Embassy of The Republic of Singapore - Manila


Speech by Ambassador at SEC-PSE Corporate Governance Forum 2015


Paving the way for ASEAN Corporate Governance:  Singapore Experience

2015 Corporate Governance Forum, Thursday, 15 October 2015



Mr Cesar Purisima, Secretary of Finance


Ms Teresita J. Herbosa, Chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission


Mr Hans B. Sicat, President and CEO of the Philippine Stock Exchange


Distinguished guests




‘When consumers purchase a Toyota, they are not simply purchasing a car, truck or van.  They are placing their trust in our company.’


               Mr Akio Toyoda has neatly set out the rationale of corporate governance.  A well-governed company in today’s world inhabits three critical roles.  One, it appeals to its customers.  Two, it holds value for its investors.  Three, it augments its community.  Good corporate governance practices are essential in maintaining not only investor confidence in a company, but in burnishing the company’s profile and its allure for new customers and investors.





2             Modern companies do not exist in a vacuum.  They may have started that way in the seventeenth century, when company owners also managed their creations.  But as companies grew in size and reach, the need for new capital in larger amounts led to the eventual separation of ownership and management.  Today, companies coexist with governments and investors in a dynamic quest for profitability, sustainability and accountability. 


3             In Singapore, we have seen an evolving balance between regulation and laws, market disclosure and discipline, and the responsibility of the investor to scrutinise information carefully before making decisions.  From a system of merit-based regulation in the 1990s, where regulators sought to pre-judge risks of investments, we have moved to regulation requiring greater and better disclosure to investors, thus enabling investors to make decisions. 


4             At all times, Singapore believes that we have to keep a balance between the three pillars of government regulation, market-based disclosure and discipline, and the responsibility of the investor.  Just like a three-legged stool, each pillar is important and so is the balance to be struck between them.  As observed by DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam:


“Moving too far in the direction of one against the others tends to weaken the system over time.  For example, relying primarily on government regulation tends to introduce moral hazard, and weakens the incentive for investors to exercise care and do their due diligence. But neither can we rely exclusively on market discipline or leave investors to figure out what is real or false. Government has to regulate where it matters. We have to constantly review the balance between the three pillars as the environment evolves, and as new business models or investment instruments gain sway.”


§  Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, DPM and Minister for Finance at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA) 10th Anniversary Dinner (1 April 2014)



Regulatory Framework


5             The Singapore regulatory framework for publicly listed companies comprises four primary sources, namely:


a.       Companies Act ;

b.      Securities and Futures Act ;

c.       Singapore Exchange (SGX) Listing Manual; and

d.      Singapore Code of Corporate Governance 


The main regulatory bodies are the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Singapore Exchange (SGX). The respective bodies have clear enforcement mandates, which are implemented robustly in order to foster high standards of professional conduct and maintain a fair, orderly and transparent market.


6             Our regulators monitor developments – local and international – to ensure that the regulatory framework remains relevant. They are always open to receiving constructive feedback and suggestions to strengthen and improve our system.  The last revision of the Code of Corporate Governance, in 2012, was also undertaken following the recommendations of a council made up of representatives from public listed companies, practitioners, and industry and investor associations. Key changes included the strengthening of Board independence, enhancing remuneration practices and disclosures, clarifying the Board’s responsibility in risk governance, and providing further guidance on companies’ engagement with shareholders. 




Market-based regulation


7             The Code of Corporate Governance sets out principles and guidelines for good corporate governance for public listed companies in Singapore. By adopting a Code rather than enact new regulations, we have taken the approach of strengthening market-based regulation. Our Code operates on a ‘comply or explain’ basis. This means that companies must decide the governance practices that are relevant to its own business and operating environment and make clear disclosures in their annual reports to facilitate investor decision-making; the market will assess the disclosures accordingly.  The regulators have also taken additional steps to encourage compliance with the Code, focusing on changing behaviour and developing capacity in three ways:


1.      Strengthening market discipline;

2.      Building Board competencies; and

3.      Instilling the right values.


I shall go into each briefly.



Strengthening market discipline

8             Market discipline is a process by which stakeholders apply effective scrutiny on a company. A key enabler for market discipline is meaningful disclosure by listed companies. Under the SGX listing rules, companies are required to comply with the Code or clearly explain any deviations in their annual reports.  Unfortunately, many disclosures by the listed companies have been pedestrian. Investors and the market are either not given reasons for deviations from the Code or the explanations are inadequate and not meaningful. Therefore, investors are not able to make informed decisions.


9             To spur improvements in disclosures, the SGX issued a Disclosure Guide in January 2015 requiring listed companies to disclose their compliance with key principles of the Code in a standard format.  Thus the market can easily identify the unsatisfactory disclosures and compare corporate governance practices across listed companies. Just a few days ago, SGX announced that it is undertaking an exercise to review the compliance of listed companies with the Code.   


10            Shareholders also play an important role in enhancing corporate governance by scrutinising companies’ financial statements, attending general meetings, and voting on key issues. 




