhealthy’ entry, above 201 to 300 categories of ‘very unhealthy’, and above 300 is considered ‘dangerous’. Then when the sample was taken which include six pollutants reaching 143 in the western and nothern parts of the city at 07.00 local time and reached 137 at 12.00 local time (BBC, 2016). The haze not only reached Singapore but also Malaysia that caused the significant decrease in air quality, temporary school closing and flight that got either cancelled or delayed. Meanwhile in some province in Indonesia the PSI reached the number of 2.000. The haze caused significant decrease in air quality, low quality of vision and smoky smell. The damage caused by the haze is not only health damage like respiratory disorders, asthma, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but also economy, social and environmental.
Indonesia as one of the founding members in ASEAN with its strategic location, 261.1 million of populations (The World Bank, n.d) and rich cultural heritage have an important role in ASEAN’s development and regional integration. Indonesia with its richness in natural resources often become a challenges for Indonesia itself. Indonesia have more than 10 million hectares of peat lands (Purwanto,I., & Gintings,A.Ng. (2011). and it keeps decreasing every year due to the illegal burning of peat lands for the use of palm oil farm and prolonged dry weather.
The author is using Neoliberalism Institutionalism and the concept of complex interdependence to analyze the topic. Neoliberalism Institutionalism sees the cooperation in International Organization (IO) is driven by common interests in getting joint gains or avoiding joint losses (Rittberger, Zangl, & Kruck, 2012, p. 18), and sees how International Organization (IO) facilitates states to cooperate in order to pursue their common interests and state would be reluctant to revoke their membership in an IO as IO reduce uncertainty and transaction costs, stabilize state’s expectation towards other states and remove barriers to cooperation (Rittberger, et al., 2012, p. 20).
The cooperation through International Organization (IO) creates a complex interdependence relationship between the actors that involved in it. Complex interdependence has three objectives which is multiple channels connect societies, absence of hierarchy among issues and minor role on using military force (Keohane,R.O. & Nye,J.S, 1989).
The first objectives are multiple channels connect societies, the relations between state is not limited to only interstate relations but other non-state actors also involved in it. The non-state actor such as multinational firms affect domestic and interstate relations and the activities done by them often have an impact towards the domestic and foreign policy. The implementation of foreign policy often affected the domestic policy and made the lines between foreign and domestic policy getting blurry. These issues happened not only on economic issues but also environmental issues (Keohane,R.O. et al., 1989).
The second objectives are the absence of hierarchy among issues. In the era of globalization, foreign affair agenda has become more diverse than ever. Previously in the era of World War I & II and Cold War, the agenda is focused on military issues. Right now, the issues is not only focused on military issues but also low politics issues such as environmental, health and migration with multiple issues on the agenda, the foreign policy often threatens the interests of domestic groups (Keohane,R.O. et al., 1989).
The third objectives are minor role of military force, with the multiple issues on the table and it often is a low politics issues, it becomes irrelevant to use military force in dealing with the issues, to add more, military force is not an appropriate way for state to achieve their goals especially in economy and environmental issues. The usage of military force against an interdependent state also have a risk of losing mutually profitable relations (Keohane,R.O. et al., 1989).
The Struggle in Dealing with Haze Issues
The haze comes from the illegal ‘slash and burn’ peat lands and dry weather, but mostly it is caused by the act of ‘slash and burn’. Slash and burn is an act to clear patches of land for plantation by setting fires on forest or peat lands. This is called to be the quickest and efficient way to clear the patches of land for plantation but this act is causing many damage as the fires in peat lands is extremely hard to stop (BBC, 2013). The forest fire in Indonesia mostly happened in Sumatra and Kalimantan and mostly was done for farmers to plant their crops or oil palm company for oil palm plantation. The peat lands clearance for oil palm plantation is estimated to around 2 million hectares is cleared every year (BBC, 2013). With the massive amount of lands being cleared through illegal slash-and-burn, the damage caused by it impacted several aspects such as health, environmental and economy.
The haze caused by forest fires impacted both domestic and internationally, especially Indonesia’s neighbor countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. The haze on 2015 in Riau is one of the recent worst haze case with 2.61 million hectares of lands is burned with 869.754 hectares of peat lands burned and 1.741.657 hectares of mineral soil burned. Six provinces in Indonesia is declared as a state of emergency emergency, they are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. The damage caused by this illegal slash and burn is financial damage up to US$ 47 Billion and health damage with 24 casualties, more than 600.000 people suffered from respiratory illness and more than 60 millions of lives exposed to haze (Fitri,2015).
