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S’pore may buy large ship for use in disaster zones: Dr Ng

The recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines underlined the need for a Joint-Multi-Mission Ship (JMMS), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says.

SINGAPORE: The Republic is considering buying a ship large enough to send more helicopters to disaster zones, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said.

Speaking to the media ahead of SAF Day on Tuesday, Dr Ng said the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines underlined the need for a Joint-Multi-Mission Ship (JMMS).

"A larger JMMS would be able to carry more helicopters or have more helicopters operating. When we responded to Typhoon Haiyan...basically, the typhoon was so devastating that comms and communication were knocked out. There was no centralised ability for command and control of the airspace. In that context, a ship like the JMMS would have been very useful," he said.

Dr Ng said Singapore is also working out the mechanics to be the region's coordinating centre for Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief efforts.

However, the centre should not simply respond when a crisis hits, he said. Instead, it should build networks – similar to United Nations agencies and voluntary welfare organisations – and pre-position them so that countries know where these resources are.

The minister also spoke about defence ties with the region. For Malaysia, he said bilateral exchanges are excellent, while for Indonesia, Singapore has taken “baby steps” to build up confidence and trust after the Usman Harun ship-naming incident.

Dr Ng also touched on Singapore's defence budget, saying the Republic’s spending patterns on defence are not likely to change dramatically over the next decade.

"Nominally, we've gone up, but we've kept pace with inflation. We avoid sharp spikes and we avoid deep dips because that kind of defence spending is what we have experienced and what other militaries recognise as the most productive outcome," he said.

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