Malaysia to reclaim Johor airspace from Singapore

Govt will send protest note to Singapore over the latter’s decision to operate its ILS for the Seletar Airport

By P PREM KUMAR & AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By BERNAMA

Malaysia seeks to reclaim its airspace from Singapore in phases between 2019 and 2023, after allowing the republic to use the delegated airspace in southern Johor since 1974.

In addition, the government will send a protest note to Singapore over the latter’s decision to operate its instrument landing system (ILS) for the Seletar Airport near Johor border despite Malaysia opposing it.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke (picture) said the government disallowed Singapore from broadcasting the new ILS on Nov 28 and 29 this year in order to protect the sovereignty of airspace and development around Pasir Gudang, Johor.

“However, Singapore broadcast the ILS on Dec 1, 2018, and will enforce it on Jan 3, 2019, without the Malaysian government’s agreement.

“This is against the principle of national sovereignty as accorded under the Convention on International Civil Aviation 1944,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The ILS refers to methods of flying with navigation aid at airports, while descending and ascending.

He said this in response to MP Hassan Abdul Karim (Pakatan Harapan-Pasir Gudang) who asked if the government was aware that low-flying commercial airplanes flying into Singapore would affect residents in Pasir Gudang and Johor Port.

Hassan said low-flying planes cause noise pollution and prevent high-rise buildings from being built.

Loke said the federal government will send an official protest note to the Singaporean government over commercial planes flying low over the Malaysian airspace to go to the Seletar Airport.

“The government, through Wisma Putra, will issue a protest note immediately to Singapore in relation to the breach of this principle of sovereignty.

“It is our stand not to confront them. This is about the airspace and it is important for residents in Johor,” Loke said.

Turboprop operator FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd had recently suspended its operations after it failed to get the green light from the Malaysian authorities to relocate its operations from the Changi Airport to the Seletar Airport.

The Seletar Airport is located 2km away from the Johor border.

The government, however, intends to resolve the issue amicably without any punitive measures.

Meanwhile, in a press conference at his office in Putrajaya, Loke reiterated that the protest note is mainly for the proposed flight path over Pasir Gudang.

“The airport is very near to Pasir Gudang. Aircraft have to fly very low over Pasir Gudang (when they descend),” the minister said.

“We cannot have tall buildings in Pasir Gudang if we allow the path. It is not viable for us to allow it.

“We cannot stop them (Singapore) from building airports. However, we do not know the kind of approach that they are going to take,” Loke added.

He stressed that Singapore could choose to fly into the Seletar Airport from the south, over Singaporean airspace.

Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) airport standards division director Dr Zainul Fuad Mohd Wahi said Singapore had not communicated to CAAM on its ILS decision.

“The proposal had never been communicated to CAAM before and we have never made any indication that we agree on such proposal, especially taking into consideration that it will affect the development of Pasir Gudang,” he said.

Zainul Fuad said the ILS could be stretched by 32km from Seletar to Ulu Tiram, Johor.

“So the impact of the ILS procedure is quite great to the Johor development,” he said.

He added that CAAM was only notified to approve and discuss the ILS proposal about two months ago.

“The fundamental issue is the airport operation. When you establish a runway, you should have already identified your departure and arrival flight path, especially when it concerns a neighbouring country’s airspace.

“Thus, they should have already considered establishing their procedures which are only confined to their airspace instead of going to the Malaysian airspace,” he added.