Hishammuddin (right) greeting his Singapore counterpart, Dr Vivian, at the Causeway on July 26.
JOHOR BARU: The Causeway, closed off to most traffic due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be busy again when cross-border travel is allowed from Aug 17 following a historic meeting between Malaysia and Singapore on the 1km link.
Wearing face masks and standing a metre apart, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein met his Singapore counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, with both men announcing in a joint statement that they had agreed to allow cross-border travel between the two countries under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA).
In yesterday’s statement, the two ministers said they were pleased to announce that Singapore and Malaysia had reached an agreement on all key aspects of RGL and PCA after having a constructive discussion.
Later at a press conference, Hishammuddin said applications for travel under RGL and PCA could be submitted from Aug 10 but reminded those eligible, especially Malaysians, to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) agreed upon by both governments.
“We will make the announcement on the SOP before Aug 10 but I do hope that the public understands how important this matter is to the government and to adhere to it.
“If this is successful, then we can conduct further discussions with Singapore to open cross-border travel for others,” he told reporters at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine.
He said for the border with Singapore to be reopened for all, Malaysia would need to increase its testing capacity to cater for over 250,000 travellers on a daily basis, which was a huge number.
RGL and PCA will only facilitate cross-border travel for official, business and work purposes between Singapore and Malaysia.
Considered the busiest border crossing in the world, the Causeway used to see some 350,000 travellers daily. In 2015, 107.9 million people used the Causeway and Second Link.
“The important thing is – RGL and PCA will allow more than 20,000 Malaysians, who are currently in Singapore, to return home after four months of staying away from their loved ones should they fall within the categories,” said Hishammuddin.
Asked if the recent spike in Covid-19 cases being reported in both countries would affect the agreement, he said the two governments had the political will as well as a system and SOP in place.
“Do we have to wait until there are zero cases so we can open up our border when there are our own people who want to travel to Singapore for work?” he said.
Hishammuddin said RGL and PCA would become a template for Wisma Putra to conduct more discussions in opening up the country’s border with other nations under the ‘’green bubble travel category”, among which were New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
“We have many Malaysian students wanting to return to Melbourne for their education and if the respective universities there can carry out their responsibilities in ensuring the SOP, then we will support it.
“The government has to look at the reality on the ground, in that we must be balanced in making our decision as there are economic and health considerations before we negotiate,” he said.
RGL will allow 400 Malaysians and Singaporeans to travel to and from the two countries every week but this is restricted to official travel and important business matters.
PCA will allow some 2,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans with long-term work permits to cross the Causeway and the Second Link every day.