16 Jan 2018

1            Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak met in Singapore on 16 January 2018 for the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat. The Leaders welcomed the good progress made in bilateral relations since the Leaders’ Retreat in Putrajaya, Malaysia on 13 December 2016. They also welcomed the excellent cooperation in an array of mutually beneficial areas, including connectivity, counter-terrorism, education, bilateral joint venture projects, and in ASEAN. The Leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring positive and stable bilateral relations. 

2            The Leaders warmly welcomed the signing of the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link Bilateral Agreement. This is the second cross-border rail agreement that the two countries have signed in two years, which is testament to the excellent cooperation between Malaysia and Singapore. The Agreement records the technical, safety and security requirements, commercial, financing, procurement and regulatory frameworks, as well as customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) arrangements for the RTS Link. When completed, the RTS Link will improve connectivity, deepen people-to-people ties, and stimulate economic growth in Singapore and Johor. To facilitate commuter flow, there will be co-located CIQ arrangements similar to the High Speed Rail (HSR) at each RTS Link Station in Bukit Chagar (Malaysia) and Woodlands North (Singapore), hence passengers will only need to undergo CIQ clearance at their point of departure. The RTS Link Stations will also be well integrated with the local public transport networks in each country. As a further reflection of the cross-border nature of this project, the Leaders looked forward to the exchange of letters between the Land Transport Authority of Singapore, the Government of Malaysia as represented by the Prime Minister’s Department, SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT) and Prasarana Malaysia Berhad (Prasarana) recording their commitment for SMRT and Prasarana to form a Joint Venture company to be the RTS Link operator for the first concession period. All KTMB railway services in Singapore will cease operations within six months from the commencement of RTS Link passenger services. The Leaders placed on record their appreciation to the Ministers and officials of both countries for their hard work, and looked forward to the commencement of RTS Link passenger services by 31 December 2024.

3            The Leaders welcomed the calling of the Assets Company (AssetsCo)[1] tender for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR on 20 December 2017. The first joint tender between MyHSR Corporation and SG HSR marked a major milestone in our collaboration, as both countries work towards the commencement of the direct Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR Express Service by 31 December 2026. The Leaders noted the keen international interest in the HSR AssetsCo tender, as demonstrated by the robust participation at the two HSR AssetsCo Industry Briefings held in 2017, and looked forward to receiving high quality bids for the tender. To date, both Malaysia and Singapore have made good progress with the relevant preparatory works, including the launching of the Malaysian HSR station designs, the start of the Malaysian Public Inspection exercise, and the set-up of Singapore’s Infrastructure Company, SG HSR Pte Ltd. Malaysia also notes Singapore’s introduction of the Cross-Border Railways Bill in Singapore’s Parliament.

4            The Leaders welcomed Malaysia’s removal of the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) toll effective from 1 January 2018, and Singapore’s matching of the toll reduction with effect from 1 February 2018. 

5            The Leaders reaffirmed the importance of undertaking the necessary measures to ensure the reliable and adequate water supply from the Johore River as provided for in the 1962 Water Agreement. Both countries also affirmed the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, under which Singapore is given the full and exclusive right to draw up to a maximum of 250 million gallons of water per day from the Johore River. In this regard, the Leaders welcomed the progress made by Malaysia’s Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Johor State Government, Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), and Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) to identify appropriate and timely measures, including schemes, to increase the yield of the Johore River, and enhance the resilience of the Linggiu Reservoir. Both Leaders acknowledged the positive impact of the newly-commissioned Johore River Barrage, which commenced operations in August 2016, as well as the good rainfall which contributed to the gradual recovery of Linggiu Reservoir stock.

6            Singapore expressed appreciation to Malaysia for offering to fund and to undertake, with Singapore’s active participation, a hydrometric modelling study of the Johore River to increase the yield of the Johore River, and enhance the resilience of the Linggiu Reservoir. The outcomes and recommendations of the study will be presented to the Joint KeTTHA-MEWR Technical Committee. The Leaders further expressed their appreciation to KeTTHA, the Johor State Government, MEWR, and PUB for their ongoing cooperation and excellent working relationship. The Leaders also instructed them to continue to expedite their work, and update on the progress made at the 9th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat in 2018.

