Acting Transport Minister Vivian Balakrishnan gives updates on transport-related issues with M'sia

Covering for Khaw Boon Wan.

Sulaiman Daud| March 07, 04:12 PM

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan pulled double duty during the Ministry of Transport's Committee of Supply Debate on March 7 as the acting Transport Minister, covering for Khaw Boon Wan who is on medical leave due to a broken arm.

He assured the House that Khaw was recovering well, and has been following the debates.

But perhaps it was fitting for Vivian to serve as Acting Transport Minister, given the number of transport issues involving our neighbour Malaysia.

Vivian addressed a number of transport-related bilateral issues that have made the headlines over the past few months.

HSR project

Singapore suspended the High Speed Rail project at Malaysia's request, until May 31, 2020, in the "spirit of bilateral cooperation".

Because of this, Malaysia paid Singapore about S$15 million in abortive costs.

Malaysia requested for discussions on how to reduce the cost of the project, but so far have not proposed any.

Vivian said Singapore looked forward to resuming our work with Malaysia when they are ready.

RTS Link Project

Vivian said there are likely to be further delays to the RTS project.

Both countries now have to call an open tender for the RTS Link's Operating Company.

Again, in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, Singapore is willing to engage Malaysia on its proposal for a Joint Venture (JV) partner for the Operating Company.

But Malaysia has delayed on confirming its JV partner, and recently asked for another extension to March 31, making the original deadline target of Dec. 31, 2024 unlikely.

Maritime territorial disputes

Vivian reported "reasonable progress" over the maritime dispute, which began when Malaysia unilaterally extended Johor Bahru port limits into Singapore territorial waters on Oct. 25, 2018.

He said that he hoped to make joint announcements within a couple of weeks.

In addition, Vivian confirmed that the dispute will not affect the development of Tuas Terminal.

He assured the House that Singapore's security agencies will continue to safeguard the country's sovereignty of its territorial waters.

Airspace disputes

Vivian confirmed that he had spoken to Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Feb. 27 and both sides have been closely monitoring the "sensitive discussions" by their officials.

After Khaw's meeting with Loke on Jan. 23, both sides agreed to extend the mutual suspension of the instrument landing system (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport, and the Restricted Area over Pasir Gudang until March 31, 2019.

Singapore's responsibility

Vivian laid out Singapore's history of providing air traffic services to the region, beginning in 1946, after being allocated responsibility by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

In 2018 alone, Singapore managed 740,000 flights in its flight information region -- where the country's stewardship has led to the growth of the aviation sector in the region.

Vivian said that while Singapore respects the sovereignty of other countries, discussions on air navigation have to be based on technical and operational considerations.

Any changes need to be done in accordance with ICAO rules, and Singapore takes its responsibilities seriously.

Vivian also spoke about how Singapore needed to continue investing in technology to maintain its high standards of civil aviation, and that it will do so in order to ensure the safety of flights in the region, not just in Singapore.

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