SINGAPORE - NO reclamation is currently taking place on Malaysia's two controversial projects near Singapore, said Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli on Wednesday.
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Here's the speech by Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli:
Mdm Speaker, Singapore is very concerned about the potential transboundary impact on Singapore from reclamation projects in Malaysia that are in close proximity to Singapore. Countries are obliged under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and general international law, not to cause harm or permit activities within their jurisdiction to cause transboundary harm to their neighbours.
In the present case, this would include Malaysia not permitting reclamation activities of this scale and nature to take place so close to the international boundary with Singapore without first conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Where such assessments indicate that any damage may be of a transboundary nature affecting Singapore, Malaysia has a duty to consult Singapore.
If damage to our environment has been caused or is imminent, Malaysia has a duty to immediately notify Singapore.
Countries are also obligated to work closely on such matters and to share any relevant information with each other.
Apart from the UNCLOS and general international law, under the 2005 Reclamation Case Settlement Agreement between Singapore and Malaysia, both Singapore and Malaysia are obliged to monitor our respective environments in the Straits of Johor, share information and address any adverse impacts, if necessary.
There are two reclamation projects in question.
The first is by Country Garden Holdings Company Limited and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor in the western Straits of Johor, also known as Forest City; and the second is by Guangzhou R&F Properties Company Limited in the vicinity of Johor's old Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex by the Causeway, also known as R&F Princess Cove. Singapore was not given prior information on these reclamation projects.
In this regard, we have, on a number of occasions, registered our concerns with Malaysia regarding these projects.
We have requested for all relevant information on all their reclamation and construction works, including the EIA reports and projected timelines for their completion, for our further study and consideration.
These were conveyed through letters from the National Environment Agency or NEA to its Malaysian counterpart, and through third party notes, which are formal diplomatic correspondence between governments.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke and wrote to Prime Minister Najib Razak on this matter.
Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan also wrote to his co-chair of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister's Office Dato' Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, to express Singapore's concerns.
Our concerns have also been expressed to other Malaysian ministerial colleagues. This issue was also discussed at the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment Working Group meeting in Malaysia in May 2014.
In our communications with Malaysia, we have conveyed our concerns that the reclamation projects could lead to an increase in the current velocity in the Straits of Johor.
In turn, this could affect safety of navigation in the Straits, as well as increased erosion to the seabed and foreshore defences that support the infrastructure of the Second Link and Singapore's shoreline.
The reclamation projects could also result in changes in the morphology and water quality in the Straits of Johor which directly affect Singapore's coastal and marine environment, as well as fish farms and other facilities in the East and West Johor Straits.
Because of these potential transboundary impacts on Singapore, we have requested Malaysia to suspend reclamation works until Singapore had received and studied all the relevant information.
On 30 June 2014, Malaysia responded with some preliminary general information on the proposed reclamation projects for Forest City and R&F Princess Cove. Malaysia promised to share all other information, including the EIAs, once their relevant internal processes are completed.
Malaysia has stated that no reclamation works are currently being undertaken on these projects, and that it remains committed to fulfilling its obligations under international law and will take all necessary measures to avoid any adverse transboundary impact.
We welcome Malaysia's cooperation on this matter and look forward to receiving the rest of the information we requested as soon as possible.
We are also seeking further clarifications on some of the information that Malaysia provided. In the meantime, we will study the information provided and conduct the necessary studies to ascertain how this project will impact Singapore.
Mdm Speaker, in the spirit of bilateral cooperation between our two countries, we remain committed to working together with Malaysia to address our concerns over the possible transboundary impacts of Malaysia's reclamation projects.
In this regard, we have proposed to hold consultations with Malaysia so that both sides can further discuss and exchange information on these projects.