SINGAPORE: Things were generally smooth on the first day of the implementation for the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) at the Singapore-Malaysia border, said travellers interviewed by CNA on Monday (Aug 17).
However, the lack of public transport on Woodlands Causeway meant that people had to walk across, posing difficulties for some of them.
Those travelling from Johor Bahru to Singapore via the Woodlands Causeway said that they took between one hour to two hours to clear immigration procedures and cross the border.
Mdm Norhia Muhd Pamis, who works as a factory operator with an electronics manufacturer in Kallang, said that she took two hours in total to travel from Johor Bahru's Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Immigration checkpoint and clear Woodlands Checkpoint.
"The time taken is less than the average time I took to travel when I was commuting daily before COVID-19 restrictions were placed," she noted.
"We had the necessary immigration documents ready so there were really no issues at all today."
Mdm Norhia was travelling with around a dozen of her colleagues, all of whom are Malaysians who are entering Singapore via PCA.
The PCA allows Singapore and Malaysia citizens or Permanent Residents (PRs) who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.
For PCA, travellers need to bring along their passports, work passes and health declaration cards.
Meanwhile the RGL is for Malaysia and Singapore residents keen to do shorter-term travel of up to 14 days, for essential business and official purposes.
For RGL, travellers need to bring along their passports, letter of invitation, an itinerary for the duration of stay, proof of hotel accommodation as well as health and travel history declaration.
Commuters who were approved to travel on these schemes on Monday were allowed to do so from 7am.
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At Woodlands Checkpoint, a group of around 50 travellers queued at the entrance of the building before immigration officers ushered them in at 7am.
Travellers were reminded by officers to observe social distancing and had to wear face masks.
One of the commuters was Mr Ronald Tay, a Singapore citizen travelling to Pahang via the RGL scheme.
Mr Tay, who owns a restaurant in Kuala Lipis, travelled to Woodlands Checkpoint via taxi, before he walked over to Bangunan Sultan Iskandar where a colleague picked him up after he cleared immigration.
He told CNA that he took around an hour to clear both immigration checkpoints.
"It was surprisingly quite quick, the queues on both sides were short and the process was really smooth," said Mr Tay.
LACK OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT ON CAUSEWAY A CONCERN
However, some travellers said that as there was no public transport or shuttle buses provided between the two checkpoints, those without their own private vehicles had to travel on foot.
At around 10am on Monday, the Causeway was largely empty except for some commercial vehicles. Some commuters could also be seen travelling on foot or via motorcycles.
Previously, Mdm Norhia said she would take the public bus to cross the length of the Causeway but as there are no public transport services, she and her colleagues had to walk more than 1 km between the two immigration checkpoints.
"It is not easy because we are carrying all our luggage and things, but we managed," she said.
Travellers who cross the border under the PCA scheme are required to remain in the country they work in for at least 90 days before they are allowed to return on home leave.
Hence, many of them brought large travel bags for their personal effects.
Among them was Mdm Nurul Hidayah Norezan, who works in a factory in Kallang.
The 28-year-old was carrying a large suitcase and another backpack.
"I think it would help us a lot if authorities provide some form of transportation because walking for 20 minutes carrying all this is no joke," she added.
HARD TO SAY GOODBYE
Some travellers entering Singapore through the PCA scheme also told CNA that saying goodbye to their families was difficult as many would not be returning home for at least 90 days.
Mdm Nurul Hidayah, who has a 1-year-old son, said it was tough to leave her family on Monday morning but she reminded herself that she had to resume work to provide for them.
"We need to work in Singapore to get more income," said Mdm Nurul Hidayah.
"This morning before leaving I was feeling sad. I hugged and kiss them, and they reminded me to take care of my health," she added.
Mr Muhammad Syafiq Masruhin, a Malaysian who is employed by a medical technological firm in Tuas, also arrived in Singapore at around 9am.
He told CNA that he felt sad leaving behind his family, but he stressed that the income he earned in Singapore would be valuable to them.
"Over the last three months when I was not allowed to come to Singapore, I became a Grab driver in Johor Bahru but the money I earned from that was just not enough," he said.
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Meanwhile, Johor Immigration director Baharuddin Tahir was quoted as saying by the Star on Monday that applications to travel from Aug 17 until Aug 21 under both the RGL and PCA were fully booked.
He added that Malaysian authorities would allow 2,000 people to travel via the PCA and 60 people via the RGL daily.
He also reportedly said that as of 10am, around 300 people had crossed the Malaysia-Singapore border in both directions.
In response to queries from CNA, a spokesperson from Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that applications for cross-border travel made through the Johor Immigration Department are meant for travel from Singapore to Malaysia, and differ from the applications made via the Safe Travel Portal for travel from Malaysia to Singapore.
However, MTI did not confirm how many commuters travelled from Singapore to Malaysia via the two schemes on Monday.
The spokesperson added that the systems for receiving PCA and RGL applications have "gone live smoothly" and companies have started to submit their applications.
"Government agencies will continue to ensure that the reopening of our borders is done in a careful and calibrated manner, while balancing economic interests and safeguarding public health," the spokesperson added.