'Federal Govt to deal with Singapore’s concerns' about reclamation in Johor Strait

BEN TAN New Straits Times 23 Jun 14;

JOHOR BARU: THE Johor government is preparing information about the state’s coastal land reclamation projects for property development at the request of the Federal Government.

This follows Singapore’s request to the government for more information on coastal projects in the Straits of Johor. Singapore fears the projects may cause trans-boundary issues.

A source has confirmed that the state government is aware of the request by Putrajaya to furnish details on the projects.

“We have received a formal request from the Federal Government and we are compiling information,” the source told the New Straits Times yesterday.

However, he did not reveal details of the request, only saying that the information was related to several coastal land reclamation projects.

The source said the information would take time to compile as it involved several state agencies, including the Iskandar Regional Development Authority.

Coastal land reclamation falls under the jurisdiction of the state government if a project is not more than 50m from the original shoreline. Beyond that, it will be under the Federal Government’s jurisdiction.

On Saturday, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement said it was concerned about any possible transboundary impact from the property development projects in Johor that involved reclamation works in the Straits of Johor.

“There are also international obligations for both Malaysia and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters,” the statement said.

The statement said the Singapore government had asked Malaysian authorities to provide more information so that the former could undertake a study on the impact of the reclamation works.

“They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon,” the statement said.

It was learnt that the Singapore government had sent several diplomatic notes to Wisma Putra in the last three months regarding the issue.

The latest diplomatic note was sent just after the Johor State Assembly two weeks ago.

However, it was understood that the diplomatic notes were merely formal government-to-government initiatives for information and not diplomatic protest notes.

The source said this was only a formal request through diplomatic channels and that the Singapore government would also follow up via other platforms.

“Among them is the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE) which is tasked with cooperating to protect the environment, including the monitoring of water quality to protect the marine and estuarine environment and monitoring ecology in the Straits of Johor to address any adverse impacts.

“Such a request does not indicate a souring of ties between the two countries and we will do our best to protect Malaysia’s interest,” said the source.

However, he said the state government would leave it to the Federal Government, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, to deal with Singapore as it involved bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, Public Accounts Committee chairman and Pulai member of parliament Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said such matters were nothing new as Singapore had also developed their shoreline on a land reclamation project in Punggol near the Tebrau Straits, which saw ties strained back in 2002.

“Johor folks complained about the issue as they claimed it narrowed the straits in front of Pasir Putih and the Tanjung Langsat.

“The matter was then brought up by Malaysia at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, arguing for the project to be stopped as it may harm the environment.

“In the end, Singapore won the case and went ahead with the land reclamation,” said Nur Jazlan, whose constituency also has a major land reclamation project.

Forest City project alarms Singapore
The Star 23 Jun 14;

PETALING JAYA: The Singapore government has confirmed that it is perturbed over Johor’s Forest City project involving massive land reclamation that could affect the island state.

“Given Johor’s close proximity to Singapore, we are naturally concerned about any possible transboundary impact on Singapore from property development projects that involve reclamation work in the Straits of Johor,” a Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said there were international obligations for both Malaysia and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters.

The Republic was responding to media queries following Saturday’s front-page story in The Star on the republic’s concern over the pro-ject.

The report highlighted that the 2,000ha project – which will be bigger than Pangkor Island and will take three decades to complete – had raised eyebrows across the causeway.

“We have asked the Malaysian authorities to provide more information so that we can undertake a study as soon as possible on the impacts of these reclamation work on Singapore and the Straits.

“They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon,” he added.

The Star had reported that Singa-pore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had written to his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak about the project.

This is in addition to two diplomatic notes which were sent to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry last month.

The first was a request for Malaysia to provide all relevant information, including an environment impact assessment report and the completion date for the project.

Subsequently, Singapore sought clarification after Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin assured the state assembly that the reclamation work would not affect the environment.

Singapore reportedly started voicing its concern after an article appeared in The Star in March on the project by China’s Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

Johor reclamation works begin despite concerns
The Straits Times AsiaOne 26 Jun 14;

KUALA LUMPUR - Two massive reclamation projects are under way in the Johor Strait despite the lack of environmental assessment reports and a move by Singapore asking about the impact of the development.

According to a report by news website The Malaysian Insider yesterday, the reclamation has also raised concerns over how it will affect the livelihoods of fishermen, as well as ships using the nearby Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

One of the projects is a 2,000ha man-made island - nearly three times the size of Ang Mo Kio estate - that will feature luxury homes and will be completed in 30 years' time.

The works are being carried out by China property developer Country Garden Holdings and Johor state company Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

According to previous media reports, the project, called Forest City, is backed by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Ismail Sultan Iskandar.

Previous maps used by the Malaysian media showed a rectangular piece of reclaimed land, part of it lying under the Second Link, the bridge joining Tuas to Gelang Patah in Johor.

But The Malaysian Insider yesterday published a map that showed a much bigger island on the Malaysian side of the border in the strait.

Another massive reclamation, also reported by the Insider, is a 1,410ha island by Kuala Lumpur-listed company Benalec Holdings.

On its website, the company named the project as the Tanjung Piai Maritime Industrial Park, and said the island would be turned into a petroleum and petrochemical hub.

According to the Insider, this project is backed by Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris Sultan Ibrahim.

All reclamation in Malaysia with land areas of 50 acres (20.2ha) or more need to have environmental impact assessment (EIA) studies submitted. Only when the EIA report has been approved by the government can the project go ahead.

But the promoters of Forest City had proposed breaking up the man-made island into smaller parcels so that environmental assessment studies would not have to be submitted, the Edge Review online magazine reported last month.

Johor's director of the Department of Environment, Mr Mokhtar Abdul Majid, said yesterday that the Forest City project does not need an EIA report as the land area measures 49 acres.

Reclamation work began in early March and is expected to be completed within eight months, Mr Mokhtar was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency.

Singapore had over the weekend expressed concern to Malaysia over the reclamation works in the Johor Strait.

Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that Singapore had asked for more information so it could study the possible impact on the Republic and the strait.

"They have agreed to do so and we hope to receive the information soon," a spokesman said.

"Given Johor's close proximity to Singapore, we are naturally concerned about any possible transboundary impact on Singapore from property development projects that involve reclamation works in the Strait of Johor."

The MFA added: "There are also international obligations for both the Malaysian and Singapore authorities to work closely on such matters."