Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Hundreds of people held a mass prayer for rain in a smoke-filled Indonesian city on Sept. 13, desperately hoping for downpours to extinguish forest fires and clear the toxic haze covering wide swathes of the country and neighboring Malaysia. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 September 2019

Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

  • Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations
  • The situation forced schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbors to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday.
In the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
“I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution,” Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
All three countries belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which set up a regional haze action plan in 1997, but Malaysia thinks the grouping has not done enough to evolve a long-term solution.
Among its efforts to tackle the hazard, Malaysia could pass a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires, but only international cooperation could yield a lasting solution, Yeo added.
“Cloud seeding is only temporary. A law here would only deal with Malaysian companies. What we need is international cooperation for a long-term solution.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad.
Yeo said Malaysia will keep up cloud seeding efforts to bring temporary relief in badly-hit areas. This involves spraying chemicals, such as sodium chloride and magnesium oxide, from aircraft in order to spur rainfall.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, Mahathir told a separate news conference.
Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department issued the text of a special plea for divine intervention to disperse the smog, to be recited after weekly prayers on Friday by mosque congregations nationwide.


Philippine police chief resigns amid drug allegations

In this Oct. 3, 2019, file photo, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde gestures as he testifies at the resumption of the Senate probe on the release of hundreds of convicts under the shortened serving of their sentence for good behavior, in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 35 min 6 sec ago

Philippine police chief resigns amid drug allegations

  • Albayalde resigned about three weeks before his scheduled retirement on Nov. 8

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine national police chief has resigned after he faced allegations in a Senate hearing that he intervened as a provincial police chief in 2013 to prevent his officers from being prosecuted for allegedly selling a huge quantity of seized drugs.
Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Monday his decision relinquishing his post was accepted by Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano over the weekend but insisted on his innocence, saying he has never been criminally or administratively charged for the alleged irregularity. Albayalde resigned about three weeks before his scheduled retirement on Nov. 8.
The allegations against Albayalde were the latest dark cloud to loom over the national police force, which has largely been enforcing President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead.