'Not true' that Seletar Airport's flight procedures violate Malaysia's sovereignty: MOT

Seletar Airport. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) has refuted Malaysia’s claim that the implementation of Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for the northerly approach into Seletar Airport is a “clear violation of Malaysia sovereignty and international law and standards”.

In a media statement released on Wednesday (12 December) amid the ongoing dispute over the use of airspace by Seletar Airport, MOT said that Malaysia’s claim is “not true”, adding that the nature of international civil aviation is such that flights have to traverse the airspace of different countries.

“It is not uncommon for flight procedures to/from airports in one State, especially those near other States, to traverse the territories of neighbouring States,” it said in the statement.

“This does not entail a violation of the sovereignty of the States being overflown. The instrument flight procedures for some Malaysian airports also extend into the territories of neighbouring States.”

Cross-border airspace management

MOT said that while Singapore respects Malaysia’s sovereignty, cross-border airspace management is “not incompatible with sovereignty”.

It said in its statement, “The purpose of airspace management is to ensure the safety and efficiency of air traffic. Malaysia had agreed to Singapore’s management of the airspace over Southern Johor in 1973 and a bilateral agreement was signed in 1974 to operationalise this agreement.

“The ILS procedures for Seletar Airport were published in accordance with Singapore’s responsibilities under the relevant ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) requirements as well as the bilateral arrangements with Malaysia. Singapore had nonetheless consulted Malaysia since December 2017 in the spirit of goodwill.

“Malaysia has never raised any objections to the existing flight profile in place for Seletar Airport which the ILS procedures adhere to. They provide an additional tool for the safe and efficient operation of aircraft, for the benefit of all.”

Contention over flight path

On Tuesday night, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke had put up a video post on his Facebook page detailing the reasons why Malaysia is opposed to Seletar’s Airport’s ILS procedures.

The video explained that the flight path used by the ILS – a precision runway approach system that makes it safer for planes to land even with poor visibility – will encroach into Malaysian airspace, as Seletar Airport is about 2 km away from Pasir Gudang in Johor. The height limits set by the flight path means that buildings and mobile cranes would be in the way of any descending plane’s flight path.

“Our position is very clear. We are not against Seletar, but as far as the descending flight path is concerned, it cannot be over Pasir Gudang,” Loke said in the video.

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport also released a statement on Wednesday detailing its objections over the ILS procedures on the northerly approach to the Seletar Airport, and not the southerly approach. It also urged the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to use their “creativity” to resolve the disagreement.

Flight procedures are for safety

In response, MOT said that flight procedures for both directions are necessary, because aircrafts land and take off into the wind.

“In this region, winds blow from a north-easterly direction for half of the year, and a south-westerly direction for the other half of the year. Therefore, flight procedures for a southerly approach cannot safely replace all flight procedures for the northerly approach,” it added.

MOT also said that CAAS had conveyed its intention to implement ILS procedures for both approaches during a meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia on 29 November.

Despite the ongoing disagreements, MOT said it is prepared to discuss Malaysia’s technical concerns in good faith and “in the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit”.

“On 4 December 2018, Malaysia Minister of Transport Anthony Loke stated that Malaysia would be giving Singapore its counterproposal. We look forward to receiving Malaysia’s counterproposal, and would be pleased to meet with Malaysia thereafter,” it said.

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