Singapore—In late September, at the height of the haze that affected South East Asia, including parts of Singapore, news emerged that there were three companies with ties to Singapore that were linked to the forest fires that caused the haze.
Back then, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said that while it was monitoring the haze condition in the country closely, the Agency had yet to take action against any of the businesses, though it was within its jurisdiction to do so, under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.
This Act is aimed against parties responsible for condoning or causing fires if the burning of those fires brings about levels of haze in Singapore that are considered unhealthy, which is a 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) value of 101 or higher for 24 hours or longer.
If convicted, parties may receive a fine of S$100,000 per day, with a maximum of S$2 million. However, since the Act became law in 2014, there have been no fines imposed on any company yet.
The Straits Times (ST) quoted a spokesman from the NEA as saying in September, “NEA is monitoring the situation closely, and will provide updates as appropriate if we commence investigations on any company under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.”
The three Indonesian companies linked to the forest fire and haze problems that have connections to Singapore are Hutan Ketapang Industri, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and April Group.
Hutan Ketapang Industri has links with Sampoerna Agri Resources, a Singapore-based company. After fires were found in Hutan Ketapang Industri’s land, the firm was closed off by the authorities in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, APP and April, which are also linked to the fires according to Indonesia’s media, have offices in Singapore. APP and the April Group are two of the biggest paper and pulp firms in the world.
There is little information on Sampoerna Agri Resources, although Bloomberg says it was founded in 2006 and lists its address as 180 Clemenceau Avenue No 02-02 Haw Par Center, Singapore, and forest500.org describes the company as “one of the leading producers of palm oil and palm kernel in Indonesia.”
Another website, sgbusiness.com, says that it is a “private company limited by shares” and that it was formerly known as VENTURE MAX RESOURCES PTE. LTD. According to this site, its principal business activity is other holding companies.
According to indonesia-investments.com, “Sampoerna Agro is part of the Sampoerna Strategic Group, owned by the Sampoerna family. This group owns large stakes in the country’s agri-business, telecommunications and banking sectors.”
As for Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), it is a leading manufacturer packaging, tissue and paper products based in Indonesia. The company’s directors’ profile indicates that all of APP’s directors are Indonesian citizens, save for its Vice President Director, who is a Chinese citizen who was born in Taiwan.
In Singapore, its office is located at 108 Pasir Panjang Road, Golden Agri Plaza #05-11.
In May of this year, ST reported that APP had been awarded a green certification by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which meant that its products could be sold in the court again.
The green label is meant to distinguish products that are made in ways that are environmentally responsible.
The company said in a statement on May 29 that the distinction is “a testament to the company’s intensified commitment to battle the threat of fire and haze since the 2015 haze that affected Singapore, Malaysia and parts of Indonesia”.
APP had been listed by the NEA in September 2015 as one of the companies under investigation under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for connections to forest fires that caused the haze that year.
Many Singaporean stores refused to carry APP products, which include its Paseo brand of toilet paper.
In May 2018, the global environmental group Greenpeace ended its collaboration with SinarMas and APP (SinarMas is APP’s parent company) over allegations that APP had turned back from its promise of zero deforestation.
The third company with ties to Singapore and that is connected to this year’s forest fires and haze problem is the April group, it is Indonesia’s second-biggest manufacturer of paper and pulp products.
The April Group is based in Indonesia and was the first of Achebe PEFC Sustainable Forest Management Certification in that country, as its website touts. “Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL), is a member of RGE Group which was founded by Sukanto Tanoto in 1973.”
Last month, both APP and April were featured in the news again, this time for having continued to source wood from a controversial supplier owned by Djarum Group, which had “violated their respective no-deforestation commitments,” according to a report from the Environmental Paper Network. -/TISG