KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 – In an effort to tackle the persistent issue of transboundary haze, Malaysia will be convening with its ASEAN counterparts in Singapore early next month to discuss the strengthening of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) 2002 and develop a new roadmap for comprehensive action. While the upcoming meeting and roadmap development signify positive strides, concerns have been raised regarding the criticisms and weaknesses of the existing agreement.

Despite its existence for over two decades, transboundary haze continues to afflict the region year after year. The AATHP faces two primary criticisms, namely weak enforcement mechanisms and limited legal bindingness. These challenges hinder the agreement’s ability to hold responsible parties accountable at the ASEAN level. Insufficient enforcement measures allow non-compliant parties to evade responsibility, perpetuating the cycle of haze-causing activities.

To overcome this, the new roadmap must incorporate robust enforcement mechanisms, ensuring that member states are held accountable for their actions and thus enhancing the effectiveness of the agreement. Another area of concern is the limited legal bindingness of the AATHP. Although the agreement is designed to be legally binding, its impact relies on individual member states translating its provisions into domestic legislation. Inconsistent implementation weakens the agreement’s effectiveness.

The forthcoming roadmap should prioritize the harmonization of laws and regulations among ASEAN countries, fostering uniform implementation and enforcement of the agreement. The upcoming 24th meeting between ASEAN countries presents a crucial opportunity to address these significant weaknesses of the AATHP. The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) urges Malaysian government representatives to advocate for stronger enforcement measures and increased legal bindingness during the June meeting.

It is essential to address these weaknesses in order to establish a more effective framework that will hopefully bring an end to the annual transboundary haze problems afflicting Malaysia and the ASEAN region. By working collaboratively and addressing these critical concerns, Malaysia and its ASEAN partners can pave the way for a more resilient and sustainable approach to combatting transboundary haze and protecting the well-being of the region’s inhabitants.

Pocket News