7            The Leaders welcomed the signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore on Cooperation in the Field of Education (MOU). The MOU will provide opportunities for officials, educators, and students from both countries to carry out exchanges and collaborations on matters of mutual interest, which will further strengthen people-to-people ties between the two countries. This MOU seeks to build on previous efforts at educational cooperation undertaken pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore on Co-operation in the Field of Education entered into on 4 December 2007, which expired on 4 December 2017.

8            The Leaders officiated the opening of the Marina One project at Marina South and the DUO project at Ophir-Rochor. These two projects are developed by M+S Pte Ltd, the joint development company established by Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Khazanah) and Temasek Holdings Private Limited (Temasek). The Leaders had launched both projects at the 4th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in 2013. Worth a combined Gross Development Value of S$11 billion, both projects represent the tangible benefits of mutually beneficial cooperation, following the full implementation of the 1990 Points of Agreement on Malayan Railway Lands in Singapore in 2011. These iconic projects serve as concrete symbols of the close and longstanding bilateral relationship between Singapore and Malaysia.


9            The Leaders welcomed the progress in bilateral cooperation in Iskandar Malaysia through the bilateral Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM). The Leaders welcomed the progress made by the various JMCIM Work Groups, and noted the good progress on the Afiniti Medini and Avira Medini projects by Khazanah and Temasek through Pulau Indah Ventures Sdn Bhd, overseen by the Iconic Project Work Group (IPWG). The Leaders reiterated their commitment to promote and explore further links to improve connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. Both countries are exploring establishing additional ferry services between Malaysia and Singapore.

10            The Leaders commended the efforts by the Immigration Work Group of the JMCIM to reduce congestion at the Causeway and the Singapore-Malaysia Second Link (Second Link), while ensuring both countries’ security requirements are taken into account. Between January and June 2017, a total of 26,318 Malaysian Automated Clearance System (MACS) applications were received, bringing the total number of applications to 676,768 since its inception in 2009. The clearance of motorcyclists traveling between the two countries have been smoother, since the implementation of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA)’s BIKES II and the Malaysia Citizen Motorcyclist (M-BIKE) clearance arrangements in January 2017. As at 31 December 2017, 147,528 users have registered with M-BIKE. Following the Leaders’ discussion at the 7th Leaders’ Retreat in 2016, the daily laden train service between Johor Bahru and Woodlands Train Checkpoint has increased from 24 services to 26 services currently, with an accompanying increase in ridership.

11            The Industrial Cooperation Work Group has also worked to strengthen the ecosystem in industrial activities and enhance socio-economic development through a skilled labour force in Johor. As part of these efforts, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), ITE Education Services Pte Ltd, Singapore (ITEES), Temasek Foundation International, and seven Johor-based institutes jointly organised Train-the-Trainers’ Programmes in March 2017. Under the programme, 23 Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine master practitioners attended a customised programme at ITE College Central, Singapore. A further 70 practitioners were trained on software application in 2017 by the 23 earlier trained practitioners. The practitioners will continue with their training in Malaysia once 5-Axis CNC machines are available by mid-2018.

12            The Leaders noted the good progress made in tourism collaboration, and welcomed the continuous work of the Tourism Work Group (TWG) under the JMCIM. Both Leaders noted the close collaboration through cross promotion and capacity building initiatives between Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Pulau Kukup in Johor, Malaysia. They also welcomed the proposed signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Parks Board (NParks) of Singapore and the Johor National Parks Corporation (JNPC) on the twinning of both wetlands as “Sister Sites”. The Leaders also welcomed the TWG’s close collaboration in promoting the “Visit ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration” in 2017.

