JOHOR BAHRU: The decision of the two governments to implement cross-border travel plans between Singapore and Malaysia – the Parallel Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) – was the right one, said Johor’s Prime Minister Hasni Mohammad.
He also emphasized that future arrangements that facilitate daily commuting would depend on compliance with safety protocols.
Speaking to CNA in an exclusive interview on Thursday (November 19), Mr Hasni noted that since the implementation of the PCA and RGL in August, the number of Malaysians and Singaporeans crossing the land checkpoints in Johor has “massively increased”.
“It is a right decision as far as the government is concerned, to allow (resume) phased travel. By looking at the numbers under the RGL category, we notice that it helps a lot of businessmen and corporate individuals to continue their routine, ”he said.
“And for those with work permits, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) introduced for UWA fit them well. So we’re probably going to keep improving as far as the procedures go, ”he added.
The PCA allows Singapore and Malaysian citizens or Permanent Residents (PRs) who hold long-term immigration tickets for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country to work.
Meanwhile, the RGL is for Malaysian and Singapore residents who want to travel short-term of up to 14 days, for essential business and official purposes.
During the interview, Mr Hasni also expressed hope that the current plans would eventually pave the way for a full reopening of the borders once the COVID-19 situation improves.
“I think the rate of compliance with the SOPs will ultimately determine how we move forward,” said Mr Hasni.
He noted that factors such as testing procedures and screening processes will have to be eliminated before Singapore and Malaysia are confident to reopen the passenger border.
READ: IN FOCUS – How COVID-19 has disrupted the close ties between Singapore and Johor
JOHOR PROPOSED PROTOCOLS FOR THE NEW DAILY DELIVERY PLAN
During the interview, Mr Hasni was also asked to comment on a third plan allegedly proposed by the Johor state government – the Daily Commuting Arrangement (DCA).
He explained that the proposed scheme would allow up to 30,000 commuters a day.
To facilitate this, he said the state government, for example, would issue travel tickets every 10 days, and commuters could use the tickets to travel across the border for about three times within that period.
Furthermore, he said the state government has suggested using nine accredited laboratories capable of conducting COVID-19 tests for the travelers, and will invite local health professionals to step up testing and screening procedures.
The convenor of Benut province explained that this scheme will be useful for students as well as Malaysians employed in Singapore who need to commute to and from each day.
“Now we’ve started with RGL and PCA. Perhaps the DCA is something the state will never stop pushing the federal government for, so that they will offer SOPs to get more categories of travelers going forward, ”Mr Hasni said.
“We have proposed, we have taken the necessary steps to get the federal government, and also the Singapore Ministry of Health to sit down and evaluate our proposal,” he added.
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The prime minister said the plan will boost the Johor economy, which has been badly affected by COVID-19.
Before border restrictions were implemented in March, around 300,000 Malaysians would commute across the border daily to work. The restrictions have left many of them out of work.
Mr Hasni added that he had urged Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, via video conference during a national security council meeting earlier this week, to consider the proposal for a DCA put forward by the Johor state government.
“I took the opportunity to highlight to the Prime Minister that Johor needed an urgent, early decision from the federal government. The Prime Minister has assured the state of Johor that the special committee will convene on this DCA application and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will participate and coordinate to facilitate the DCA category for travelers (once it has for approval), ”said Mr Hasni.
However, the prime minister acknowledged that potential factors that could influence the committee’s decision could be the recent increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide, with new clusters forming daily.
READ: COVID-19: Johor to plan board for Malaysian government on reopening of Malaysia-Singapore border, says prime minister
Malaysia is tackling a third wave of the pandemic. This week, the number of new COVID-19 cases on most days has exceeded 1,000. There are now more than 53,000 cases nationwide.
On Friday, the Singapore government said it will set a 14-day home stay notice period in purpose-built facilities for all travelers entering Malaysia, including those on RGL or PCA.
Johor has not been immune from the spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks.
On Thursday and Friday, two new clusters were found in the southern states – Kiambang and Makmur respectively.
However, Mr Hasni claimed during the interview that positive cases in Johor had been localized to specific areas.
On Friday, the federal government announced that the conditional movement control order (CMCO) will be lifted in four provinces (Johor, Kedah, Melaka and Terengganu), except for a few areas.
In a statement following the federal announcement, Mr Hasni welcomed the decision, saying the announcement “brought relief” to many Johoreans.
“Although the CMCO is lifted from tomorrow, I would like to advise all Johore’s to always adhere to SOP in all your daily activities,” he said.
“Remember that the pandemic is still ongoing until a vaccine or medicinal cure is found. So together we are working to curb the spread of COVID-19,” added Mr Hasni.
During the interview with CNA, Mr Hasni claimed that he was confident that the recent spike in cases would not affect the possible operation of the DCA.
He said that while some areas had a higher concentration of positive cases, he was optimistic that the areas would be limited and effectively managed, as this had been done for previous clusters in the state.
“Whatever help was needed was met, everyone was happy and eventually within a short period, we managed to get back to RMCO,” said Mr Hasni.
“I suppose when everyone is happy with the current SOPs, I don’t see why the DCA needs to be deferred,” he added.
Tune in to CNA on Monday morning from 7am to see more of what the Prime Minister has to say about the Johor economy and its collaboration with Singapore.
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