Best of our wild blogs: 23 Sep 18



Three Helens
Butterflies of Singapore


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Bukit Timah drainage project almost done

Melody Zaccheus Straits Times 23 Sep 18;

Drainage improvement work on the Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal to help keep floods at bay is almost 90 per cent complete.

The project is due to be finished by the year end, providing protection for the upper Bukit Timah Catchment, which includes areas such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Beauty World Plaza and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.

Yesterday, national water agency PUB officially unveiled enhancement works along an 800m stretch of the canal located between Holland Green and Holland Plain.

It has features such as three rain gardens, designed to cleanse rainwater run-off and improve the quality of water flowing into the canal.

There are also new shelters, benches, fitness equipment, a wetland, and paths for jogging and cycling. Rock walls and creeper plants now line the canal banks.

The two-year, $3.9 million project comes under PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) programme.

It is the 37th such project in Singapore and the first for Bukit Timah.

It was carried out in conjunction with PUB's drainage upgrading works for the 3.2km Bukit Timah First Diversion Canal that started in 2013. Improvement work on the canal, which flows into Pandan Reservoir, is being carried out in three phases.

In November 2009, a heavy downpour caused a diversion canal from the main Bukit Timah canal to burst its banks, with flood water partially submerging the ground floor of buildings and cars.

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza said at yesterday's ceremony: "The upgrading of the canal between Bukit Timah Road and Clementi Road enhances flood protection, and that is needed to protect residents.

"The project also serves to create vibrant community spaces for the community to bond near the water. This is in line with the vision of a green Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

"Today's opening... reflects our collective vision to overcome water scarcity, to turn adversity into strength, to reimagine green community spaces and, with teamwork, to turn that into reality now."

Housewife Eunice Ng, 49, is glad about the better drainage after her condominium carpark flooded in July 2010, damaging her car. She also welcomed the ABC Waters project. "Now you can walk through and enjoy the scenic view," she said. It's more inviting and suitable for morning and evening walks."


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Malaysia: Three Indonesians caught smuggling 435 exotic animals

Muhammad Mustakim Ramli New Straits Times 22 Sep 18;

KANGAR: Perlis Customs Department rescued 435 exotic animals, including two orang utans, about to be smuggled into Malaysia on Saturday.

Its director Datuk Seri T Subromanian said the animals, kept in 39 boxes, were found underneath a compartment inside a fishing boat.

The Customs team intercepted the boat near the Kuala Perlis-Langkawi border at 12.25am.

"The team arrested three Indonesian men, aged between 40 and 50 years old.

"They have valid travel documents but no permits or papers for the animals." he said.

Apart from the orang utans, other animals rescued were sugar gliders, baby albino foxes, baby crocodiles, birds of paradise, white cockatoos, eclectus parrots, long-tailed parakeets and great arguses.

Subromaniam said most of the animals were classified as endangered species and could fetch a high price in the black market.

He said checks showed that the animals originated from Sumatera and were meant for local market.

He added that the suspects and animals have been handed over to the Wildlife Department for further action.

The case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(e) of the Customs Act 1967 for importing uncustomed and prohibited goods.

Hundreds of wild animals saved
g.c. tan The Star 23 Sep 18;

KANGAR: Two orang utan, looking stressed and frightened, are among hundreds of endangered or exotic animals that had been travelling in the sea for three nights before the Customs Department foiled the smuggling attempt.

The animals, which were found on a vessel around midnight on Friday near Langkawi and Kuala Perlis, were being sent to Thailand.

It is learnt that the animals could fetch up to RM500,000 in the black market.

Besides the orang utan, other animals kept in 39 boxes were two baby Albino fox, two paradise birds (burung cenderawasih), two alba cockatoos, two electus parrots, 21 long-tailed parakeet birds (burung bayan nuri), a female great argus bird (burung kuang raya), 48 baby saltwater crocodiles (buaya tembaga) and 355 sugar glider squirrels.

He said they also detained three Indonesian crew members aged between 40 and 50.

“The captain failed to produce documents on the cargo when we stopped them. “Upon inspection, we found the animals.

“All the seized exotic wildlife had been handed over to Perlis Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan),” he told a press conference yesterday.

The crew members are believed to have smuggled the wildlife from Sumatra, Indonesia.

On another matter, Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said poachers who install and own snares would face more severe penalties when the Wildlife Conservation Act is reviewed.

