JAKARTA: Indonesia is in the final phase of negotiating a "reciprocal green lane" (RGL) with Singapore to allow essential travel between the two countries, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday (Oct 6).
In an exclusive interview with CNA, she said: "We have entered the final round or phase of the negotiations. And yesterday I had a telephone conversation with Dr Vivian (Balakrishnan), and we said that we are quite happy with the progress of the negotiations we have made so far."
"So hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be able to launch this RGL together with this emphasis: That once again this RGL is specifically intended for essential business trips and official trips that are very urgent," she added.
She also said: "Hopefully sometime this month, we can announce 'we are ready for that'." She stressed that it is important for health protocols to continue to be implemented and maintained.
A statement by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Aug 25 said that both sides were set to begin discussions on a "reciprocal green lane" to allow essential travel to gradually resume.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Mdm Marsudi agreed that both countries should work closely together to strengthen public health cooperation, enhance economic growth and investments, deepen financial cooperation and facilitate safe travel, said the statement.
"Given the strong business links between Singapore and Indonesia, the two foreign ministers tasked the officials to begin discussions on a 'reciprocal green lane' to allow for essential travel to gradually resume in a manner that would safeguard public health and safety in both countries," the statement added.
READ: Singapore and Indonesia to begin discussions on 'reciprocal green lane' for essential travel – MFA
When asked specifically when the green lane would be implemented, Mdm Marsudi said: "If we have announced it, it means that the negotiations have been concluded ... When it is announced, we agree that not long after being announced, it can be implemented."
Mdm Marsudi added that authorities are now making preparations on the ground, such as ensuring that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can be performed at the airport of arrival.
READ: Electronic visas, special counters at Jakarta and Batam among Indonesia's measures for proposed green lane with Singapore
The top diplomat reiterated that only healthy individuals can travel to both countries for essential purposes.
"Our duty is to make sure that this person who moves, who travels, is a healthy person. So, that's why the health protocol is to check before departure, check after arrival, then there are other procedures, and we really need to apply them in a disciplined manner," she said.
Singapore has been the largest investor in Indonesia for the last five years. Last month, President Joko Widodo expressed his hope for both sides to have a reciprocal green lane immediately, noting that it could pave the way for investments coming into Indonesia.
In the first quarter of 2020, Singapore was Indonesia’s top foreign investor, with a total of US$2.7 billion in realised investments, according to data from the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board.
UPCOMING LEADERS' RETREAT TO FOCUS ON HEALTH, ECONOMY AND FINANCE
Like previous years, the leaders of Indonesia and Singapore are expected to meet later this year for an annual leaders' retreat. It is Indonesia's turn to host the meeting this year.
But given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mdm Marsudi said it has not been decided when the event will take place.
It has also not been finalised whether it will be a virtual meeting or an in-person meeting, she noted.
There will be at least three main issues the countries will discuss, namely health issues, the economy and financial issues, she said.
"Singapore is one of our important partners for trade, investment and prior to the pandemic, also for tourism. So our Leaders' Retreat is not oriented on the event. It is not event-oriented but it is more about the deliverables."
READ: Excellent, multi-faceted relations between Singapore and Indonesia in ‘good shape’, says PM Lee
Last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met with President Joko Widodo in October where Singapore was the host of the meeting.