Singapore, Malaysia to start talks on maritime boundary delimitation within a month


Singapore, Malaysia to start talks on maritime boundary delimitation within a month, Politics News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

9 April 2019

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister’s Office at the Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister’s Office at the Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
PM Lee and Tun Dr Mahathir at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019.
PM Lee and Tun Dr Mahathir at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
PM Lee and the Singapore delegation.
PM Lee and the Singapore delegation. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian delegation.
Dr Mahathir and the Malaysian delegation.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
(From left) Mrs Lee, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.
(From left) Mrs Lee, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah meeting Mrs Lee at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah meeting Mrs Lee at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah with Mrs Lee at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah with Mrs Lee at Protocol Hall, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya, on April 9, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

PUTRAJAYA – Singapore and Malaysia will begin negotiations to delimit their maritime boundaries in a month, as both countries have implemented measures to de-escalate the situation at sea, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Related Story

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Speaking at a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at Perdana Putra after their Leaders’ Retreat on Tuesday (April 9), PM Lee noted that both countries have suspended the extensions of their overlapping port limits, and ceased anchoring government vessels in the area.

“With this implementation, we are commencing negotiations on boundary delimitation in a month,” he said.

The dispute over maritime boundaries was one of several current bilateral issues that both leaders addressed during their meeting. The others included airspace, water and connectivity.

PM Lee said he and Tun Dr Mahathir affirmed their commitment to a cooperative and forward-looking bilateral relationship during the retreat, the first with the Pakatan Harapan government since it came to power in May 2018.

“The relationship between our two countries is rooted in our long history, and strong family and business ties,” he said. “This remains unchanged with the new Malaysian government,” he added.

He also invited Dr Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali to this year’s National Day Parade at the Padang on Aug 9. Dr Mahathir said he was glad to accept the invitation. Related Story

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Sustainable water supply

On water, PM Lee said he told Dr Mahathir that Singapore has two concerns regarding water from Johor.

The first is pollution of the Johor River. PUB’s waterworks at Kota Tinggi had to shut down last week because of high ammonia levels. The source of pollution was traced to a palm oil mill in Sedenak.

“If Johor River suffers an incident like that which happened at Sungai Kim Kim recently, it will be disastrous for both countries,” said PM Lee.

The other is the long-term sustainable yield of the Johor River.

PM Lee noted that Johor has built water plants on the Johor River, upstream of PUB’s waterworks at Kota Tinggi.

The combined amount these plants draw may well exceed the river’s sustainable yield, he said, adding that there is a need to study how to meet both Johor’s and Singapore’s water requirements for the remainder of the 1962 Water Agreement.

It is in both countries’ interests to work together to ensure sustainable water supply for both sides, because this will reduce the potential for conflict in the future, he said.

Both leaders also agreed that their respective attorneys-general should continue their dialogue, and understand each other’s perspectives and concerns on the price of raw water sold to Singapore under the 1962 Water Agreement.

The foreign ministers from both countries will be in charge of this matter, he added.

PM Lee, Tun Dr Mahathir and the delegations from both countries meeting at the Perdana Putra Building on April 9, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Under the agreement, which expires in 2061, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons a day of raw water from Johor at three sen per 1,000 gallons. Dr Mahathir has previously said the price is too low, and wants to raise it.

On Tuesday, PM Lee said both countries’ respective positions on water price are well known. “Singapore’s position is that Malaysia has lost its right to review, but we agreed in November that our two attorneys-general would meet to understand each other’s legal positions on the right to review,” he added.

Airspace issues

PM Lee noted that Malaysia’s indefinite suspension of its permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang and Singapore’s withdrawal of the Instrument Landing System procedures at Seletar Airport clear the way for Malaysian carrier Firefly to start services to Seletar from April 21.

On Monday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said at a press conference that the civil aviation authorities from both countries would work together to develop GPS-based instrument approach procedures for Seletar Airport, to enhance safety. Related Story

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Malaysia has also stated its intention to review the existing arrangement that sees Singapore air traffic controllers manage airspace over southern Johor. A high-level committee chaired by senior transport officials from both countries was formed earlier this year on this.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysia’s objective is to take back the delegated airspace from Singapore in the area concerned in stages, from the end of 2019 to 2023.

PM Lee noted that civil aviation is growing rapidly on both sides, with both Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Changi being major regional airports. In fact, KLIA has greater capacity to grow, he noted.

“Singapore is ready to discuss this matter with Malaysia,” PM Lee said.

“The key considerations are the safety and efficiency of air traffic operations, and the needs and interests of both countries. I told Dr Mahathir this is a complex matter that will involve consulting many stakeholders, including airlines and ICAO, and cannot be rushed,” he added. ICAO is the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

RTS and connectivity projects

Both leaders have tasked their attorneys-general to work out a supplemental agreement to suspend the cross-border rail link project between Johor Baru and Woodlands for six months, said PM Lee.

Malaysia had requested a six-month suspension of the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, to reassess its options.

