By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BLOOMBERG
THE government’s decision to stop exports on sea sand applies to all countries that imports millions of tonnes of sand from Malaysia and not solely directed at Singapore.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar described the federal move as a “blanket decision” to all countries.
“The government has decided that at present, there is no need for us to export sand to any country outside Malaysia and it was a decision made by the Cabinet and we followed through. It is no big deal.
“I do not think there is any problem with any country as far as this business is concerned — exporting of sand. We have made a blanket decision, and it stays that way,” Xavier told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported the ban quoting two senior government sources with direct knowledge of the decision.
It said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was disappointed that Malaysia’s land was used to increase the size of its neighbour across the Causeway, and the decision could impede the island state’s expansion plans. Reuters reported the ban was not publicised earlier due to fears of a diplomatic fallout.
“It has nothing to do with that. Singapore can always buy sand from other countries who are exporting it for reclamation purposes. Nobody is stopping them.
“We have no right to stop any countries from doing reclamation. As far as we are concerned, it is a collective decision that we have done in order to stop sea sand exportation,” Xavier explained.
Malaysia, Singapore’s biggest source of sea sand, is one of the world’s top sand exporters with total exports amounting to nearly US$16 million (RM66.13 million) in 2015.
Xavier said the ban will not have very minimal impact on the government’s revenue, and estimated demand for the scarce commodity to be over 15 million tonnes per year.
The minister said the decision to ban sand exports was made based on environmental concerns and lack of regulation involving sand mining activities.
“We are conducting studies and regulating it. As you know, we are now in the middle of doing reclamation ourselves in Penang and Malacca. Negri Sembilan has just told me they are starting a reclamation programme along their shores, so all these areas will need a lot of sea sand and I think there is enough to go around,” he said.
Xavier clarified that the ban did not include exports of river sand. However, he said exportation of the item needed the approval of the PM. He said there are only four licensed companies involved in river sand exports, with an average production capacity of about two million tonnes per year.
Singapore, China, India, Mauritius and Brunei are among countries that imports river sand from Malaysia.