In dealing with haze issues in 2015, Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) spent 720 billion of Rupiah for firefighter and 17 helicopters to dropped water bombs to several hotspots in the forest fires. More than 22.000 personels also did the fire fighting from the ground. Kementerian Kesehatan Republik Indonesia (Ministry of Health) also send aids in forms of sending 27.595 tons of health supply such as masks, medicine and oxygen bottle. The aid in forms of airplane to drop water bombs from Singapore, Malaysia and Russia also coming to help fighting the forest fires. President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, said that it would take three years to resolve this issue that has been going for years (Singapore Institute of International Affairs, 2016). According to Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan Republik Indonesia (Ministry of Environment and Forestry) the forest fires in 2017 has decreased up to 99% from 2016 with only 20.000 hectares of land get burned. This number shows a significant decreaseas the amount of lands that get burned in 2016 is 438.360 hectares (Sahroji,2017).
How Important The Concern of Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia Region
Association of Southeast Asia Nation (ASEAN) made an agreement to resolve the haze issues in regional area. The agreement is ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. This agreement was signed in 2002 and the purpose of this agreement is to prevent and monitor haze pollution as the result of forest or land fires that should be reduced through national efforts and international cooperation especially after the haze that happened in 1997-1998 and affected Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Through this agreement, member of states committed themselves to monitor the spread of forest fires, extinguish the fires, prevent the possibility of forest fires outbreak, measuring legislative steps and monitoring the area prone to the fire. Other things such as increasing public awareness and strengthening local fire management is also stated in this agreement (ASEAN, 2002). In 2002, all members of ASEAN signed this agreement and majority of the member ratified this agreement except Indonesia until Indonesia ratified this agreement in 2014 and become the last member of states who ratified this agreement.
With the huge damages caused by haze pollution, such as health damages, economy damages, crop productivity damages, transportation damages and social damages and other damages such as decreasing number on tourism and investments is bring lots of joint losses to ASEAN member of states. To add more, the damages caused is often indirect and non-tangible thus it is hard to count how many loss that actually affect them. With this, it creates incentive for ASEAN to launched initiatives which is The Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with vision, “ Transboundary Haze-Free ASEAN by 2020”. This goal of this initiatives is to eliminated haze pollution in Southeast Asia region through collective actions to prevent and control forest and/or land fires.
For Singapore and Malaysia, the two countries that suffered the most damage from the haze pollution sees that this issues could be resolved through regional cooperation because of theirs limited capabilities in resolving this issues, especially Singapore. The agreement was made with hope that it could influence Indonesia’s behavior in resolving this issue because most of the cause of the haze pollution comes from Indonesia, and yet, Indonesia has not ratified this agreement until September 2014. Previously, the agreement was not ratified by legislative because majority of parliament vote thought that it would threat Indonesia’s sovereignty and it also assumed as a way to fulfill neighbor country’s interests (Heiduk, 2016). The implementation of this agreement is also hard to fulfill because of the lack of transparency in the government, close relationship between local governments and investing companies and also little knowledge regarding of this agreement in public. The acting head of Central Kalimantan Environmental Agency admitted that he did not know much about the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (Tobing, 2017), it shows that even the local authorized party have little information regarding this agreement.
Indonesia in dealing with illegal burning of the forest have their own law. The law that regulate the protection of environment and forest is Undang-Undang Nomor 41 Tahun 1999 about forestry. Article 78, paragraph 3 stated that actors who burned the forest may be subject to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 15 billion Rupiah. Second, Undang – Undang Nomor 18 Tahun 2004, article 8 paragraph 1 stated that someone intentionally opening land by burning it may be subject to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 10 billion Rupiah. Last, the recent revised regulation is Undang-Undang Nomor 32 Tahun 2009 about protection and management of the environment, article 108 stated that someone intentionally doing the act of slach and burn may be a subject to minimum three years of imprisonment and maximum ten years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of 10 billion Rupiah.
Indonesia’s government also takes appropriate sanction to 23 companies that are guilty with the incident of forest burning. The sanctions given to the 23 companies are including revocation of forest concession rights, revocation of environmental permits, forcing government to control land and license suspension. Meanwhile, another 33 companies are still under investigation (Gabrillin, 2015).
