PM Lee Hsien Loong's doorstop remarks at the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders' Retreat on 25 January 2022, in Bintan, Indonesia.
Q: Could you kindly elaborate how the meeting today and the agreements that were signed would benefit Singapore.
PM Lee Hsien Loong: It was a very good meeting. My last retreat with President Jokowi was more than two years ago in 2019. Today we met to discuss bilateral issues, but most importantly, we signed three agreements which we have been working on for some time now and which deals with issues which go back for many years. In some cases, decades.
Talking about the extradition treaty, talking about Defence Cooperation Agreement, talking about the FIR arrangements, as well as an exchange of letters to commit that these three agreements will be brought into effect simultaneously.
These are issues which are important to the two countries. They have been significant items on the agenda, which we have discussed for quite a long time.
In 2007, we actually reached agreement on two of them, which was the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and the extradition treaty. But after that, it was not able to be ratified and implemented.
So today we have committed them again, with some minor adjustments to the extradition treaty. We will now go through to ratify and implement the agreements, which provide a long term resolution on issues which are important to both countries, and which, if they are not properly resolved, can cause a lot of trouble to our relationship. If they are settled properly, and we have a clear understanding of them, then you can go forward and do a lot more cooperation across the board.
The Defence Cooperation Agreement has to do with mainly the Singapore Armed Forces training. The extradition treaty has to do with legal cooperation and the FIR agreement has to do with the re-alignment of the FIR boundaries, but also an assurance, a delegation of the air services management responsibilities from Indonesia to Singapore, which is done by Changi, which assures the ability of Changi to operate, to maintain safe aviation, civil aviation, and also to be able to grow and develop over the long term.
So these are three separate items that are important to both sides and I am very happy that we have reached a resolution today.
Q: PM, can we get a comment on the plans to resume cross border travel to more parts of Indonesia, and also about travel. Is there a concern that the FIR deal will compete with the Changi’s ambitions for its air travel hub status?
PM Lee: I think there are two separate things. First, the FIR agreement is a long-term agreement - it is for 25 years - and it does two things; one it realigns the FIR boundaries to be generally in accordance with Indonesia's territorial boundaries; secondly, it makes sure that Changi is able to operate efficiently, safely, fully, provide air traffic control services in order to function as an important international airport, and to be able to grow in the long term as an international airport. It is a carefully negotiated and balanced set of agreements and I think both sides’ important interests and concerns have been met.
As for tourism travel and the opening of boundaries, we have opened to travel from Jakarta, VTL, unilaterally, the Indonesians have created what they call a travel bubble to Batam and Bintan. We would like to go further with that, and the Indonesians would also like to go further with their proposals. But of course, it depends on the COVID situation, because their COVID situation is not completely synchronised with ours. When our COVID numbers are high, like now, and their COVID numbers are lower than ours, they are naturally concerned about us. But sometimes our COVID numbers are low and their COVID numbers are higher than ours, which has happened, and then we are concerned about them. So, for both sides to be comfortable to open up at the same time is not easy. But anyway, we have taken this step with Jakarta. They have taken this step with Batam and Bintan. We have proposed to them, how about we do a bilateral VTL to more destinations. Let's talk about it. It may not be ready to implement yet, but let's discuss it so that when the conditions are suitable, we are able to do it. They are prepared to talk and meanwhile on Batam and Bintan, they would like to make the travel bubble a success, to be able to have more Singaporean visitors, and we will discuss with them and see how we can expedite things. I think that ministries, particularly the transport ministries, will be talking to each other on this matter.
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