13            The Leaders welcomed the close and continuous bilateral cooperation on environmental issues with transboundary implications and navigational issues through platforms such as the Malaysia-Singapore Annual Exchange of Visits (AEV) and the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment (MSJCE). In addition, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore-Johor Port Authority (MPA-JPA) will continue to work towards enhancing shipping as well as facilitating the safe and efficient navigation of ships through the East Johore Straits. The Leaders emphasised the importance of adopting best practices for addressing areas of concern, including the implementation of mitigation measures, where appropriate and in accordance with international law. Both Leaders took note that Singapore hosted the 31st MSJCE and the 30th AEV from 28 to 29 September 2017, and acknowledged good collaboration in the areas of energy efficiency, air quality management, waste and resource management, and environmental education under the JMCIM Environment Work Group.

14            The Leaders acknowledged the progress made in addressing transboundary haze pollution which has been a recurring problem in the region, and recognised the need to remain vigilant. The Leaders expressed their satisfaction at the commitment by both sides to implement the Roadmap on ASEAN Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, adopted at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP), 11 August 2016, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Leaders noted the decision of the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the AATHP to conduct a mid-term review of the implementation of the Roadmap to take stock of the progress and sustain momentum to achieve the vision of a haze-free ASEAN by 2020. The Leaders also reaffirmed the commitment to effectively implement the AATHP to prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollution resulting from land and forest fires through concerted national efforts and regional cooperation.

15            The Leaders looked forward to the inaugural triennial Malaysia-Singapore cultural showcase, being planned for the second-half of 2018 in Kuala Lumpur. The Leaders also welcomed the showcase being organised with the theme of ‘Youth’. This reflects the vibrancy and dynamism of our cultural relations, and showcases both countries’ commitment to developing even closer people-to-people ties among successive generations.

16            The Leaders noted with satisfaction the strengthening of cooperation on Urban Search and Rescue between the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART), in particular in SMART’s successful attainment of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) External Classification (IEC) Heavy USAR team certification.

17            The Leaders reiterated the importance of defence cooperation between the two countries in light of growing common security challenges and threats in the region, and expressed their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including through regular exchanges of visits and courses, and military exercises between the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Leaders also stressed the importance of continuing both countries’ contributions to regional security through various multilateral initiatives and fora, including the Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), and the ADMM-Plus.

18            The Leaders welcomed the excellent relations and regular exchanges between the civil services of both countries. The Leaders looked forward to the 9th Joint Seminar and the 40th Public Service Games which will be held in Melaka from 26 to 28 January 2018.

19            The Leaders noted Malaysia’s applications for revision and for interpretation of the International Court of Justice’s Judgment of 23 May 2008 on sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks, and South Ledge filed on 2 February 2017 and 30 June 2017 respectively. The Leaders affirmed their commitment to resolving these matters in accordance with international law.

20            The Leaders welcomed the private sector collaboration between Pavilion Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pavilion Energy, and PETRONAS LNG Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of PETRONAS, to jointly explore the supply and optimisation of LNG including LNG trading and cargo swaps. Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2017, both parties concluded a trade deal in October, which saw the first ever PETRONAS LNG cargo delivered to the Singapore LNG Terminal. The two parties also recently negotiated a contract for a series of LNG cargoes to be supplied from PETRONAS LNG to Pavilion Gas.

21            Both Leaders reaffirmed the importance of ensuring ASEAN is resilient and innovative amidst the changing global landscape. ASEAN must continue to be united to remain relevant, and in order for it to maintain its central role as a key driving force that can deal with challenges and opportunities. Prime Minister Lee thanked Prime Minister Najib for Malaysia’s full support for Singapore’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2018, which focuses on (i) promoting and upholding a rules-based regional order; (ii) stepping up cooperation to better deal with emerging security challenges; (iii) pursuing deeper regional economic integration and enhancing regional connectivity; and (iv) finding innovative ways to manage and benefit from digital technologies.

22            The Leaders agreed to hold the 9th Retreat later in 2018 in Malaysia.

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16 January 2018

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