SINGAPORE: Singapore has been "clear and consistent" in its position that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement, said Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (Mar 13).
MFA's comments came in response to a media statement by its Malaysian counterpart on Tuesday, in which the latter said that the countries' prime ministers had agreed in November last year to begin discussions over the water agreement.
"The Attorney-General of Malaysia and Singapore then had their first discussion, in which both parties agreed to the review. Additionally, both parties should have already entered the second phase of negotiations, which was to discuss how the new water price would be determined," Malaysia's statement read.
"However, the statement made by Singapore's foreign minister in Parliament on Mar 1 does not illustrate the agreement that had been decided on by both countries. In fact, he criticised and made baseless accusations against Malaysia," the statement added.
The agreement, which expires in 2061, entitles Singapore to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of water from the Johor River.
Singapore pays 3 sen per thousand gallons of raw water and sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per thousand gallons, a fraction of the cost of treating the water.
Johor is meanwhile entitled to a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent or 5 mgd of the water supplied to Singapore. In practice, however, Singapore has been supplying 16 mgd of treated water to Johor at its request.
"Singapore has been clear and consistent that our position is that Malaysia has lost the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement (62WA)," said an MFA spokesperson. "No review of the price of water has taken place."
During a meeting between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Nov 12 last year, both sides "expressed their differing views" on the right to review the price of water under the agreement, said the spokesperson.
"They expressed their willingness for officials to have further discussions to better understand each other’s positions on the right to review the price of water under the 62WA."
The Attorneys-General of both countries then met once in December last year for this purpose, however their discussions were overshadowed by issues between the two countries that had arisen over the Johor Bahru Port Limits and the Seletar Instrument Landing System procedures.
"There was certainly no agreement between the Attorneys-General on any matter related to the 62WA during their meeting," said the MFA spokesperson, adding that the two would meet again to continue their discussions.
READ: Malaysia to seek international arbitration if Singapore does not renegotiate water deal - Saifuddin
On Tuesday, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said during a parliamentary debate that Malaysia will seek international arbitration if Singapore does not renegotiate the agreement.
Singapore notes Mr Saifuddin's comments, the MFA spokesperson said, pointing out Dr Mahathir's remarks last week that Singapore does not want to go to the “world court”, "ostensibly because we would lose".
Added the MFA spokesperson: "Singapore has always been prepared to settle disputes by recourse to appropriate international third party dispute settlement procedures, on terms mutually agreed to by the parties.
"In fact, as far back as 2003, then-Minister for Foreign Affairs S Jayakumar said that Singapore was prepared to agree to refer this matter to international arbitration by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the interest of resolving the dispute.”