KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia denied on Thursday (Jul 4) that its ban on sea sand export is designed to stop Singapore from expanding its land mass, with Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar saying that river sand is still being exported to its neighbour.
The Cabinet minister dismissed claims in a news story that the ban was introduced because Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was upset that Malaysia’s land was being used to increase the size of Singapore.
“No, there is nothing to do with that,” he told reporters at the parliament lobby.
On Wednesday, a Reuters article said Malaysia imposed the ban on Oct 3 last year in a move that could affect Singapore’s expansion plans on reclaimed land.
Anonymous government officers quoted in the report said the ban was not made public because of the potential diplomatic fallout. The sources also made the claim that the ban was brought in because of the Malaysian prime minister's concerns.
Reuters also quoted Endie Shazlie Akbar, Dr Mahathir’s press secretary, who denied the move was aimed at curbing Singapore’s expansion plans, saying it was designed to clamp down on illegal sand smuggling.
Dr Xavier also said the ban was due to environmental concerns and was not targeting any countries.
“I don’t want to single out one country. I don’t think there is any problem in our relationship with any countries as far as this business is concerned,” he said.
“We have made a blanket decision and it stays that way.”
Malaysia would not lose out financially with the ban in place, the minister stressed, as the revenue from sea sand exports is “very, very small”.
There is also a huge domestic demand for sea sand as Penang, Malacca and Negri Sembilan have embarked on reclamation projects, he added.
Dr Xavier said extraction of sea sand for local use is only allowed in places where hydrogeological studies have been done by the Department of Mineral and Geoscience. This is to ensure that the seabed is safe for such activity.
The ministry also monitors illegal mining closely through patrol and raids, he added.
On the other hand, river sand extracted from Malaysia is still being exported to other countries, including Singapore, China, India, Mauritius and Brunei, the minister said.
“We have no problem in allowing our entrepreneurs to exporting silica sand to Singapore,” he said. Four companies currently hold licenses to export river sand.
SAND IMPORTED FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES: SINGAPORE'S NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MINISTRY
Responding to the claims made by Reuters, Singapore’s Ministry of National Development said sand is imported from various countries to ensure resilience in the supply.
“The Government has also been encouraging the industry to reduce the reliance on sand,” a spokesperson said.
Citing a pilot polder development in Pulau Tekong as an example, the spokesperson said the project reduced the volume of sand needed compared with traditional reclamation.
“The Government will continue to work with industry players to explore new and innovative means to reduce our reliance on sand.”
The spokesperson added that suppliers of sand are expected to abide by the laws and regulations of the source country.
“These include sourcing sand from legally permissible areas, complying with all environmental protection laws of the source countries, and possessing the proper sand export documentation and permits from relevant authorities in the source countries.”