Vivian: Ties with Malaysia on a stable footing, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Vivian: Ties with Malaysia on a stable footing

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Foreign Minister says Singapore ready and willing to cooperate with Malaysia

Relations with Malaysia are "now on a more stable footing but there is still much work to be done", Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament yesterday.

He reiterated that Singapore is ready and willing to cooperate with Malaysia in a spirit of goodwill and neighbourliness, as he gave an update on last month's Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat when maritime, water, airspace and land transport matters were discussed.

He was replying to Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), who had asked about the state of relations following the meeting.

On land connectivity, the minister said Singapore believes the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) are "mutually beneficial projects that will significantly ease congestion, facilitate business and tourism, and bring the people of Malaysia and Singapore closer together".

Both countries are working on an agreement to suspend the RTS project for six months from April 1 this year, he added.

As for the HSR project, they signed a deal last September to suspend it up till May 31 next year.

On water, Dr Balakrishnan said the countries' attorneys-general are having further discussions on the two sides' differing positions on the legal right to review the price under the 1962 Water Agreement.

"While Malaysia is apparently most concerned about the price of raw water, this issue cannot be viewed in isolation," he added and spelt out two situations.

First, if there is any revision in the price of raw water, the price of treated water that Singapore sells to Johor will also have to be revised. Second, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted at the recent retreat Singapore's grave concerns about the multiple pollution incidents that have affected the Johor River and its long-term yield.

The minister also said officials from both sides will follow up by identifying measures to increase the river's yield, and safeguarding its environmental conditions and the quality of water.

On airspace matters, he said technical agencies from both countries are in talks to implement the Global Positioning System-based instrument approach procedures at Seletar Airport soon, for both the northern and southern approaches.

He also talked of Malaysia's intention to review the existing arrangements of Singapore providing air traffic services over southern peninsular Malaysia.

In 1974, both countries inked an agreement to operationalise this arrangement. This was based on decisions reached at the 1973 Asia-Pacific Regional Air Navigation meeting held under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Any proposal to change the arrangements must be according to ICAO standards, processes and procedures and the 1973 decision, the minister said.

On the issue of port limits, the minister said negotiations will start soon when a committee co-chaired by the Foreign Affairs Ministry's permanent secretary and Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Ministry's secretary-general meet.