SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Environment ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met here on Tuesday to discuss a number of environmental related issues and transboundary haze pollution.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 15th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (15th AMME) and related meetings, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Aun Pornmoniroth said ASEAN could be considered as one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world.
"This year, many ASEAN countries experienced droughts, severe storms, floods and forest fires. Therefore, climate change and environmental related issues are not a responsibility of any single country, but it is, of course, our problem, our responsibility," he said.
"Thus, today's meeting is an important and historic event for ASEAN and partners to review the progress, and to put forward future strategic actions to achieve environmentally sustainable development for our region as well as the world," said Pornmoniroth, who is also a minister of economy and finance.
Cambodian Environment Minister Say Samal said the world has been facing increasing environmental challenges such as climate change and natural disasters.
"More frequent occurrences of severe droughts, forest fires, storms, and landslides are major manifestations. Therefore, more concerted efforts are needed to ensure environmental protection and sustainable development in our region," he said.
During the two-day gathering, the ASEAN ministers would continue to further discuss, exchange ideas and review regional cooperation on numbers of environmental issues, Samal said, adding that they would also seek for new initiatives to further promote environmental cooperation in the region.
He said they would also talk about transboundary haze pollution which affects several countries in the region.
The minister added that the biennial meeting is expected to adopt an ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change, the nomination of ASEAN Heritage Parks, and ASEAN Strategic Plan on Environment.
According to the minister, the ASEAN ministers will also interact with ministers from dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea in the 16th ASEAN Plus Three Environment Ministers Meeting on Wednesday.
ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi said the meeting was crucial to discuss the progress and to set future directions of ASEAN's cooperation on environment and transboundary haze pollution.
He said ASEAN recognized the importance of protecting and supporting ecosystems and biodiversity in the region.
"The region's biodiversity and ecosystems are essential to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the ASEAN people, contributing to agriculture, food security and livelihoods, and the preservation of indigenous cultures," he said.
Meanwhile, Lim said that to date, ASEAN has listed 44 protected areas as ASEAN Heritage Parks through the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.
"We look forward to adding five new ASEAN Heritage Parks at this 15th AMME," he said.
Talking about recent smoke haze affecting various ASEAN countries, Lim said ASEAN, more than ever, needs to work closely to consolidate existing initiatives to combat the haze.
He said it was important to address the "root causes of the transboundary haze pollution" and ASEAN must do more to strengthen regional cooperation measures that could be taken to prevent the haze.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.