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NEA serves notice on another Indonesian firm

SINGAPORE — As the haze continued to cast a pall over businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector here, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) has issued a notice to another Indonesian company, directing it to take fire-fighting measures.

A construction worker climbs over reinforcing bars on a building site as high-rise apartment buildings behind him are shrouded by haze on Sept 30, 2015.  Source: Reuters

A construction worker climbs over reinforcing bars on a building site as high-rise apartment buildings behind him are shrouded by haze on Sept 30, 2015. Source: Reuters

SINGAPORE — As the haze continued to cast a pall over businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector here, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) has issued a notice to another Indonesian company, directing it to take fire-fighting measures.

The company PT Bumi Mekar Hijau is the fifth to receive a preventive measures notice from the NEA under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act.

Haze remained at unhealthy levels today (Sept 30) despite an early morning thunderstorm. As at 11pm, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was 132 to 163, while the 3-hour PSI was 171, down from 224 at 4pm.

The one-hour PM2.5 concentration was 106 to 144 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Haze spreading from Sumatra is still persisting in the surrounding region and some haze from Kalimantan has also been spreading westward to the surrounding region, contributing to the slight deterioration in haze conditions here, the agency said.

The 24-hour PSI tomorrow is expected to be in the high end of the unhealthy range to the low end of the very unhealthy range, and could deteriorate to the mid-section of the very unhealthy range if denser haze blows in.

Last week, the NEA issued a preventive measures notice to four Indonesian companies suspected to be causing the haze, and requested a fifth with an office here to provide more information, putting into action the powers of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act for the first time since it was passed last year.

Businesses catering to tourists here are being hit in the pocket as a result of the haze, with visitors steering clear of outdoor attractions.

At the Singapore Flyer, which offers panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline, tourists showed up, only to change their minds about going up after considering the conditions. Twenty-six-year-old Lisa, from Italy, said: “We were a little shocked because everybody is wearing masks. It’s not so nice, and the air is not so fresh.”

Another tourist Gary Metcalf, 50, also decided not to take a ride on the Flyer, and said that his golf session at Raffles Country Club had to be called off because of the haze. He added: “(I am) disappointed with the haze because my friend has not been feeling too well. We knew it was bad, but we did not know that it will be this bad.”

Mr Kian Guan, 50, supervisor of the Ya Kun Kaya Toast branch at the Flyer, said the outlet even shortened operating hours to half a day twice last week, on Sept 24 and 25, when the haze was at its worst. The management considers stopping operations at branches with outdoor seating when the PSI crosses the 200 mark, he said.

Mr Mattias Mross, 41, however, gamely took a ride. “We are from Shanghai so I think we are used to the haze,” he added.

When contacted, the Singapore Flyer management said they have seen a drop in walk-in visitors, but not by a “significant” amount, adding: “We don’t foresee the haze affecting the operations of the Flyer.”

Over at Sentosa, the island has seen visitorship drop about 20 per cent since the onset of the haze.

“When the PSI level exceeds 300, or if the experience of the attraction is compromised, we may suspend operations of our outdoor attractions such as the Wings of Time, as well as outdoor programmes.

“If the PSI rises to levels where visibility becomes a safety consideration for our cable car operations, we will also suspend the cable car rides until the situation improves,” said Sentosa Leisure Management’s divisional director (island operations) Koh Piak Huat.

Last Thursday, it suspended its cable car services when the haze reached hazardous levels and visibility deteriorated.

Travel agencies serving in-bound tourists are also feeling the pinch, although they noted overall visitor arrivals here have been on the decline. Mr Bernard Yu, senior manager for the in-bound travel department at SingExpress Travel, said numbers are down 30 per cent from the same period last year.

There could be a pickup when China’s Golden Week holidays — to mark its National Day — begin tomorrow, but the Chinese economy has been weak, he said.

While there have been no cancellations so far, three travel agents from Hong Kong have enquired about the haze and considered cancelling, he added.

Travel GSH managing director Chai Yin said the agency has seen a slight decrease of about 18 per cent.

But, Singapore is typically a short stop for its customers, who spend a couple of days here before moving on to other countries as part of the itinerary, he said.

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