S'pore committed to reopening borders, will open VTLs with more countries when possible: DPM Heng

The new Boeing 777X plane being readied on Feb 13 for its Asian debut at the Singapore Airshow. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Singapore is committed to reopening its economy and borders to the rest of the world, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Feb 14).

The continued opening of the vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) for quarantine-free travel with more than 20 countries in spite of the global surge in Covid-19 cases reflects this commitment, he said.

The country will also extend VTLs to more countries when the situation permits, Mr Heng added.

"With the roll-out of vaccines and boosters, many countries are relaxing travel restrictions," he said. "Singapore is committed to do our part to resume global air travel."

Mr Heng, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Airshow 2022, cited the event as another example of Singapore's commitment to reopening.

The airshow will be smaller in scale compared with previous airshows, with attendance hit by the uncertain Covid-19 situation worldwide and accompanying restrictions.

Nevertheless, it will still be the largest trade event since the Covid-19 pandemic struck Singapore.

Mr Heng, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, said the airshow is important in underlining Singapore's belief in the long-term prospects of the aviation and aerospace sectors.

He said the fundamentals for growth are strong, citing the increasingly interconnected global economy, a fast-growing middle class and improved air connectivity.

"Singapore is committed - as a global air hub - to grow the aviation and aerospace sectors," added Mr Heng.

"Our efforts today will not only define the current flight path, but will also set the trajectory 10 to 20 years from now."

In the present, the Government has put in more than $1 billion to support the aviation and aerospace sectors to protect jobs and preserve capabilities amid the pandemic.

It has also continued to invest in infrastructure, said Mr Heng.

One example of this investment is the new aeroSpace Three development at the Seletar Aerospace Park, which lets aerospace companies tap smart factory solutions. The construction of this facility will be completed this year.

Looking ahead to the next 10 years, the flight path for the aviation and aerospace sectors will be defined by digitalisation and sustainability, said Mr Heng. The two sectors will thus have to transform in response to these two drivers.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat delivers the opening address at the Singapore Airshow on Feb 14, 2022. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Beyond the next two decades, the two sectors must imagine new possibilities and develop capabilities to reshape the future of aviation, he added.

One example is in the area of electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs), which is also informally known as flying taxis.

Mr Heng said that Singapore will seek to capitalise on the growth of the global eVTOL market by growing the advanced air mobility community at Seletar Aerospace Park. The country will aim to create an ecosystem for a range of activities, including research and manufacturing.

"To give a boost to this nascent industry, we are exploring the feasibility of the first piloted eVTOL trial in Singapore, possibly along the Greater Southern Waterfront," said Mr Heng.

The Government will also work with industry players to develop use cases and operating frameworks, he added.

Mr Heng concluded his speech by urging the aviation and aerospace sectors to work together to come out from the pandemic stronger.

At the Singapore Aerospace Technology Leadership Forum on Monday, Second Minister for Trade and Industry Tan See Leng said the aerospace industry continues to be an important industry for Singapore.

He noted that the industry is seeing signs of recovery despite the challenge posed by the pandemic. Last year, the industry grew by 8.8 per cent.

"As we emerge from the pandemic, and demand for air travel grows, we are confident that the aerospace industry will rebound and thrive in the post-Covid-19 recovery," said Dr Tan.

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