SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE PUBLIC UTILITIES (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir
Climate change and global warming have caused sea levels around the world to rise. Singapore, being a small island nation surrounded by water, is vulnerable to rising sea levels. So, we must seriously take action to protect our country and our future generations as climate change is not a distant problem. It is right on our shores.
The establishment of the Coast and Flood Protection Fund is a concrete step in the right direction. It demonstrates the Government’s commitment to make good judgement and give priority to Singapore’s long-term interests. I know it is tempting for some political leaders to kick the can down the road, leaving it to the next government to handle. But, not this government in Singapore.
Even amidst other challenges for budget, we must not be distracted from this crucial challenge.
Substantial funding is necessary to implement the coastal protection and drainage measures. During the National Day Rally last year, our PM mentioned that coastal defences may cost $100 billion or more over 100 years. What are the Government’s plans to ensure that there will be sufficient money in the Coastal and Flood Protection Fund?
As I believe existing infrastructure will have to be enhanced, or even new infrastructure may have to be built as part of the protection measures, I hope we will tap on local resources and companies for these works? So, besides shoring up our coastal defences, we can also shore up our job creation for Singaporeans, and the local knowledge around such projects.
Water security is also a critical issue. The low rainfall in Singapore and droughts affecting our neighbours such as Malaysia from whom we get our water supply give rise to grave concerns.
There are different scenarios that can be played out: (a) reduce the supply of water to us; or (b) see the price of water going up. The PUB has been doing a good job over the years to improve our self-sufficiency on water. By this year, PUB will have three desalination plants, and three NEWater plants under the Design-Build-Own-Operate (DBOO) model. (This means that a private organisation builds, owns and operates some of the facilities or structure of the plants, but there is some degree of support from the Government.) Together, these plants make up a significant part of our water supply. It is important for us to strengthen oversight of these DBOO plants.
I note that the amendments to the Bill will now allow PUB to be informed of, or to give approval to companies or persons gaining significant control of these critical water infrastructure. I support this as water is our critical national resource. We have to ensure that these DBOO plants are in good hands and operate reliably to meet our nation’s water needs.
However, given that PUB has been partnering with the private sector under the DBOO model for over 10 years, with majority of the partnerships being successful, can the Minister elaborate on the decision to introduce these legislative levers over DBOO plants now? Was the decision triggered by the situation with Hyflux?
The Bill also introduces powers for the Minister to issue Special Administration Orders under certain circumstances. This will allow the Government to take steps to ensure that Singapore’s water security is not compromised, such as by ensuring that the DBOO plants continue to operate regardless of circumstances. Nonetheless, the concession companies of these DBOO plants may be concerned about whether these powers will affect their rights and interests under their existing agreements with PUB. Can the Minister clarify when Special Administration Orders will be invoked, versus the existing contractual safeguards?
Even as our Government and Public services work tirelessly to develop our self-sufficiency and grow our water supply, we must not rest on our laurels, and we certainly cannot be complacent. I would like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that water security is not the sole responsibility of the Government. Every one of us residing in Singapore, from commercial entities and organisations to individuals, must play our part to use water responsibly. Do not waste water, do not use water excessively, and do recycle water wherever possible.
Sir, I support the Bill.
In Chinese please. 政府把眼光放长远，将为我国的海岸线建设更多堤坝(di1 ba4)，请问我们是否能使用更多本地公司来建设这些堤坝，既能帮助本地公司，也能确保我国有足够的相关知识，这在危机时刻可能派上用场。
Watch the speech here
Watch the response here