Reports by MARTIN CARVALHO, HEMANANTHANI SIVANANDAM, RAHIMY RAHIM and TARRENCE TAN
ONLY 2,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans are allowed to cross daily under the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) as both countries gradually reopen their border to each other in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the same time, under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) category, only 400 Malaysians and Singaporeans can travel to and fro between the two countries a week.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who announced this at a press conference at Parliament yesterday, said the agreement on RGL and PCA would be implemented on Aug 10 with the standard operating procedure finalised before that. Both categories are for travel via the Johor Causeway and the Second Link.PCA is for the daily commute of Malaysians and Singaporeans with long-term work permits while RGL is restricted to Malaysians and Singaporeans on official travel and important business matters only.
Hishammuddin said the full reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border hinged on the successful implementation of RGL and PCA – the first and second categories under negotiation.
“If the first and second categories proceed smoothly, it will be a positive start with regard to the third and fourth categories,” he said.
The other two categories involve the daily crossing of between 200,000 and 250,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans and full reopening of the border.
Last month, the minister announced that the reopening of the border would be done in stages and divided into four categories.
> The first category is for professionals, including those in business.
> The second category covers Malaysians working and living in Singapore, estimated to be about 20,000 to 25,000 people.
> The third category comprises Malaysians working in Singapore who commute from Johor to the city-state on a daily basis, numbering some 250,000.
> The fourth category refers to citizens of Malaysia and Singapore in general.
Hishammuddin said yesterday that the ability to conduct Covid-19 screenings on a large scale was crucial to the two remaining categories being implemented.
“The final category involving the full opening of the border will be done in stages. Our dilemma is balancing health, security and the economy,” he said, adding that more time was needed before the final two categories could be implemented.
On Tuesday, Hishammuddin and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan announced RGL and PCA to address the needs of different groups of travellers.
On a separate matter, Hishammuddin said 23,955 Malaysians stranded abroad in 82 nations due to the Covid-19 pandemic had been brought home.
He said there were still 317 Malaysians stranded in 37 countries. Of this, 191 are in countries where Covid-19 is at a critical level.“Wisma Putra has also identified 10,159 Malaysians who have the potential of ending up stranded abroad,” he said.
Of this, 9,270 are students who are mainly based in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.