Airspace belongs to Malaysia, says Loke

Time to talk: Loke speaking to reporters after the NACC meeting in Putrajaya.

Time to talk: Loke speaking to reporters after the NACC meeting in Putrajaya.

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is not being unreasonable in its demand to reclaim its airspace in southern Johor from Singapore, says Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

While he agrees with his Singaporean counterpart Khaw Boon Wan that the reclamation process is “not a straightforward decision”, he said there was a need to have more talks on the matter.

“We are just protecting our own rights. We have our own position and we will protect it with sound and legal arguments,” he said after chairing the inaugural National Aviation Consultative Council (NACC) meeting here yesterday.

Loke said the agreement to allow Singapore to manage some of Malaysian airspace in southern Johor was made in 1974, but it did not say for how long.

“We cannot deny that the airspace belongs to Malaysia.

“Now that we have better capacity to manage our airspace, we feel it is the right time to discuss with Singapore about reclaiming the airspace.

“I understand there are safety issues that needs to be considered, but I am not asking for the airspace to be returned next month.

“We do understand there is a process and that it could take years,” he said, adding his ministry is willing to discuss this with Singapore.

On Tuesday, Loke told Parliament that Malaysia intends to take back its delegated airspace in stages, beginning next year.

On the issue of Seletar Airport, Loke said Malaysia would not allow the usage of the airspace above Pasir Gudang for aircraft approaches into the Singaporean airport.

“We can discuss with CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) on counter-proposals and measures to overcome this. But using Pasir Gudang airspace is something we will not agree on,” he said.

Malaysia had protested the new Instrument Landing System (ILS) proposed for Seletar Airport, as its flight path would affect height restrictions on development in Pasir Gudang.

On another matter, Loke said the port limits of the Johor Baru Port did not encroach into any part of Singapore.

“Malaysia finds Singapore’s claims to be inaccurate as the altered port limits for the port has not in any way encroached into any part of Singapore,” he said in a statement.

He was responding to Singapore’s Transport Ministry, which claimed Malaysia encroached into Singapore Territorial Waters, off Tuas, due to the extended Johor Baru port limits.

Loke said Singapore had in recent years carried out extensive land reclamation in the area.

According to trite law, he said the land reclamation does not extend a state’s basepoints or baselines. He added that he was willing engage with Singapore for an amicable resolution on this matter.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the limits of Johor Baru port can be measured to check if Malaysian authorities had encroached into Singapore’s territorial waters.

“We can measure to see if it is true that the borders are touching and if we are still within our own waters,” he said after launching the 21st Union of Pos Malaysia Uniformed Staff Delegation Conference.