The supplemental agreement would give effect to the suspension, similar to what was done for the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project last year.

Singapore and Malaysia had last year agreed to a two-year suspension of the HSR, with Malaysia paying Singapore $15 million for abortive costs incurred due to the suspension.

PM Lee noted that there is still one year for the HSR Suspension Agreement to run, till next May. Related Story

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“Singapore continues to see (the HSR) as a good project,” he said. “But we understand why Malaysia needs time to review the cost and alternative options. We look forward to receiving Malaysia’s proposals soon, and working with them to find a way forward that works for both countries.”

Beyond these topical bilateral issues, the broader Singapore-Malaysia relationship continues to grow, PM Lee said.

He cited how the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia, chaired by Economics Affairs Minister Azmin Ali and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, is working to further cooperation on multiple fronts.

Both countries are each other’s second-largest trading partners, with bilateral trade at close to $120 billion last year. And business ties remain strong. The Singapore Manufacturing Federation is renewing its memorandum of understanding to collaborate with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers later this month, PM Lee noted.

As close neighbours, Singapore and Malaysia must expect issues to arise from time to time, PM Lee said.

“But provided we address them in a constructive spirit, we can manage the problems, contain the side effects, and work towards win-win outcomes.”

 Read the joint statement below by both leaders.


  1. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met in Putrajaya on 9 April 2019 for the 9th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat. This being their first Retreat together, both Leaders iterated their renewed commitment to this continuing
    annual engagement as a platform for cooperation and discussing issues of mutual concern.
  2. Reflecting on the strong historical links, and 54 years of diplomatic relations that bind both nations, both Leaders reiterated their commitment to preserving the vital relations and to improving bilateral ties on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The steady stream of visits and exchanges over the past year demonstrates both countries’ commitment to developing new areas of cooperation. The Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to resolve issues of concern in an amicable and constructive manner.
  3. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad congratulated Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Singapore’s successful Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018. The Leaders also welcomed the development of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, as a platform to pursue smart city
    projects to improve the lives of ASEAN citizens. The Leaders reaffirmed the importance of ASEAN in maintaining regional stability and promoting closer economic integration.
    They reiterated their support for the ASEAN-centric regional architecture that is open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based. Both Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together and the
    ASEAN Leaders’ Vision for a Resilient and Innovative ASEAN.
  4. Both Leaders underscored the strong bilateral economic ties between Malaysia and Singapore and emphasised the importance of deepening trade and investment cooperation in the current uncertain global environment.
  5. Singapore and Malaysia have always been major economic partners. Singapore is Malaysia’s largest source of tourist arrivals, while around 1.2 million visitors from Malaysia visit Singapore every year. Both countries are each other’s second largest trading partner. Bilateral trade increased by an average of 12% per annum from 2016 to 2018.
    Likewise, both countries are also important investment partners to each other.
  6. The Leaders noted the strong ties between the business communities from Singapore and Malaysia. They noted the broad scope for companies from both countries to collaborate widely, especially in areas such as digital economy and Industry 4.0.


  1. The Leaders welcomed the progress made by Malaysia and Singapore in implementing the recommendations of the Working Group on maritime issues surrounding the Johor Bahru Port Limits off Tanjung Piai and Singapore Port Limits off Tuas to resolve the situation on
    the ground, paving the way for maritime boundary delimitation of the area. The Leaders welcomed the establishment of the committee to commence negotiations on maritime boundary delimitation in the area within one (1) month, following the implementation of
    the recommendations of the Working Group and noted that the said committee will be chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.
  2. The Leaders looked forward to the convening of the 8th Meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee on the Implementation of the International Court of Justice Judgment on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge to resolve outstanding bilateral
    maritime boundary delimitation issues in the area.
  3. Both Leaders looked forward to the determination of the actual location of the points of the international boundary pursuant to the ‘Agreement between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore to Delimit Precisely the Territorial
    Waters Boundary in Accordance with the Straits Settlements and Johore Territorial Waters Agreement 1927’ signed on 7 August 1995.
  4. The Leaders also welcomed the agreement between the two countries for Singapore to withdraw the Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport and for Malaysia to suspend the permanent Restricted Area over Pasir Gudang airspace indefinitely. This
    would allow flights approaching and departing Seletar Airport to be based on visual approach in accordance with the Singapore Aeronautical Information Publication.
  5. The Leaders noted that a High Level Committee has been set up to review the Operational Letter of Agreement between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore Area Control Centres concerning Singapore Arrivals, Departures and Overflights signed in 1974.
  6. The Leaders reaffirmed the significant benefits of strengthening Malaysia-Singapore transport connectivity. In this respect, both Leaders acknowledged the importance of alleviating congestion in a comprehensive manner at the Causeway and Second Link. They
    agreed to explore further initiatives, including the use of new technology, for enhanced security and checkpoint efficiency.
  7. Both Leaders welcomed the progress made on discussions regarding the Johor Bahru- Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link Project. Both Leaders noted that Malaysia had proposed, and Singapore had agreed to consider, suspending the RTS Link Project for six
  8. (6) months from 1 April 2019, in a manner similar to that for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore
  9. High Speed Rail Project. Both Leaders instructed their officials to further deliberate on the
  10. matter and to finalise the terms of the suspension.


