Xavier: Sea sand export ban not targeting Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR: The ban on all sea sand exports is due to environmental concerns and has nothing to do with land reclamation by Singapore, says Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

"Singapore can always buy sand from other countries… Nobody is stopping them. We have no right to stop any countries from doing reclamation," he told reporters at the parliament lobby.

He was asked to comment if the sea sand export ban was only to Singapore.

It was reported that Singapore imported 59 million tonnes of sand from Malaysia in 2018 at a cost of S$347mil (about RM1.1bil), according to United Nations Comtrade data, which is based on information provided by individual countries' customs offices.

That accounted for 97% of Singapore's total sand imports in the year by volume and 95% of Malaysia's global sand sales.

The data does not distinguish between types of sand.

Dr Jayakumar said that the Malaysian Government had introduced the ban in May last year after taking over the Federal Government.

"The Government has decided that at present, there is no need for us to export sand to any country outside Malaysia.

It was a decision made by Cabinet and we followed through," he said.

He also did not think that the ban would complicate bilateral relations with Singapore.

"We have done a study on sea sand exportation which is mined more than 3km outside the shoreline. We only allow the mining of sea sand for local use in areas places where hydro studies have been done to make sure the sea bed is safe for sand extraction," explained Dr Jayakumar.

Asked if the ban would affect government revenues, he said: "No. The revenue for sand exportation is very small. The revenue to the state and the Federal Government's is only through taxation of the company that shown in its annual report of what amount of businesses that have been done by that company.

"So there is not much of a difference towards government revenue anyway," he said.

However, Dr Jayakumar pointed out that river sand can still be exported to Singapore.

"But these exports must get the approval of the Prime Minister. It also goes to China, India, Mauritius, Brunei," he said, adding that global demand for sand was high.