Johor aims to no longer depend on Singapore for treated water

The water pipes that run along the Causeway connecting Singapore and Malaysia. (Reuters pic)

JOHOR BAHRU: The Johor state government plans to no longer depend on Singapore for treated water supply to the state.

Menteri Besar Osman Sapian said the state had been paying for treated water supply from Singapore all this while and the plan to meet its own needs would be finalised soon.

“But the matter is still at the planning stage, and I cannot share the details until the plan is ready to be implemented,” he said in a statement issued through the Johor Menteri Besar’s Office here today.

The statement referred to his speech made at the closing of the Johor state government’s retreat session with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet ministers in Putrajaya today.

Yesterday, during the retreat, Mahathir said he wanted Johor to take proactive measures to solve the issue of buying treated water from Singapore.

In the same statement, Osman said overall, the two-day retreat had achieved its objective of enhancing cooperation between the state and federal governments.

He said many sound ideas and views had come from both sides.

Twelve federal ministers, two deputy ministers and one director-general from 15 ministries attended the session and shared information on their respective ministries.

The retreat, participated by Johor Pakatan Harapan MPs and assemblymen, discussed and exchanged views on various topics.

These included achieving a sustainable economy, the employment agenda, transportation and health education.

The objective was improving governance after PH took over the state government nine months ago.

Talks with Singapore continue

Meanwhile, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the republic remains committed to resolving bilateral issues in an amicable and constructive way, its said.

The issues will also be resolved in strict accordance with bilateral agreements and international law, he said in his speech during the Committee of Supply Debate at Parliament today.

Both countries are in the middle of solving several bilateral issues, including maritime and airspace.

On maritime issues surrounding the Johor Bahru and Singapore port limits, Balakrishnan said officials had been meeting to discuss measures to de-escalate the situation.

“Both sides are aware of the urgent need to prevent accidents and untoward incidents,” he said.

During their bilateral meeting on Jan 8, Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah agreed to establish a working group, headed by the permanent secretary of the Singapore foreign affairs ministry and the secretary-general of the Malaysian foreign ministry.

“This working group of senior officials is due to submit its recommendations to the two foreign ministers in early March, which is now,” said Balakrishnan.

The working group is tasked with studying and discussing legal and operational matters to de-escalate the situation on the ground and to lay the stage for further discussions and negotiations.

According to Balakrishnan, the transport ministers and the senior officials from both sides had also been meeting to discuss the arrangements for Seletar Airport and the airspace over southern Johor, including the instrumented approaches into Seletar Airport, and Malaysia’s restricted area over Pasir Gudang.

“And again, we look forward to finding a solution that is mutually agreeable,” said Balakrishnan, who is also the republic’s acting transport minister.

On Jan 8, Malaysia and Singapore had also agreed to immediately and simultaneously suspend Malaysia’s permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang and Singapore’s implementation of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedure for Seletar Airport.

The mutual suspension was later extended till the end of March from the original one month.