“The use of snares is a serious crime that can cause injuries and deaths to wildlife while some were permanently disabled,” he told Bernama.

At present, individuals convicted of using snares could be fined not less than RM50,000 and not more than RM100,000 and imprisoned not exceeding two years.

“We recommend that amendments to this act impose a longer jail term and a heavier penalty,” he said.

Abdul Kadir said that from January to July, 26 wildlife species such as tapir, sun bear, serow, sambar deer and deer were found dead after being caught in snares.

He said as many as 653 wire and nylon snares and bird nets were destroyed since the beginning of the year while 79 forest sites were identified as the poachers’ area of focus.


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Malaysia: Heavier penalties for poachers - Wildlife Department

Bernama New Straits Times 22 Sep 18;

KUALA LUMPUR: Poachers who install and own snares will face more severe penalties when the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 [Act 716] is reviewed, says Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) director general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim.

According to him, Act 716 would be amended to ensure that more severe penalties were imposed on poachers who use snares to kill or capture wildlife for profit.

“This is a proposal to improve the legal provisions and to increase and enforce the punishments for the offenders involved.

“The use of snares is a serious crime that can cause injuries and deaths of various species of wildlife while some were permanently disabled,” he said when met recently by Bernama.

At present, individuals convicted of using snares could be fined not less than RM50,000 and not more than RM100,000 and imprisoned not exceeding two years.

Kadir said the punishments were seen as not comparable with the deaths and fates of wildlife that was increasingly threatened by extinction due to the greed of the hunters.

“We recommend that amendments to this act impose a longer jail term and a heavier penalty,” he said.

However, the draft proposal to amend the act was still at the proposal level and would be presented to the Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Dr Xavier Jayakumar to be discussed before it is proposed in Parliament.

Kadir said that from January to July this year, 26 wildlife species, such as tapir, sun bear, serow, sambar deer and deer (kijang) were found dead after being caught in snares.

He said as many as 653 wire and nylon snares and bird nets were destroyed since the beginning of the year while 79 forest sites in the country were identified as the poachers’ area of focus. — BERNAMA


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India probes death of 12 endangered lions

AFP Yahoo News 21 Sep 18;

New Delhi (AFP) - Indian authorities Friday ordered a probe into the deaths of a dozen endangered wild Asiatic lions, half of them cubs, over the last 10 days, officials said.

One lioness died after preying on a poisoned boar while eight others lions died of an infection in the lungs and liver.

Three cubs were killed in infighting while other three passed away in the course of treatment.

Gujarat officials have sent the lions' carcasses to a veterinary hospital for further analysis into the cause of infection.

"Primarily the deaths appear due to natural causes or some infection," Vijay Chaudhary, forest department official, told AFP.

Listed as critically endangered in 2000, wild Asiatic lions reside only in one Indian forest -- the Gir Sanctuary spread over 1,400 square kilometres (545 square miles) in the western state of Gujarat.

The lions, a major tourist attraction in the state, have been a target of poachers in the past.

Experts said that the deaths cannot be dismissed as part of a natural cycle.

"There needs to be some preventive action by tracking the pride of lions in the area and checking them for infections," Priyavrat Gadhvi, a wildlife expert and members of state wildlife board in Gujarat, told AFP.

According to the latest lion count done in 2015, there are 521 Asiatic lions. About 10 of them died in floods in 2016.


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Best of our wild blogs: 22 Sep 18



Abandoned nets at Pulau Ubin (15 Sep 2018)
Project Driftnet Singapore


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More than 100 hawksbill turtle eggs hatch in Sentosa; fourth turtle hatching there since 1996

Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - More than 100 hawksbill turtle eggs hatched in Sentosa on Wednesday (Sept 19), about two months after the eggs were found.

A Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) spokesman told The Straits Times on Thursday that 102 eggs hatched on Wednesday and the hatchlings were released into the sea on the same day. The baby turtles were checked and measured before they were released.

The nest was first discovered by Sentosa's rangers at Tanjong Beach on July 21.

SDC's spokesman said: "In line with SDC's commitment to conserving wildlife found on the island, a protective barrier was erected around the nest within the day to keep the eggs safe from natural predators such as monitor lizards and crabs, as well as other potential disturbances during the incubation period."

The spokesman added that SDC worked with the National Parks Board to conduct checks to ensure that the nest was safe.

