Parliament this week passed a new bill which allows firms based in Singapore or abroad to be fined up to $100,000 per day of haze for contributing to or causing the air pollution.
The Transboundary Haze Pollution Bill will cap fines at $2 million, and was passed after a lengthy-two day debate in Parliament where a number of issues and questions were raised about the extraterritorial nature of the bill, and whether the fines are high enough to act as a deterrent for companies.
Addressing the concerns, Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said the new bill is "a start" and the effectiveness of it would be reviewed periodically.
"This is new legislation. We don't know yet how this will work in practice. We want to be very careful that we don't overreach or have unrealistic penalties," he said, My Paper reported.
Balakrishnan also said the bill is "not a silver bullet", but it is a step forward in the right direction to combat the cause of haze pollution.
On the question of extraterritorial application, Balakrishnan said while under international law other states have the right to exploit their natural resources in accordance with their policies, they also have a responsibility to ensure they do not cause damage to nearby states.
He also said the Objective Territorial Principle legally allows Singapore to take action against neighbouring states which case harm within Singapore due to irresponsible actions.
The bill will take effect in October or November, reports said.
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