The article “Three Indonesian firms with presence in S'pore linked to forest fires causing haze”, published in The Straits Times on 25 Sept 2019, implied that Asia Pulp & Paper were one of three Singapore-linked companies connected to haze-causing fires.
The ST story was based on what has now been determined to be an inaccurate report published by a single source. That source misrepresented the reality using “prepared” satellite photos that painted an inaccurate picture that did not correspond with what was experienced in the field. The source article concluded that APP is a “haze producing company this year”.
We engaged ST and began the process of compiling accurate satellite photos and verifying field reports - as per internal protocols that demand evidence-based analysis - to disprove the source. Unfortunately, only a holding statement was ready at press time.
These are inaccuracies that were published:
1. The source article provided a snapshot with hotspots aggregated over a period of time. This made it look as though fires were raging non-stop over a large area. At any single point in time, the reality on the ground was distinctly different from the one presented. This is because simply adding up hotspots over the course of multiple days distorts the reality on the ground, where fires were constantly being extinguished by APP’s fire team.
2. The source did not provide a dynamic picture across time. As such, it is not possible to ascertain the origin and movement of the fire, nor when it was extinguished. We now have very clear chronological photographic evidence of the period in contention, from 8th to 18th September, that the fire started outside our boundaries, and only later encroached into APP concession areas.
3. Hotspots on a satellite photo do not necessarily translate to actual fires nor reveal the magnitude of the fires or fire-impacted areas. This is important in understanding the situation on the ground.
In reality, our checks reveal facts as follows:
1. Images sourced from the Sentinel-3 ESA Satellite clearly indicate that the fires started outside of APP concession lands, and that the fires were already put out by the time of publication of the source story.
2. Contrary to the “haze producing” picture of the company that was painted by the source, APP’s Integrated Fire Management team that deployed 202 fire fighters, 15 excavators, and 3 helicopters running water-bombing sorties up to 5km around our concession, was instrumental in containing the fire. After eight days and 560 water-bombing runs, the fire was contained.
3. Reports from our firefighters, backed up by independent satellite photos, indicated that the fire was extinguished by 14 September 2019. This further illustrates the inaccuracy in the source story which asserted “that peat fires are currently still raging on in the APP concession” on 22 Sept, the day of publishing.
These findings and supporting evidence were shared with the ST.
Forest fires in Indonesia are a serious issue. Our firefighters risk their lives to ensure that any fires in or around our concessions are quickly extinguished to mitigate the damage to the environment, as well as the health of the people of Indonesia and her neighbours. Unsubstantiated reports like those published by the source undermines morale, cast doubt on the efforts made, and drains resources away from more pressing issues on the ground, potentially leading to more than just reputational damage.
While we are confident that we have made substantial progress combating fires across the vast concessions that APPs suppliers operate in, this environment is a complex one. Despite that, APP remains firm in our commitment and will continue to improve and cooperate with authorities to face the threat of fire and haze. APP efforts since implementing its Integrated Fire Management strategy has also been recognised and applauded by the Government of Indonesia.
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