The new Jakarta headquarters of a regional center to promote cooperation on disaster management by Southeast Asian nations was unveiled on Thursday.
The Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA), which is expected to officially begin operating in June, will have offices in the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) building in Central Jakarta.
The idea for the AHA was first agreed to by the foreign ministers of the 10-nation grouping in 2005 in recognition of the need for international cooperation in dealing with natural disasters.
Ridwan Djamaluddin, deputy head of technology for natural resources development at the BPPT, said Indonesia would serve two of the key monitoring functions at the center.
“Indonesia is expected to be the center for the tsunami early warning system and will also be the regional tsunami monitor,” he said. “We’re also the Asean earthquake information center, and if a quake hits Jakarta and puts the BPPT building out of commission, operations will be transferred to Puspiptek [the Research Center for Science and Technology] in Serpong.”
The backup disaster management center at Puspiptek was being established, he added.
Ridwan also said the AHA would keep track of climate change-related phenomenon such as changes in environmental conditions and forest fires.
Several countries from outside the Asean have pledged assistance for the center, including Japan, which has promised $6 million, the United States at $500,000, Australia $500,000 and New Zealand, which has offered technical aid.
Disaster experts from New Zealand arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday to train Indonesian technicians from the BPPT.
Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said this nation had been chosen as the host for the center because it regularly experienced a range of natural disasters and had been able to “handle them.”
“The AHA center will be the joint emergency response center for Southeast Asia, with information and technology as the backbone of its performance,” he said at Thursday’s soft launch.
Agung said the center was not quite ready yet because Laos was yet to agree to several points in its charter, while there were also questions about each country’s financial obligations.
Indonesia is set to spend Rp 5 billion ($555,000) a year on the center, while the other Asean nations had been expected to contribute $100,000 each.
“We’ll come up with some creative solutions to overcome these obstacles,” Agung said, adding that it could mean getting related departments in each country to contribute some existing facilities for the AHA’s use.
The AHA in Jakarta will be equipped with furnishings and computers from the BPPT, maps from the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) and books and stationery from the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare.
BNPB head Syamsul Maarif said that while the AHA Center would provide a joint disaster response, it would not supersede each individual country’s own relief and mitigation efforts.
“Each country has their own disaster management agency, which will always act first in the wake of any disaster,” he said. “In the event that a country requires outside assistance to cope with an emergency, it may seek assistance from the AHA center.”