The hawksbill turtle is listed as a critically endangered animal on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

The SDC spokesman said it was the fourth time since 1996 that hawksbill turtle eggs have hatched on Sentosa. Turtle hatchings were also recorded in 2010 and in January this year at Tanjong Beach.

Visitors who spot a turtle nest on Sentosa are reminded to contact SDC via its hotline on 1800-736-8672. They should also keep a distance from any sighted turtle and not shine lights on the animal because doing otherwise could confuse or scare it.

For members of the public who want to learn more about turtles, the SDC will be organising a free talk titled Tales of the Sea Turtles at the Palawan Amphitheatre on Oct 6, between 7pm and 8pm. The talk will be conducted by Conservation International in Singapore's field programme coordinator Rushan Abdul Rahman.

Additional reporting by Jose Hong


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Singapore Airlines bans lion bones in cargo

Channel NewsAsia 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines said Friday (Sep 21) it has stopped accepting lion bones for cargo after the carrier was singled out in a report for transporting the animal parts from South Africa.

Campaigners have long called for a ban on the controversial trade in big cat bones, which are sought after for medicine and jewellery in Southeast Asia.

Singapore Airlines was the sole carrier importing lion bones from South Africa to Southeast Asia last year, according to a report released in July by the non-profit EMS Foundation and animal rights group Ban Animal Trading.

At least 800 lion skeletons had been exported with the blessing of the South African government in 2017, the report said, making it the world's largest exporter of lion bones.

The airline told AFP it had stopped accepting lion bones as cargo, but did not say when the policy had come into effect.

"Singapore Airlines does not accept the carriage of lion bones as cargo following a review which took into account increasing concerns around the world," the company said in an email.

EMS Foundation director Michele Pickover said her organisation had sent the report to the airline and "appealed to them to immediately stop its involvement in this terrible trade".

"I believe that once they were informed about what this trade entails they took the correct and logical decision not to support it," she told AFP.

South Africa has been sending lion bones to Southeast Asia since at least 2008 and it was likely that Singapore Airlines had been transporting them since that year, Pickover added.

Lion bones and other body parts are highly sought after in parts of Southeast Asia - particularly Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - for use in jewellery and for their supposed medicinal properties.

In Vietnam, lion bone is cooked and turned into balm while claws and teeth were used as body ornaments, the report said.

While trade of body parts from wild lions is banned, international treaties allow the sale of parts taken from lions bred in captivity.

Source: AFP/hs


SIA stops accepting lion bones as cargo amid 'increasing concerns around the world'
Toh Ting Wei Straits Times 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore Airlines (SIA) has stopped accepting lion bones as cargo since early August, in the light of "increasing concerns around the world".

The airline's role in shipping lion bones was thrust into the spotlight in July, after the release of a report titled The Extinction Business - South Africa's "Lion" Bone Trade, by non-profit organisation Elizabeth Margaret Steyn (EMS) Foundation and animal rights group Ban Animal Trading. The word lion was written in inverted commas, as the authors could not confirm if bones and skeletons exported from the country are limited to only lion bones.

The report said SIA was responsible for transporting all "lion" bones out of South Africa and into South-east Asia.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, SIA said: "Singapore Airlines does not accept the carriage of lion bones as cargo following a review which took into account increasing concerns around the world."

In addition to lion bones, some examples of items not transported by SIA include hunting trophies and shark's fin, among others, its spokesman added.

SIA did not elaborate on what concerns it had taken into account. It is also unclear how long it had been carrying lion cargo.

The authors of the report said they had spent 18 months investigating the international lion bone trade in South Africa.

The body parts of lions are sought after for use in fake medicines and jewellery, mostly in South-east Asia.

In response to queries, Ms Michele Pickover, director of EMS Foundation, said the group cannot reveal the specifics behind its investigations due to the need to protect its sources, but said that it had evidence SIA was the sole airline that carried lion bones as cargo.

She added that SIA's decision to reject lion bones as cargo is a "very significant" decision that would have a large impact, given SIA's role as the only carrier of the bones from South Africa to South-east Asia.

"We welcome the fact that they have taken note of our findings, and appreciate their proactive decision, which hopefully will disrupt this abhorrent trade to some extent," she said.

"It also sets a great example to other airlines to take more ethical decisions when it comes to the international wildlife trade."

