SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday (Dec 20) commended the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF), after it stepped up operations in recent months in response to several incidents.
Dr Ng visited Changi Naval Base on Thursday, and in a Facebook post noted that the MSTF has the capabilities to conduct round-the-clock surveillance of Singapore's territorial waters from air, land and sea.
He wrote: "In recent months, MSTF has stepped up operations in response to a number of incidents - the Batam terrorist cell, Trump-Kim Summit and intrusions into the Singapore territorial waters at Tuas."
"I commended and encouraged them to stay vigilant and professional at all times," he added.
Dr Ng was accompanied by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, MPs Vikram Nair and Henry Kwek who sit on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, and senior media editors.
The MSTF, set up in 2009, works with law-enforcement and maritime agencies to safeguard Singapore's waters. It conducts daily patrols as well as boarding and escort operations in the Singapore Strait, among other duties.
A half-minute video posted by Dr Ng showed him speaking with Lieutenant-Colonel Ye Yiming, the commanding officer of littoral mission vessel RSS Justice.
In his call made from the MSTF operations centre, the minister asked LTC Ye to "tell (his) crew to continue their good work".
Dr Ng added that the MSTF works closely with national agencies - the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Customs and Singapore Police Force - to safeguard Singapore's territorial waters around the clock.
The intrusions into Singapore's territorial waters that Dr Ng referred to were made by Malaysian government vessels.
Singapore and Malaysia have been involved in a dispute over the Republic's territorial waters off Tuas.
On Oct 25, Malaysia unilaterally extended the Johor Baru port limits such that they encroached on Singapore's waters. Following that, 14 incursions by Malaysian vessels were recorded between Nov 24 and Dec 5.
There were two Malaysian ships in Singapore waters as of Monday (Dec 17), said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan then.
Both sides have agreed to meet in the second week of next month to discuss the maritime dispute.