  1. Malaysia expressed appreciation to Singapore for agreeing to suspend the Kuala Lumpur- Singapore High Speed Rail Project for a period up to 31 May 2020 through the exchange of legal documents between both sides on 5 September 2018. The Leaders noted that Malaysia is exploring the possible way forward with the aim of cost reduction.
  1. The Leaders noted both sides’ interest to identify appropriate and timely measures, including schemes, to increase the yield of the Johore River, and to safeguard its environmental conditions and water quality, to the extent required by the 1962 Johore River
    Water Agreement (1962 Agreement).
  2. The Leaders also noted the differing positions of both sides on the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Agreement. Both Leaders agreed for the Attorneys-General of both sides to discuss these differing positions.
  3. Both sides will seek amicable solutions, including the possibility of dispute resolution through arbitration on a mutually agreed basis.
  4. The Leaders expressed their satisfaction on the ongoing cooperation under the purview of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM). Both Leaders looked forward to the convening of the 14th Meeting of the JMCIM in Singapore later this year to
    take stock of the progress made in the respective immigration, tourism, transportation links, environment, iconic project and industrial cooperation work groups. Singapore noted the
    recent announcement by Malaysia on the expansion of Iskandar Malaysia. Both Leaders acknowledged prospects for further cooperation on the development of Iskandar Malaysia.
  5. The Leaders reiterated their commitment to promote and explore further links to improve connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. They noted ongoing discussions on Malaysia’s proposal for a new ferry route between Singapore and the Pasir Gudang Ferry
    Terminal. They also noted Malaysia’s request for an extension of the land lease of Changi Ferry Terminal under the Agreement for the Construction and Operation of a Ferry Terminal and the Operation of a Ferry Service between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
  6. The Leaders commended the ongoing cooperation on environmental issues with transboundary implications, through platforms such as the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE) and the outcome of the last MSJCE meeting held in September 2018 in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Both countries reiterated their commitment to
    enhance the existing bilateral cooperation on the environment, including issues with transboundary implications, particularly in the area of monitoring marine and air quality as well as transboundary waste movements. Both Leaders reiterated the importance of
    enhancing capabilities to address areas of mutual concern, and emphasised the importance of information sharing and implementing mitigating measures.


  1. The Leaders reiterated that the historical and cultural links between both countries are the foundation for stronger relations and have been further strengthened with cultural exchanges. The Leaders looked forward to the launch of the inaugural Triennial Malaysia-
  2. Singapore Cultural Showcase in the second-half of 2019 in Kuala Lumpur with the themeof “Youth”.
  1. The Leaders welcomed potential cooperation in the areas of youth and sports especially the feasibility of eSports development and empowerment of youth through volunteerism, leadership and exchange programmes.
  2. Both Leaders noted ongoing exchanges between Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information and Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia at the annual Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee in the field of Information and Communications. The
    Leaders also took note of the progress made towards concluding a Memorandum of Understanding to Promote Cooperation on Data, Cybersecurity and Digital Economy by October 2019.
  3. The Leaders welcomed the good progress made by Singapore’s EZ-Link and Malaysia’s Touch ‘nGo to launch a cross-border Combi Card that can be used by motorists who travel in both countries. When officially implemented, the dual-currency Combi Card would
    allow users to pay for road tolls and parking charges in both countries with the same card.
  4. They also noted the partnership between NETS of Singapore and PayNet of Malaysia to accept Singapore Banks issued NETS ATM Cards in Malaysia and Malaysia Banks issued MyDebit ATM Cards in Singapore. Currently, Singapore consumers are able to use their
    NETS ATM Cards to make payment at over 3,500 acceptance points throughout Malaysia, which marked the first time that NETS ATM Cards could be used to make payment outside Singapore. MyDebit ATM Cards will be accepted in Singapore from the 3rd Quarter of
    2019 onwards.
  5. The Leaders acknowledged the ongoing cooperation between both countries’ agencies and institutions, bilaterally and in collaboration with the United States and Switzerland, in investigating offences, sharing information on bank accounts, fund transfers, and other
    transactions associated with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund flows, and recovering assets. They noted that the Singapore courts had ordered the return of approximately S$15 million of 1MDB-related funds to Malaysia, and that efforts to further
    recover assets were ongoing. Singapore authorities were also rendering mutual legal assistance in obtaining records held by financial institutions and facilitating witness interviews, in accordance with Singapore law. The Leaders encouraged authorities from both countries to keep up their excellent working relationship.


  1. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong invited Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali to attend Singapore’s Bicentennial National Day Parade on 9 August 2019, and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir accepted the invitation. Prime
    Minister Lee looked forward to hosting Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir for this important milestone celebration.
  2. The Leaders looked forward to Singapore hosting the 10th Retreat in 2020.

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