By Agreeing on ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution
Haze pollution issue is an issue that has lasted for years in ASEAN with adverse impacts on some ASEAN member of states such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand. Therefore, to resolve this issue, ASEAN signed and ratified ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution to achieve joint gains by creating an ASEAN as a regional that are haze-free. ASEAN as regional organization act as a tool for state to pursue their interests, in this case Singapore relies on ASEAN to resolve this issue of haze because Singapore believed their limited capabilities to resolve this issue if only by doing bilateral relationship with Indonesia. The haze issues could be resolved through cooperation of all affected states and it could have a bigger influence to Indonesia’s behavior towards this issue.
From the complex interdependence concept, the three objectives mentioned before is multiple channels connect societies, absence of hierarchy among issues and minor role of military force. In this issue correlated with the first objectives which is multiple channels connect societies, it is shown that the act of burning the forest done by companies affected both domestic and international situation. Especially when the companies related to the burning of forest is not only Indonesia’s companies but some of them also Singapore and Malaysia’s companies. The Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act is also complicated the problem as it is meant to deter and prosecute those who responsible for haze pollution in Singapore and it is not directed to individual or company based on nationality (Channel News Asia, 2015).
This shown on how foreign policy of one state often blur the line between foreign policy and domestic policy. Indonesia’s response toward this is also stated that Singapore can not enter Indonesia’s legal domain of forest issues because the two parties did not have agreement regarding this matter. The second objectives, the absence of hierarchy among issues, is correlated with this issues. As mentioned before, the military issue is not the only focus in foreign affair agenda but other issues also become a foreign affair agenda priorities and one of them is environmental issues. Haze pollution is clearly environmental issues in ASEAN and it also get attention from other state as it gives a huge impact to their states. The ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as one of the forms of foreign policy also threaten domestic groups interests because this agreement requires states to take appropriate measure in preventing forest fires which is including regulating the use of forest and peat lands. It means that individual or companies that getting benefit from the act of illegal slash-and-burn did not have much freedom and could face a sanction either it is in forms of imprisonment or fine.
The third objectives, minor role of military force, is shown how the cooperation in dealing the haze issues is solved through negotiations and cooperation through ASEAN. It did not use any military force to resolve this issue, instead aid also come from other state member of ASEAN to help Indonesia resolve this issue. Also, it will become irrelevant to resolve environmental issue with the use of military force.
Through this issue, we can see how ASEAN act as tool for state in Southeast Asia region to cooperate to join the common interest. In this issue, their interest is to make ASEAN a region with haze-free by 2020. Indonesia as one of the members in ASEAN and also often called as ‘leader’ in ASEAN showed its willingness to cooperate in this issues especially in President Joko Widodo’s presidency. Indonesia is finally ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and take brave action to deal with the actor that caused the haze pollution in Sumatera and Kalimantan. Besides that, the burnt land area in 2017 also decreased as much as 99%, and again Indonesia showed its willingness to participate to cooperate in ASEAN.
The Actualization of ASEAN Haze–Free by 2020
In the era of globalization, foreign affair agenda has become more diverse than ever and not only revolves around military issues but also low politics issues such as environmental issues. Haze issues in Southeast Asia region is one of the examples on how issues in international system is not only about military issues but also environmental issues. The haze issue is one of ASEAN’s concern as it gives a huge damage to several ASEAN member of states this past several years especially Singapore and Malaysia. It is impossible to resolve this issue by just doing bilateral negotiations with two states. Therefore ASEAN member of states signed and ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
Indonesia as one of the member of states in ASEAN and the major cause of haze issues, has taken appropriate measures to make sure that Indonesia is willing to cooperate in ASEAN to achieve joint gains. The action done by Indonesia has become significant especially in President Joko Widodo’s presidency with the ratified agreement on ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in 2014, heavier sanction to the actors who caused forest burning and the decreasing number of forest burning by years.
In the future, the author hope that the action dsone by Indonesia will be continued in a long-term and the sanctions that imposed for the actors that caused this can always be implemented by increasing transparency in government both central and local government because Indonesia is a country that is rich with natural resources and it would be a shame to overthrow that to irresponsible parties.
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Adelia Putri Irawan (2001610513)
International Relations Student – BINUS University