SINGAPORE: The current airspace arrangements over southern Johor have benefitted both Singapore and Malaysia, and any changes will impact many stakeholders, Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 4).
The statement was made in response to remarks by Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who said in parliament on Tuesday that Malaysia wants to reclaim its "delegated airspace" in southern Johor.
In its statement, MOT pointed out that under current airspace arrangements, the provision of air traffic services in the airspace over southern Johor was delegated to Singapore, and that airspace in this region was one of the "most complex in the world".
"Air traffic growth is one of the fastest in the world. The benefits to both our economies and our people have been tremendous," said MOT. "The current airspace arrangements have been working well and have facilitated this growth.
"Hence, any proposed changes will impact many stakeholders. Consultations will therefore be required to minimise the impact on airlines and passengers."
The current airspace arrangements were agreed upon in 1973 by Malaysia, Singapore and other regional states, and subsequently approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the ministry said. A bilateral agreement was then signed between Malaysia and Singapore in 1974.
LANDING PROCEDURES AT SELETAR IN USE "FOR DECADES": MOT
MOT said it noted that Mr Loke had made "several comments" regarding the publication of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport, but that the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore had in 2014 informed Malaysia's transport ministry of the move of turboprop operations to Seletar Airport.
The ILS procedure refers to an assisted navigational aviation facility at the airport which provides vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots while the flight is descending and approaching the runway.
In December last year, the ILS procedures were shared with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia, said MOT, but added that "despite repeated reminders", it had received "no substantive response" from the Malaysian authority until late November this year.
On Tuesday, Mr Loke said that Malaysia notified Singapore on Nov 28 and 29 of its objection to the publication of the ILS, citing the impact on developments and shipping operations in Pasir Gudang, and that Singapore still published it on Dec 1.
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In its statement, MOT said the ILS procedures were designed to align with existing flight profiles into Seletar Airport which "have been used for decades", and also take into account existing structures at Pasir Gudang.
"The procedures therefore do not impose any additional impact on other airspace users as well as businesses and residents in Johor," said MOT.
There are also existing procedures and equipment to ensure that shipping on the Straits of Johor would not be affected, said the ministry.
"In fact, the ILS procedures will enhance safety for all users and residents."
It said it noted Malaysia's desire to provide air traffic services for the airspace, and added that any proposal should ensure air traffic safety and efficiency are not compromised while also being in accordance with ICAO standards.
"Sovereignty is a fundamental principle of international law. Singapore respects Malaysia’s sovereignty. At the same time, international law is clear that cross-border airspace management is not incompatible with sovereignty," the ministry said.
"Singapore and Malaysia are close neighbours, who have had a long history of cooperation and friendly competition," it said. "We need to work together to tackle our common challenges and find constructive ways to resolve our differences when interests diverge.
"With goodwill, a win-win outcome is possible. We will approach this recent development in the same spirit."
SELETAR AIRPORT HAS BEEN AROUND "FOR DECADES": KHAW
Pointing out that Seletar Airport is not a new airport, Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the ILS procedures are in line with the current flight profile, and publishing them was just a translation of the current situation onto paper.
"Seletar has been around for umpteen years, for decades," the minister told reporters on Tuesday.
"The flight path has been there for umpteen years, for decades, and the new procedures are are not any new procedures, they just translate the current situation (onto) paper."
This in fact enhances safety, said the minister, adding that it made safety rules clearer and more transparent.
"So we are not introducing new flight paths, new flight patterns with this Seletar Airport."
He noted Malaysia's decision to "take back the airspace", but said that it was not a straightforward decision to "just change the status quo".
ICAO procedures are "quite clear" that any such changes must improve on the status quo, said Mr Khaw.
"If it doesn't improve on the status quo, then what is the point of changing?" he asked. "The criteria for improvement are safety and efficiency. Does it make it safer? Does it make it more efficient? Otherwise, why change?"