Building Board Competencies

11            We urge our Boards to be forward-looking and strategic.  Boards should set the tone from the top, instilling a culture that places ethical values above profits, instead of viewing corporate governance as a compliance tool or box ticking exercise.  In other words, Boards can spread the word that it is important to do the right thing all the time; corporate governance is not ‘for the other guy’ but for ‘the savvy guy’. This demonstrates that Singapore companies are not uncaring behemoths, but an essential part of our economic security because our companies provide good jobs and opportunities for our citizens, as part of our continuous nation-building efforts.


12              To develop Board competencies, the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) has a wide array of training programmes for directors. SID is also developing a compendium of guidebooks to assist directors in discharging their fiduciary duties. The guidebook for Nominating Committee was recently launched in August this year, adding to the existing guidance for Audit Committees and Risk Governance, with guidebooks for other committees targeted to be released over the course of next year.


13            Looking ahead, the demand for strategic and experienced Directors and senior management is growing, along with the need to provide for diversity within the board so as to harness the collective strengths that each individual brings to the discussion. Innovative solutions are needed to ensure a constant supply of good Directors and more effort will be needed to build up this pipeline of Directors.



Instilling the right values


14            This may be the hardest part of strengthening corporate governance, to effect mindset change.  Publicly listed companies risk being slaves to the pressures of quarterly earnings, but short-term thinking promotes excessive risk-taking practices, exploitative sales and even fraudulent transactions that erode investor trust.  Boards and senior management play a critical role in promoting a culture rooted in ethical frameworks and setting the rules of behaviour – what’s acceptable and what’s not.  They have to show that serving the customer’s interest, dealing with fairly with suppliers, adhering to the laws of the land and not placing the larger community at risk are essential for maximising long-term shareholder value.


15            Besides strengthening and robustly enforcing our regulations, beyond building the capacities of companies to comply with our rules and the Code, other stakeholders have stepped forward to promote the benefits of strong corporate governance.  Civil society and media play an increasingly significant role.  For example, the NUS Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organizations (CGIO) developed the Governance and Transparency Index (GTITM), which assesses all Singapore-listed companies based on their disclosures in their annual reports.  CGIO, working with The Business Times, has rated all listed companies according to this index for 7 years since the GTI was developed.  Smaller companies are also given more focus in a new CG scorecard, the Governance Evaluation Mid and Small Caps (GEMs) launched in April 2015 to assess companies with smaller market capitalization, for which certain feature of corporate governance may be more pertinent.  Such initiatives help investors identify SMEs with good corporate governance practices and encourage smaller companies to raise their corporate governance standards. 



Expansion – ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard


16            This journey remains a work in progress, one that we need to keep working at and to keep expanding.  Several initiatives on capital market integration now underway under the aegis of the ASEAN Capital Markets Forum (ACMF).  In 2009, ASEAN Finance Ministers endorsed the ACMF Implementation Plan for the development of an integrated capital market, in support of the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community this December.  An integrated ASEAN capital market aims to raise overall corporate governance standards, give greater visibility to well-governed ASEAN PLCs and showcase them as investable companies, and improve the visibility, integrity and branding of ASEAN as an asset class.


17            As part of the ACMF’s work, ASEAN partnered with ADB to develop the ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard, which debuted in 2011.  Six ASEAN Member States (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) participate in the annual exercise.  We are heartened to see improvements in the mean scores of participating Singapore companies from year to year. This suggests that, to some degree, our companies recognise that such indices pique interest from potential new investors while persuading existing investors to stay and possibly double down on their stake.


18            This year, ASEAN will try something new.  The plan is to publish a list of the top 50 listed companies in ASEAN, the first time a combined list ranking the best listed companies of participating ASEAN Member States.  National results for the 2014 assessment were announced in the first half this year, and the results from the 2015 assessment will be announced soon.  I look forward to the results, and I am confident that more ASEAN listed companies will be spurred to develop strong corporate governance practices as the benefits of being associated with such practices become evident to more businesses.





19            I hope this presentation sheds some light on the approach taken by Singapore towards corporate governance.  We are going beyond rule reforms to create the conditions for corporate governance to flourish – a conducive eco-system, developing Board competencies and nurturing savvy businesses that do the right thing as a matter of course.  Investor confidence will reinforce a positive business climate in Singapore and beyond, in ASEAN as a whole.  As I opened with a quote, so I will close with one from Confucius, who noted that you know you’re governing effectively when:


“Those near at hand are pleased, and those at a distance are drawn to you.”


Thank you.




.  .  .  .  .




Singapore-Philippines Cultural Evening, 27 August 2015, 8.00pm

The Singapore Embassy in Manila, in partnership with the Bayanihan and Singapore Dance Theatre, will be hosting the Singapore-Philippines Cultural Night on 27 August 2015 at 8.00 pm at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Theater.  The performances celebrate Singapore’s 50th year of independence and the cultural diversity of both countries.  Both troupes promise an evening of elegance and artistry where a mélange of dance styles will be showcased.


Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) was founded in 1988 by Goh Soo Khim and Anthony Then. SDT has since developed into Singapore’s premiere professional dance company comprising of 32 Dancers plus apprentices. The highlights of the SDT’s performance season each year include the widely popular outdoor dance event – Ballet Under the Stars at Singapore’s Fort Canning Park.  SDT’s repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary ballet, from renowned choreographers like Choo-San Goh, George Balanchine and Graham Lustig.  Under the leadership of its artistic director Janek Schergen, SDT is achieving new heights in the international and Singapore dance arena. In the last seven years, the Company has added 20 world premieres and 14 company premieres to the repertoire, in addition to numerous revivals of the existing Company’s repertoire.  


The Bayanihan is the oldest dance company in the Philippines. A multi-award winning company, both nationally and internationally, Bayanihan is renowned as the depository of almost all Filipino dances, dress and songs.  Founded by Dr. Helena Z. Benitez in 1956, Bayanihan, was officially declared by the government  as the National Folk Dance Company of the Philippines in 1998.   Backed up by research and innovative choreography Bayanihan has earned many distinctions, some of which are: the first non-American dance company to perform at the Lincoln Center in New York, the first to make an in depth tour of South America and the People's Republic of China, the first cultural group to perform at the Winter Garden in Broadway, New York and the first and only dance company to win the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for International Understanding.  In more than half a century, Bayanihan has covered 14 major tours, more than 100 short tours in six continents and in more than 700 cities worldwide.  Today, Bayanihan shines proudly as a nine-time World Dance Grand Prize Winner.  It has brought pride to the Philippines many times over by showcasing the beauty of the Philippines and the story of the Filipinos through its music and exquisite dances.



Singapore Scholarship Award Ceremony


The Singapore Scholarship Award Ceremony was held at the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in Manila on Tuesday, 21 July 2015. The recipients of this year’s Singapore Scholarships are Ms Bianca Mae Malaluan, who will be studying Mechanical Engineering at the National University of Singapore, and Ms Marie Louise Sunico, who will be studying Business Management at Singapore Management University.


The Singapore Scholarship was launched by then-Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Goh Chok Tong at the 6th ASEAN Summit in December 1998.


Each year, a small group of students from ASEAN countries are awarded the Singapore Scholarship to pursue a full-time undergraduate degree in a wide range of courses at one of Singapore’s universities – the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National University of Singapore (NUS) or the Singapore Management University (SMU).


Congratulations to the scholarship recipients!




Shooting Incident in Paranaque

August 2015


On the death of a Singaporean in a shooting incident in Paranaque on 5 August 2015, we are in touch with the bereaved family to facilitate the repatriation of the deceased to Singapore.   We will continue to liaise with the relevant authorities in Manila on this case.



May 2015


The Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in Manila has been alerted to a possible scam operation targeting Singaporeans by an individual or group masquerading as Singaporeans claiming to require financial assistance for his/her Singaporean relatives in the Philippines.  The modus operandi of the scam involves an individual who seeks financial help via social media platforms usually on the pretext of assisting a close relative who has met with an unfortunate incident in the Philippines.  The Embassy wishes to inform Singaporeans to be wary of such scams.


Singaporeans who have received such approaches should take the following steps:

  1. Do not transfer any money or provide credit card details.
  2. Check with the Singapore Embassy in Manila via e-mail at singemb_mnl@mfa.sg to verify the authenticity of the case.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

On the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 23 March 2015, the Singapore Embassy in Manila will open a condolence book at the Chancery for Singaporeans and members of the public. The book is open from Monday, 23 March 2015 from 1pm to 5pm and Tuesday, 24 March 2015 to Sunday, 29 March 2015 from 9am to 5pm
All visitors should bring along their identification cards or passports.


To bid our final farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Embassy will stream the State Funeral Service live from 2pm on Sunday, 29 March 2015. Singaporeans who wish to view the Service are welcome to join us at the Embassy.


Condolence Book Signing in Manila
Overseas Singaporeans mourn the loss of Mr Lee


Mr Lee Kuan Yew fondly remembered in Philippines

Channel NewsAsia has aired a clip on Singaporeans and Filipinos paying tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Singapore Embassy in Manila.


The clip together with the written story can be viewed on Channel NewsAsia's website here.



The Bureau of Immigration of the Philippines recently implemented an Alien Registration Project (ARP).  Foreigners who have stayed beyond 59 days in the Philippines and are not holding an Alien Certificate of Registration may apply for the ARP at any authorised Bureau of Immigrations regional office.  Registrants under the ARP will be assigned with a Special Security Registration Number (SSRN) which shall be used for transactions with the Bureau.  Compliance period is from 01 October 2014 to 30 September 2015.  Non-compliance in the ARP is subject to corresponding penalties. 

For more information on ARP, please visit the official website of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration at www.immigration.gov.ph.



October 2014

The Embassy of the Republic of Singapore in Manila has been made aware of fraudulent letters, sent in the Embassy’s name, requiring job applicants seeking employment in Singapore to deposit money to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of the Government of Singapore as part of the application process. The Embassy wishes to inform the public that these letters were not issued by the Embassy. 

Anyone who has received such letters and suspects them to be fraudulent can write to SINGEMB_MNL@mfa.sg for verification and is encouraged to report the fraudulent letters to the relevant authorities in the Philippines.


Information for Travellers to Singapore


Procurement Opportunities



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