Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Jakarta, Sept 16, 2015 (Antara) -  About a week after he took over as the new chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency Agency (BNPB), Rear Admiral Willem Rampangilei has set a timetable to extinguish forest and plantation fires, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan Islands.
        The problem of haze in Riau Province would end next week, given the state of the fires and the capability of military and police personnel deployed to extinguish these, Rampangilei said at the Halim Perdanakusuma air force base, East Jakarta, on Sept. 15.  
  President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on Sept. 7, appointed Willem Rampangilei, 60, as the new chief of the BNPB, succeeding Samsyul Ma'arif, at a time amid massive forest fires and consequent haze engulfing Sumatra and Kalimantan islands.

       A couple of days after taking over, the new chief flew to Sumatra to inspect the disaster sites and efforts being made to handle the situation on the ground.
       He expressed optimism that the forest and plantation fires in Riau Province would be put out next week.
       After inspecting the fires, he set a deadline of 30 days starting last Friday (Sept. 11) to put out forest fires in South Sumatra, also 30 days starting yesterday in West Kalimantan,  and 14 days starting last Thursday (Sept. 10) in Riau.
        Despite the fact that the area affected by the fires was vast, he was optimistic that the challenge  could be overcome with the support of the Indonesian Defense Forces and the National Police.
       The agency has been carrying out efforts to extinguish fires on the ground and from the air by dropping water bombs and resorting to cloud seeding to trigger rains.
         Rampangilei, former spokesman for the Restoration Operation Command in East Timor, now Timor Leste, said he would focus on the three provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. He pledged that the problem of haze would be dealt with comprehensively.
        Joining the military in 1980, he had been  a deputy for Environmental and Social Vulnerability Coordination at the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, since early 2015.
        After officially being installed as the new BNPB chief by President Jokowi, Rampangilei expressed his optimism that Indonesia can be freed from the haze disaster if it implements several preventive measures and involves the people.
         "I am convinced we can overcome it, but I cannot reply if questioned on how long it will take. This is because there are several factors that lead to forest and land fires. Humans who set ablaze forest and peatland areas are one of the causes of the fires," Rampangilei remarked.
        Rampangilei affirmed that anticipatory steps should be taken before forest fires occurred by spreading awareness among the people on the dangers of forest and land fires.
        He said that the haze resulting from forest fires posed a serious threat not only to the economy but also to the health of the people, particularly to expecting mothers and children under five years of age.
         "Besides this, the delays in flights at several airports caused losses that have to be borne by the airline operators," the new BNPB chief pointed out.
         While visiting the command post of the forest fire task force at the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base, Riau Province, Sumatra Island, on Sept. 10. Rampangilei said the president has instructed to extinguish the fires and end the haze problem immediately.
       "Within two weeks, plantation fires must be put out," he quoted the president as saying.
        The mission could be deemed successful if there was no increase in the number of people infected by respiratory problems, students could resume their class activities, and airports could operate normally, he emphasized.
        He said the economic loss caused by the haze could not be dismissed as insignificant. Quoting a 2013 World Bank report, he said that the total financial loss that Riau suffered from the haze amounted to Rp 20 trillion (US$1.4 million).
        Earlier, Minister/State Secretary Pratikno said Maarif was relieved of his responsibilities as he had been holding the post since for he had held the post for nearly seven years.
      Willem Rampangilei was appointed because of his competency and experience, he said.
       "It is just a routine rotation and normal because Mr Syamsul has been the BNPB chief for a long time," the minister clarified. 
In the meantime, Vice President Jusuf Kalla expressed appreciation for the performance of the BNPB under the leadership of Syamsul Maarif.
        "Yes, (the performance of Syamsul Maarif) is good, including his handling of earthquake in Central Java," Kalla said following Maarif¿s replamcent.
        With the induction of Willem Rampangilei as the new Chief of BNPB, who will replace Syamsul Maarif, the Vice President hoped that the performance of BNPB will improve.     
   Kalla stressed that the replacement of the BNPB Chief had nothing to do with disaster management issues of thick smog stemming from forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
        "It is not easy to handle natural disasters in Indonesia," Kalla pointed out. ***4***

(T.F001/A/BESSR/A. Abdussalam) 16-09-2015 22:13:49

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