According to the joint report, a lion's skeleton would trade at prices ranging from 500 rand (S$47) to 26,000 rand. Countries that imported these bones include Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, and traders would pay for DNA tests on the skeletons to verify if they were lion bones.

The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) allows the trade of lion parts and products from approved captive-bred sources, but the trade of wild lion parts is banned.

The export of farm-bred caged lions is legal in South Africa, with the lion bone export quota for this year set at 1,500 skeletons.

According to a statement by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs in July, there are approximately 7,000 lions kept in around 260 captive breeding facilities in the country, and another 3,500 lions in the wild.

In response to queries, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that there has been no approved import of lion parts and products into Singapore, and that it has not come across the sale of lion bones here.

Among measures that the authority adopts in tackling illegal wildlife trade in Singapore are regulating and monitoring the industry, educating the public, and working with local enforcement agencies to detect and deter illegal wildlife cases.

Anyone convicted of importing, exporting and re-exporting Cites specimens without a Cites permit can face jail time of up to two years and a fine of up to $500,000.

The AVA added that weeding out illegal wildlife trade would require the concerted efforts of all stakeholders.

Its spokesman said: "The fight goes beyond Singapore, and strong cooperation at the bilateral, regional and international levels is necessary."

A spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) arm in Singapore said that SIA's move to reject the shipping of lion bones underscores the importance of the transport industry in closing all possible channels that enable the illegal wildlife trade, and that industry-wide action to adopt such policies would ensure illegal traders do not simply switch from one airline to the other.

The spokesman added: "Implementing policies against wildlife trade are a way that transport and logistics businesses can ensure that they have no part to play in supporting a trade linked to criminal syndicates."


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Singapore consumers can choose electricity provider from November

Tang See Kit Channel NewsAsia 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE: From November, all 1.4 million electricity consumers in Singapore will have the option of choosing their preferred electricity price plans from as many as 12 providers.

With the nationwide roll-out of the Open Electricity Market, consumers will no longer have to buy electricity from SP Group at a regulated tariff that is reviewed quarterly. This option, however, remains available to consumers if they do not wish to switch, said the Energy Market Authority (EMA) on Friday (Sep 21) while announcing the roll-out.

The expansion of the open market initiative will be done in stages, beginning Nov 1 with households and business accounts that have postal codes that begin with 58 to 78. This includes districts in Choa Chu Kang, Yishun, Sembawang and Upper Bukit Timah.

This will be followed by the adjacent geographical zone that have postal codes starting with 53 to 57, 79 to 80, 82 to 83 next January; 34 to 52, and 81, from Mar 1; and lastly, the zone with postal codes starting with 01 to 33 in May.

This progressive launch over six months will help authorities and electricity retailers to focus their efforts on engaging and educating consumers, said the EMA.

Prior to each roll-out, the consumers – about 350,000 households and businesses in each zone – will receive a notification package and information booklet. Consumers can also compare the price plans by visiting http://compare.openelectricitymarket.sg.

EMA said a “good mix” of independent retailers and those with power-generation assets will be involved in the expanded Open Electricity Market. They are Best Electricity, Environmental Solutions, Geneco, ISwitch, Keppel Electric, Ohm Energy, PacificLight Energy, Sembcorp Power, SingNet, Tuas Power and Union Power.

SOFT LAUNCH IN JURONG “WELL RECEIVED”

Currently, only consumers in Jurong – comprising 108,000 households and 9,500 businesses – can choose their electricity price plan from more than 10 retailers under a pilot programme launched on Apr 1.

More than 30 per cent of Jurong consumers have since switched to a retailer, instead of remaining on the regulated tariff with SP Group – a result that EMA chief executive Ngiam Shih Chun described as “well-received” and “successful”, compared to the single-digit take-up rate in other parts of the world.

“Jurong residents benefitted from more choices and flexibility. Those who switched paid an electricity rate which was on average about 20 per cent lower than the regulated tariff,” said Mr Ngiam.

He stressed that the initiative is not compulsory and is aimed at providing consumers with more competitively-priced and innovative options.

Speaking to the media after the announcement, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the positive feedback gathered from the soft launch in Jurong has given the Government confidence that the rest of Singapore is ready for a fully-liberalised power market.

“We have done this carefully and progressively (and) we have collated our experiences to make sure that when we roll it out to the rest of the country, we will have the least problems possible,” he said.

