Official opening of the Changi Naval Base by PM Goh. [There was a sail past, as 12 warships, a submarine and scores of small fast craft glided in a straight-line formation before guests gathered at South Breakwater Pier, where large warships dock. - Filepic
HONOLULU: Singapore has proposed hosting a regional crisis command centre that would help co-ordinate governments’ efforts after major natural disasters, the city-state’s defence minister said.
“We were obviously struck over the last decade by how many disasters there were” in the region, said Ng Eng Hen.
He cited the earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons that have cut a swathe of destruction from the Philippines to Japan.
“We recognised in the first critical 24/48 hours, it is actually very difficult for the affected country to be able to set up a C2 (command and control) centre, for the very reason they’re the ones hit,” said the minister, in Hawaii for an Asean meeting on Thursday.
With communications knocked out, governments at the centre of a natural disaster often are “overwhelmed” and don’t have the ability to manage international offers of help, he said.
“In the discussion we realised what was really needed was a crisis centre that was already set up and operational.
“It could also be scaled up (as needed),” he said.
At the Asean gathering in Honolulu, defence ministers welcomed Singapore’s proposal to host the crisis centre at Changi naval base, Ng said.
The agenda for this week’s Asean meeting – focused on improving co-operation for humanitarian assistance – has taken on new importance in the wake of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel praised Singapore’s proposal for the crisis centre to handle future natural disasters, which are expected to increase in frequency and scale due to climate change.
“This could be an important venue for nations in the region to co-ordinate military responses to disasters and it’s an idea that we’re going to pursue,” Hagel said.
The idea is to “make a coherent picture for everyone to see”, said Ng.
“We evolved a concept, we call it ‘plug and play’,” he added.
“We set up terminals, you bring in your systems, you give the information you feel comfortable with.
“We take all that information, fuse it and then pump it out. It’s worked quite well.” — AFP