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MPs question how airspace management agreement with Indonesia benefits Changi, Singapore

SINGAPORE — Several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday (Feb 14) pressed the Government on how its latest set of agreements with Indonesia last month will reap benefits for Changi Airport and Singapore’s economy. This includes one that realigns both nations’ airspace navigation borders to take Indonesia’s territorial boundaries into account.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second from left) met on Jan 25, 2022 at a leaders' retreat to sign several bilateral agreements.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (second from left) met on Jan 25, 2022 at a leaders' retreat to sign several bilateral agreements.

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  • ​​​​​​Singapore and Indonesia inked a set of deals in January over extradition, military training and airspace management
  • MPs asked on how realigning an airspace management boundary to account for Indonesian borders benefits Singapore 
  • Transport Minister S Iswaran said the agreements over these longstanding issues are an opportunity to build "strong, durable and mutually beneficial ties" between both nations
  • It will be difficult to contemplate how Changi Airport and Singapore's aviation hub can move forward without such a deal, he added

SINGAPORE — Several Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday (Feb 14) pressed the Government on how its latest set of agreements with Indonesia last month will reap benefits for Changi Airport and Singapore’s economy. This includes one that realigns both nations’ airspace navigation borders to take Indonesia’s territorial boundaries into account.

Some also queried what would happen if part of the set of three agreements over airspace management, extradition and military training fell through, given that Singapore and Indonesia had inked similar deals in the past but these did not materialise due to domestic hurdles of ratifying them.

In response to questions by East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) MP Jessica Tan and Sembawang GRC MP Poh Li San, Transport Minister S Iswaran said that the latest agreement broadly benefits international civil aviation safety, as well as the airports of both countries, including Changi Airport and Indonesian airports in Batam and Bintan.

“Without that assurance (of the agreement), it is really difficult to contemplate how we can move forward for Changi (Airport) and Singapore, because ultimately, we are an international aviation hub,” Mr Iswaran said.

“Central to that is our ability to ensure that aviation, and aircraft landings and takeoffs in Changi can be done safely and efficiently.”

Certainty over the airspace boundary managed by Singapore will give "greater clarity" to aviation sector stakeholders, including potential investors and companies that want to set up operations here, he added, noting the growing industry for air travel in Asia.

On Jan 25, both countries signed a set of agreements that comprises an extradition treaty, a defence cooperation agreement and a deal to realign the boundary of the flight information region (FIR) shared by Singapore and Jakarta.

FIRs are aerial boundaries that demarcate airspace management responsibilities for civil aviation authorities so that aircraft may navigate safely and efficiently.

The Singapore FIR is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

Presently, Singapore FIR covers the airspace over Indonesia’s Riau and Natuna islands. Indonesia had long desired for it to manage the airspace over its territories.

The FIR agreement stipulates that the boundary will be realigned to take Indonesia’s territorial and archipelagic baselines into account, while Indonesia will delegate air navigation services closest to Changi to Singapore.

When ratified by both countries, both nations will jointly apply to the International Civil Aviation Organization to update the FIR boundary.

The airspace deal is a foundation for both countries to “do more together”, Mr Iswaran said, adding that the mutual commitment for ensuring the safety of aviation was one example of why both sides were able to reconcile each party’s interests and reach an agreement. 

“It is important that we see this as an opportunity to build strong, durable and mutually beneficial ties between Indonesia and Singapore,” the minister said, responding to another question by Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER 25 YEARS

In a ministerial statement on the deals between the neighbouring countries, Mr Teo Chee Hean, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security,  stressed that the deals will last for 25 years, providing a “durable and firm basis for cooperation” for a generation, or more.

He said: “This agreement and the principles underlying provide a good basis for future cooperation where each side brings something to the table, and we work together to create a larger outcome where the whole is bigger than the sum of all its parts.”

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, MP for Aljunied GRC, then sought to clarify what would happen if both countries were not able to come into any agreement should there be disputes.

Other MPs also questioned the Government about the expiry of the FIR agreement, with Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng suggesting that an auto-renewal clause was worth considering.

Responding, Mr Teo said that Singapore’s present focus is to complete the ratification processes of the agreements “as soon as possible”. He noted that Indonesia has already started this process domestically. 

“This (will be) an indication of how both countries can actually work together, and work their own domestic processes for the benefit for the joint benefit of both countries,” he added.

If 25 years is up and both sides have not agreed to renew it, then pre-existing arrangements will continue before a new agreement is reached.

“So for the FIR, Singapore will certainly continue to discharge its responsibilities to provide air navigation services in a safe and efficient way for civil (aviation) traffic,” Mr Teo said.

Related topics

airspace flight Indonesia Parliament Politics

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