From the Jurong pilot, stakeholders learnt that consumers feel overwhelmed at the number of retailers and the wide variety of plans offered.

As such, EMA will remove the peak and off-peak plans, and simplify standard plans offered by retailers to just fixed price plans and a discount-off-the-regulated-tariff plan. The former saw a low take-up rate of less than 1 per cent during the soft launch, according to EMA.

The statutory board also standardised the duration of the price plans to six months, one year and two years. Retailers had started offering trial plans as short as three months, which were not reasonable and could be confusing for consumers, said Mr Ngiam.

FOUR RETAILERS EXIT NATIONWIDE LAUNCH

The EMA has progressively opened up the electricity market to competition since 2001, starting with larger businesses with higher electricity consumption, and is now in the final phase to open up the local power market fully to competition.

While the freedom to pick customised price plans is similar to how one would pick a mobile telco, the Open Electricity Market differs in that the national power grid will remain operated by the SP Group to ensure supply reliability.

So even if a retailer exits the market, there will be no disruption to electricity supply as consumers will continue to receive electricity through the national power grid, EMA said.

Four retailers that participated in the Jurong pilot have opted out of the nationwide launch. EMA said these electricity providers – Diamond Electric, Red Dot Power, Sun Electric and Sunseap – will be required to inform their 500 consumers and to honour the contracts until the end.

When contacted, Red Dot Power said that it is currently upgrading its digital delivery platform, including integrating its electricity retail offering with residential solar and electricity consumption optimisation solutions.

“In view of this, Red Dot Power has decided to delay the participation in the Open Electricity Market till a later date,” it wrote in an emailed response to Channel NewsAsia. It will rejoin the Open Electricity Market “soon ... with an enhanced digital platform”, it added.

Similarly, Singapore-based sustainable energy firm Sunseap said it continues to set its sights on the full launch while it upgrades its systems and suite of products.

Mr Laurence Kwan, its vice president of energy, told Channel NewsAsia that the company is undergoing a “system upgrade”, which includes streamlined billing and payment experiences, and stressed that the company is “in for the long haul”.

Both companies sought to assure their customers in Jurong that there will be no power disruptions and that they will continue to honour the contracts signed.

Source: CNA/nc(cy)


Consumers may switch electricity retailers as open market rolls out in phases from Nov 2018 to May 2019
JANICE LIM Today Online 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE — Starting from Nov 1, consumers will be able to choose their electricity supplier when the open electricity market is expanded to cater to them zone by zone around the island.

By May next year, when the full roll-out is completed, 1.4 million households and small businesses will have the option of buying electricity from 12 different providers.

Instead of being restricted to buying electricity from national utility provider SP Group at a regulated tariff as they do now, consumers may choose a price plan that meets their needs from the authorised retailers within the open market.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced the staggered roll-out on Friday (Sept 21), after five months of piloting the project in Jurong.

From November, the first zone to have access to the open market are areas with postal codes starting from 58 to 78.

The next will be from Jan 1 next year, for postal codes starting with 53 to 57, 79 to 80, and 82 to 83.

After that, from March 1, it will be postal codes starting with 81 and 34 to 52.

Finally, from May 1, postal codes starting with 01 to 33.


TIME FOR PUBLIC OUTREACH

Ms Dorcas Tan, EMA's director of market development and surveillance, said that the decision to do the roll-out in phases is to allow the authority and the retailers to focus resources on engaging and educating the public in each zone.

Before each zonal roll-out, consumers will receive a notification package, which consists of an information booklet and a list of frequently asked questions.

Those who want to remain with SP Group need not take any further action. There is no deadline for switching to a new provider.

Households and workplaces will receive the same electricity supply regardless of the retailer because SP Group will continue to operate the national power grid and deliver electricity islandwide.

At a media briefing on Friday, EMA's chief executive officer Ngiam Shih Chun said that the soft launch in Jurong was "very successful".

About 30 per cent of households there have switched their electricity retailers. Those who did are paying a rate that is about 20 per cent lower than the regulated tariff.

The fixed price plan, as well as those that offer a discount off the regulated tariffs, were the most popular among Jurong households and small businesses.

The peak and off-peak price plans, however, saw a low public take-up of less than 1 per cent among Jurong consumers during the pilot launch, so Mr Ngiam said that they will be removed from the standard suite of price plans in the nationwide roll-out.


