SINGAPORE: Singapore and Malaysia have settled arrangements for cross-border travel between both countries, but are not yet ready to allow daily commuting, said Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to Singapore reporters at the Woodlands Immigration and Checkpoints Authority building on Sunday (Jul 26) morning after a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein.
The pair had met at the mid-way point of the Johor-Singapore Causeway to discuss arrangements on the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA), ahead of the implementation of the two schemes on Aug 10.
"I'm ... pleased to report that both sides have settled the arrangements for the Reciprocal Green Lane as well as for what we call the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, so all the details have been settled (and) applications will open on Aug 10, and in the next few days we will publish the operational details," said Dr Balakrishnan.
However, he stressed that these arrangements do not provide for daily commuting on the land crossings between Singapore and Malaysia as both countries are "not ready for that yet".
"I would say, give us a couple of weeks to monitor the (COVID-19) figures, both in Malaysia, in particular Johor, and in Singapore. And as we gain greater confidence that the control of the pandemic is well-executed in both places, we can then begin the discussions for how we can allow daily commuting," said Dr Balakrishnan.
He added that there were "quite a few more operational details" that would need to be sorted out before daily commuting will be allowed, like the availability of mass-scale testing on both sides of the border.
"You must bear in mind that even with a daily commuting model, there'll be a need for regular comprehensive testing on both sides," said Dr Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan also said that this team was working on allowing people to travel between Singapore and Malaysia on compassionate reasons such as to visit their loved ones who are sick or to attend funerals.
"(In) the last few months, I received so many desperate pleas. My parent or my grandparent in hospital or in ICU, or sometimes worse, has passed away. And they want so desperately to ... bid a final farewell," said Dr Balakrishnan.
"This is the other category on a much smaller scale, of course, but which I have great sympathy for and we're trying to work out arrangements," he added.
The meeting between the two foreign ministers was conducted on the Causeway because of border restrictions between the two countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In a joint statement later on Sunday, both foreign ministries said the two ministers had a "constructive discussion" on the RGL and PCA, which will "facilitate cross-border travel for official, business and work purposes between Singapore and Malaysia".
The statement reiterated that applications for both schemes can be submitted from Aug 10.
"The operational details of the RGL and PCA, including the detailed requirements, health protocols and application process involved for entry and exit into Singapore and Malaysia, will be finalised and published shortly," the statement added.
Earlier this month, Singapore and Malaysia agreed to implement the schemes and set Aug 10 as the target date to start cross-border travel between the two countries for some residents and business travellers.
The RGL will allow travel between Singapore and Malaysia for "essential business and official purposes".
Eligible travellers will have to abide by the prevailing COVID-19 prevention and public health measures agreed upon by both countries, including swab tests. They will also have to submit a "controlled itinerary" to the receiving country and adhere to this itinerary during their visit.
Meanwhile, the PCA will allow Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.
After at least three consecutive months in their country of work, they can return to their home country for short-term home leave. They can then return to their country of work to continue work for at least another three consecutive months.