Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat

Singapore, Malaysia to boost links in environment, tourism and more

PM Lee and Datuk Seri Najib noted that good progress has been made in tourism, and they look forward to promoting Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (left) and Johor's Pulau Kukup as a joint eco-tourism initiative.
PM Lee and Datuk Seri Najib noted that good progress has been made in tourism, and they look forward to promoting Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (left) and Johor's Pulau Kukup as a joint eco-tourism initiative.ST FILE PHOTO

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak issued a joint statement after the annual Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat in Putrajaya yesterday.

Apart from witnessing the signing of the agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail and discussing the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System link, they took stock of how ties have been strengthened in various areas.

They also discussed ways to further boost ties in the years to come.

These are some key highlights.

CONNECTIVITY

Both leaders noted that Singapore and Malaysia are each other's second-largest trading partners.

They also pointed to four areas of collaboration that a working group on industrial cooperation had discussed on Oct 27. These are: advanced materials engineering, electronics, food and creative services.

They reiterated a commitment to promote and explore further links between their countries.

They commended efforts to reduce congestion at the Causeway and Second Link, including rolling out automated immigration clearance facilities for motorcycles, such as Malaysia's M-Bike programme and Singapore's Biometric Identification of Motorbikers System (Bikes II).

The Customs agencies of both countries have made progress towards reaching an agreement on training collaboration.

TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION

Both leaders encouraged discussion on possible partnerships to promote technical and vocational education and training.

They look forward to a "training of trainers" scheme next year, which will be held by ITE Education Services with seven Johor- based institutes. The scheme will be supported by Temasek Foundation International.

TOURISM The two leaders noted that good progress has been made in the area of tourism, adding that they look forward to promoting Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Johor's Pulau Kukup as a joint eco-tourism initiative.

It will start when upgrading works at Pulau Kukup are completed this year.

Both sides will also promote Asean as a travel destination when the regional grouping turns 50 next year.

ENVIRONMENT AND HAZE

Both leaders noted that progress has been made in addressing the "recurring problem" of transboundary haze.

They reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which has been ratified by all 10 Asean member states. The pact will help achieve the vision of a haze-free Asean by 2020.

DEFENCE, PLUS URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE

The two leaders, in the light of growing security challenges and threats, made a commitment to strengthen defence cooperation through regular exchanges, training courses and military exercises between their armed forces.

They said it was important to remain committed to multilateral initiatives, which include the Malacca Strait Patrol and Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting.

They also welcomed cooperation between their countries' civil service.

Cooperation on urban search and rescue has increased between the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.

Eleven SCDF personnel also took part in an exercise in August, organised by Malaysia's Civil Defence Department and Civil Defence Training Academy.

CULTURAL EXCHANGE

Both sides expressed a desire to organise a joint cultural showcase regularly, after the success of the Titian Budaya Cultural Festival in Kuala Lumpur last year. The music, theatre, film and art extravaganza marked 50 years of friendship between Singapore and Malaysia.

The proposal is for a Malaysia-Singapore cultural showcase to be held every three years, with the inaugural event anticipated to be held with the Leaders' Retreat in 2018.

The next retreat will be held in Singapore next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore, Malaysia to boost links in environment, tourism and more'. Print Edition | Subscribe