SAVINGS ON BILLS

Mr Chew Jin Ming, 30, who lives in Boon Lay, expects to see cost savings of about 25 per cent on his monthly electricity bill after switching to a fixed price plan offered by Geneco in mid-August.

Another Jurong resident, Mr Luqman Haniff told TODAY that he used to pay about S$220 a month in electricity bills. After switching to a fixed price plan offered by Ohm Energy on April 1, the 30-year-old's monthly bill comes to about S$180. This means there is an 18 per cent reduction in his bills.

With electricity tariffs rising 6.9 per cent in the quarter from July to September, Mr Luqman said that his cost savings is even higher, considering that he would be paying about S$240 a month if he had not switch supplier.

While the aim of liberalising the electricity market is to give consumers choices through competitive pricing and innovative offerings, Mr Ngiam reiterated that consumers are not required to switch providers.


RETAILERS' RESPONSIBILITIES

As part of measures to safeguard consumers' interests, EMA requires retailers to protect all security deposits collected from households. Retailers also need to produce a consumer advisory and factsheet to consumers.

Speaking to reporters after the briefing, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the positive feedback during Jurong's pilot phase gave the authorities the "confidence" to roll out the initiative to the rest of the country.

One of the lessons learned, he noted, was the diversity of consumers in the retail market, ranging from older citizens who may not be able to converse well in English, to younger families who have a higher level of understanding.

A "more detailed" explanation to consumers is required, he added.

Four retailers who took part in the soft launch — Diamond Electric, Red Dot Power, Sun Electric, Sunseap — will not be part of the nationwide launch. They are re-assessing their business plans or developing certain products or systems for the time being.

For the 500 or so consumers who had signed up with these four retailers, there will not be any disruption to their electricity supply as their contracts will still be honoured.

However, since they cannot renew their contracts when the term is up, they may either switch back to SP Group or get another retailer.

This also applies to consumers who have signed up with other retailers who may decide to exit from open electricity market in the future.

Responding to TODAY's queries, Sunseap, Sun Electric and Red Dot Power are still looking to rejoin the open market some time in the future.

Red Dot Power and Sun Electric said that they are developing and upgrading their digital portal to allow greater convenience for consumers to sign up, while Sunseap is in the midst of enhancing its systems and suite of products.

All three electricity retailers assured their existing customers that they would not face any disruption to their electricity supply.


LIST OF PARTICIPATING RETAILERS

Best Electricity Supply

Environmental Solutions (Asia)

Geneco (by Seraya)

I Switch

Keppel Electric

Ohm Energy

PacificLight Energy

Sembcorp Power

Senoko Energy

SingNet

Tuas Power

Union Power


BACKGROUND

Since 2001, the EMA has been progressively opening up the electricity market to promote greater competition, giving consumers the choice and flexibility to buy electricity from retailers.

About 108,000 households and 9,500 business accounts in Jurong had the option of buying electricity from 13 retailers under a soft launch of the open market which kicked off on April 1 this year.

The final phase of market liberalisation will start Nov 1.

Hyflux Energy was one of the retailers taking part in the pilot, before announcing in June that it was pulling out until further notice due to competition.


Singapore customers able to choose electricity supplier from November
Jose Hong Straits Times 21 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - Customers here will be able to choose their electricity retailers starting from November, in an expansion of the open electricity market that launched in Jurong this April.

By May next year, 1.4 million more households and business accounts will be able to buy electricity from 12 different retailers, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) announced on Friday (Sept 21).

The nationwide launch will be rolled out progressively in four stages, according to postal codes. Those that begin with the numbers 58 to 78 will be the first to choose on Nov 1.


On Jan 1, it will be 53 to 57, 79 and 80, and 82 to 83.

Postal codes that begin with the numbers 34 to 52, and 81, can choose from March 1.

The last codes to choose, starting from May 1, will be those from 01 to 33.

Before the roll-out, which will impact 350,000 accounts in each phase, consumers will receive a notification package and information booklet.

EMA director for market development and surveillance Dorcas Tan said that the zonal roll-out was to ensure that retailers and the authorities would be able to focus their resources and fix issues that come up.

There is no deadline for switching and it is not compulsory for households to do so. Consumers can choose to stay with SP Group.

How do I sign up?

