Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pulau Ubin granite quarry may reopen

Matthew Phan
10 April 2007
Business Times Singapore

Need to tap local sources as Indonesia extends sand export ban

SINGAPORE is looking at reopening a former granite quarry on Pulau Ubin as part of a wider plan to diversify its sources of building materials.

One option is to 'tap our local granite sources, should the need arise', Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu told Parliament yesterday.

According to news reports over the past month, Indonesian officials have discussed extending the country's ban on exports of land sand to Singapore to include granite, which could affect the local building industry.

Indonesia has also detained several vessels carrying granite to Singapore, on suspicion they were smuggling sand.

On the Ubin quarry plan, Ms Fu said yesterday: 'It is necessary to carry out some limited quarrying to understand the issues involved in reactivating quarries, such as the preparatory works and time involved, and the mitigating measures to put in place. HDB (Housing and Development Board) will look into restarting one of its former quarries in Pulau Ubin.'

Foreign Minister George Yeo told Parliament yesterday that Indonesia has inspected the vessels it detained and updated the Singapore Government on the result. A note was received on Thursday, April 5, Mr Yeo said.

Twenty-two tugs and barges were detained. Seven are alleged to have violated the sand ban and others to have infringed other laws. Only three of the 22 vessels are Singaporean, Mr Yeo said.

Indonesia's foreign minister has 'assured me that the verification process would be transparent', he said. 'These cases will now be taken up through the legal process in Indonesia.'

Asked whether the detention of the vessels marks a 'diplomatic failure' or a failure of Asean, Mr Yeo said the matter is bilateral and Indonesia is within its rights to ban sand exports for environmental reasons. 'Officials have talked about various motives, but the official reason given to us is environmental and we have to take it at face value,' he said.

Indonesia and Singapore are mutually dependent and cooperate in other areas and must 'manage discrete problems on their own account', Mr Yeo said.

Meanwhile, Ms Fu said the government will share up to 75 per cent of the price increase in sand and granite to help local construction firms. She urged industry players to cooperate in other ways to cope with any disruption, saying public agencies have started to make progress payments on projects and private developers should do likewise.

The higher cost of sand and granite amounts to an estimated 2 per cent of overall project cost, Ms Fu said. 'That's not a very significant proportion and at its current state, the market is still in a very good position to benefit from the upswing.'

Clarification on 11 April 2007
Business Times Singapore

IN 'Pulau Ubin granite quarry may reopen' (BT, April 10), we said the government would share up to 75 per cent of the price increase in sand and granite to help local construction firms. The sharing arrangement is with all contractors on existing public sector projects, and not just local construction firms.

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