1. Read the notification package and information booklet that you will receive before the roll-out comes to your neighbourhood

2. Shop around and check out the price plans retailers have to offer with this price comparison tool: http://compare.openelectricitymarket.sg

3. Contact your preferred retailer for details on the price plan, and carefully read through the contract.

4. Sign up with the preferred retailer, who will work with SP Group to make the switch for you. Your contract will start as early as five business days after your retailer informs SP Group to make the switch.

EMA chief executive Ngiam Shih Chun said: "Jurong residents benefited from more choice and flexibility. Those who switched paid an electricity rate which was, on average, about 20 per cent lower than the regulated tariff."

He said that more than 30 per cent of eligible accounts in Jurong switched their electricity retailer, which surprised the EMA, as the take-up rate in other parts of the world tended to be in the single digits.

"This is all about choice," said Mr Ngiam, adding: "We now hope to bring the benefits of competitive pricing and innovative offers to the rest of Singapore."

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said that after opening the electricity market to businesses, and following the Jurong pilot, the rest of Singapore is now ready for liberalisation.

"We have done this carefully and progressively, and have collated our experiences to make sure that when we roll-out the market to the rest of the country, we will face the least problems."

Four retailers who took part in the Jurong pilot - Diamond Electric, Red Dot Power, Sun Electric, and Sunseap - will not be part of the nationwide launch.

They have various reasons for this, including the reassessment of their business plans and focusing on developing certain products or platforms.

However, they will continue honouring the contracts to the 500 or so accounts they now have in Jurong. They will also be able to take part in the open electricity market at a later point.

Jurong resident Marcos Ong changed his retailer to Keppel Electric.

The 26-year-old, who lives in an executive condominium with four roommates, said: "I have seen savings of up to 25 per cent off my monthly electricity bill since switching to Keppel Electric. The open electricity market brings about opportunities for both consumers and businesses to have a wide variety of options."

Consumers can compare prices at http://compare.openelectricitymarket.sg

HOW WILL I BE PROTECTED? AND OTHER FAQS

How do I know that my rights as consumer are protected?

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) has created a consumer advisory, and all retailers must make sure you acknowledge the document before they proceed with the switch. Retailers also need to safeguard each household’s security deposits.

If retailers fail to comply with the terms of their licence with EMA, they can be suspended or have their licence taken away.

You can also approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) during disputes with the retailer.

Will I be deluged with marketing calls?

Retailers are banned from door-to-door marketing, or from giving unsolicited calls or messages. For greater assurance, you can register with the Do Not Call Registry.

How is it possible for retailers to charge lower rates?

The regulated tariff reflects the long-term costs of producing electricity in the market (including fuel costs), while the retailers' rates reflect the short-term costs that depend on current market conditions and the varying levels of competition.

An analogy is property. The price one pays for property is typically stable across the loan period, while the market rate of renting out the same property will depend on the demand and supply in the housing market.

Will switching always lead to lower bills?

It depends. The factors on which retailers set their rates (for example, electricity demand and supply levels, and competition fierceness) may vary over time.

There is no guarantee that the electricity rates they offer will remain at current levels.

That said, those who switched retailers in the Jurong pilot paid an electricity rate that was, on average, about 20 per cent lower than the regulated tariff.

Must consumers submit meter readings after switching?

Only those who wish to be billed based on their actual meter readings every month need to submit meter readings.

SP Group will continue to read meters once every two months, so it will estimate the meter readings for billing purposes.

What if a retailer suddenly pulls out from the open electricity market?

Your electricity supply will not be disrupted. You will continue to receive power through the national grid operated by SP Group.

Businesses with an average monthly consumption of at least 4,000 kilowatt hours, however, will buy electricity indirectly from the wholesale electricity market through SP Group at wholesale electricity market prices.

WHO ARE THE RETAILERS?
Best Electricity, Environmental Solutions (Asia), Geneco, iSwitch, Keppel Electric, Ohm Energy, PacificLight Energy, Sembcorp Power, Senoko Energy, SingNet, Tuas Power, and Union Power.


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Large childcare centre opens at Zhenghua Nature Park

Rahimah Rashith Straits Times 20 Sep 18;

SINGAPORE - For children enrolled at the new My First Skool on Segar Road, pre-school is a walk in the park.

The 3,000 sq m centre - situated in Zhenghua Nature Park - was officially opened on Thursday (Sept 20) with the capacity to take 400 children.

It is one of nine large childcare centres already operational in Singapore, and the second one to be located in a park.

Large childcare centres have intakes three to five times larger than centres at HDB void decks, and are set up in areas with high demand.

There are others in Yishun, Woodlands, Jurong West, Sengkang and Punggol.

The centre's opening brings My First Skool's enrolment to 20,000 children across Singapore. Over the next five years, 40,000 more pre-school places are expected to be added by various providers across Singapore, especially in estates with more young families.

In an effort to bring nature closer to pre-schoolers, the centre includes outdoor learning in its curriculum.

Children there will be part of a pioneering initiative that aims to equip teachers and students with knowledge of local plants and animals.

Called "Every Singaporean a Naturalist", it has been set up by a partnership between My First Skool and the Nature Society of Singapore.

Children will monitor the 35 species of birds in the park and its surrounding nature reserve.

At the centre's opening, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee toured the pre-school's facilities. He said that the Government is looking at more opportunities for pre-school children "to not only learn in the classroom but to also enjoy the great outdoor classroom, such as in nature areas and parks".

He added: "Going outdoors has many benefits, as compared to just learning in the classroom. You make use of nature, you make sure of biodiversity as a teaching tool, using nature to teach about values, to teach about certain behaviours and principals you want to bring across."

Ms Thian Ai Ling, deputy general manager of My First Skool, said: "We developed these programmes with the deep appreciation that outdoor and nature-based learning is important for holistic and healthy early childhood development.

"It has numerous benefits, from building resilience to developing collaborative and communication skills, as well as a sense of curiosity and care for the community and environment. This also provides both physical and mental health benefits, assists gross and fine-motor development and develops in our young children a lifelong love of the outdoors."


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Malaysia: Sun bear who entered house captured

Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 21 Sep 18;

KINABATANGAN: A male sun bear who had entered a house at Kampung Abai here briefly on Tuesday has been captured by the Sabah Wildlife Department.

Department spokesman Siti Nur’Ain Ampuan Acheh said they received the report on the same day and despatched personnel from the Sabah Wildlife and Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre in Sandakan to assess the situation.

The team, led by Dr Nabila Sarkawi, installed a trap near the house yesterday and managed to lure the bear, which weighed about 40 kilogrammes, into it within three hours.

“A physical examination on it found that it was injured at the front of its left foot.

“The injury is believed to be self inflicted based on the condition of the cut,” she said in a statement.

It is also learnt that there was no report of the sun bear damaging property.

The bear was brought to the conservation centre for further treatment and will be released back to the wild at Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Centre founder and chief executive officer Dr Wong Siew Te said the bear probably went into the house to search for food.

Meanwhile, at Kampung Entilibon in Tongod, efforts to capture another sun bear who attacked a farmer last month is still ongoing.


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Indonesia: BRG allocates rp2.3 billion for peatland restoration in Dumai

Antara 21 Sep 18;

Dumai, Riau, (ANTARA News) - The Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) has allocated Rp2.3 billion (US$155 thousand) for the construction of infrastructure for peatland restoration in Dumai and for the local community`s social and economic revitalization in 2018.

Head of BRG Nazir Foead noted that peat rewetting will involve the local community.

"We have allocated Rp1.5 billion ($101 thousand) for the development of 47 canal blockings and Rp800 million ($53.9 thousand) for the people`s social and economic revitalization," Foead remarked during a peatland restoration kickoff in Medang Kampai, Dumai, on Thursday.

Riau has been one of the seven priority provinces in the country`s peatland restoration program, and on July 14, the agency had signed an agreement with the provincial administration on the planning and implementation of peatland restoration.

The 10 canal blocks will be built in Kampung Baru Village, nine in Teluk Makmur Village, and 28 in Mundam Village, among others.

In 2017, the agency had built 400 artesian wells in Riau, 41 of which were built in Dumai.

"The construction of canal blocks is aimed at maintaining the peatlands in a wet condition. The total budget for the construction of peat restoration infrastructure in Riau has amounted to Rp34.2 billion ($2.3 million) in 2018," he remarked.

Peatland rewetting has become a solution to preventing land fires in addition to applying the no-burning land clearing practice, he added.



Reporting by Abdul Razak
Editing by Sri Haryati
(S022/INE)


Editor: Yosep Hariyadi


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