Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second
Public Utilities Act was last amended in February 2018. Since then, the work of
PUB has continued to evolve. First, as I had announced during my COS speech a
few days ago, PUB will be given an expanded mandate to defend our coasts
against rising sea levels. Second, as PUB continues to diversify Singapore’s
water sources, the number of desalination and NEWater plants has increased.
There will be ten such plants by the end of this year, up from seven in
February 2018. Third, PUB continues to leverage technology to
improve service quality.
As announced in January this year, PUB will roll out some 300,000 smart water
meters in homes and commercial and industrial buildings by 2023. Lastly, to
complement PUB’s efforts in ensuring the security of our water supply, we will
also need building owners and managers to do their part to keep our water
supply system secure, by protecting their water tanks against unauthorised
the backdrop of these developments, it is necessary to update the Public
Utilities Act in four key areas to ensure that it remains effective and
relevant. Let me go through each group of amendments in turn.
AMENDMENT #1: CONFER NEW COASTAL PROTECTION FUNCTIONS AND
ESTABLISH THE COASTAL AND FLOOD PROTECTION FUND
first group of amendments will expressly confer new coastal protection
functions on PUB, and legislate the new Coastal and Flood Protection Fund.
is currently the national authority for drainage and inland flood protection.
Given the synergy in tackling inland flooding and coastal inundation risks
together in a holistic manner, the Government has tasked PUB to be the national
Coastal Protection Agency. PUB will work with agencies and other stakeholders
to enhance our coastline defences, and coordinate policies to facilitate
decisions on land-use, development and activities to safeguard Singapore
against rising sea levels.
provide for the substantial capital outlay and implement coastal and flood
protection in a fiscally sustainable manner, DPM announced in his Budget Speech
that a Coastal and Flood Protection Fund will be set up within PUB, with an
initial injection of $5 billion from the Government’s FY2020 Budget.
will use this fund prudently to implement coastal protection measures, which
could include sea walls, tidal gates and pumping stations. These are all being
studied, and may need to be deployed together to prevent flooding. The Fund
will also be used to help PUB expand Singapore’s drainage infrastructure to
cope with more intense rainfall arising from climate change.
Coastal and Flood Protection Fund signals the Government’s resolve in tackling
long-term existential challenges such as climate change. PM mentioned at the National Day Rally last
year that climate change adaptation might cost $100 billion or more over the
next 100 years. Given the significant outlay, we will need a combination of
funding methods to finance our adaptation measures. The Coastal and Flood
Protection Fund will be just one source of funding. We will study this closely
and assess what other appropriate funding sources should be used. These sources
may include budgets of Ministries, borrowing, and tapping on Past Reserves
where land reclamation is involved. Climate change defence is existential for
Singapore. PM also said in his National Day Rally speech, that everything else
must bend at the knees to safeguard the existence of our island nation. Planning
and investing long-term for coastal defences and national flood protection will
be critical to ensure that Singapore has adequate resources to meet this
AMENDMENT #2: LEGISLATIVE SAFEGUARDS OVER DBOO PLANTS
second group of amendments will provide for legislative safeguards over our water
infrastructure, especially water supply plants. As the House is aware, we have
been diversifying our water sources by building up our four national taps over
the decades. The intent is to safeguard our water security.
we build up our desalination and NEWater capacity, PUB has partnered the private
sector to design, build, own, and operate some of our desalination and NEWater
plants. This DBOO model allows PUB to tap on the expertise and resources of the
private sector to deliver water solutions more cost-effectively.
the end of this year, PUB will have six out of ten desalination and NEWater
plants under the DBOO model. The remaining four plants are owned and operated
ROBUST CONTRACTUAL SAFEGUARDS
ARE IN PLACE
the DBOO plants, PUB has put in place robust contractual safeguards to ensure water
security. For example, concession companies that own and operate DBOO plants are
obliged to seek PUB’s approval when there is a change in control. Under the
contractual terms, PUB can terminate the contracts and buy over the plants, or
in some cases, step in to operate the plants, should the need arise. We have
successfully executed some of these contractual remedies in the past to ensure
our water security.
security is critical to Singapore’s national security. While we have already strong
contractual safeguards, given that water security is an existential issue to
Singapore, we need to always look for ways to strengthen safeguards over our
water infrastructure. We have reviewed the regulatory regimes of other critical
infrastructure, such as electricity and telecommunications, and concluded that
it would be prudent to adopt similar legislative safeguards that are already in
place in these sectors.
reference from these other legislation, the Bill will strengthen PUB’s oversight
of the concession companies. These
concession companies, as well as any underlying trusts or business trusts that
may be set up to hold the plant assets, will be designated by PUB and be
subject to additional oversight mechanisms under the Bill.
under Clause 8, all designated parties will be subject to three types of oversight
controls. First, a person who becomes a substantial controller or
indirect controller of the designated parties that own and operate the DBOO
plants will need to notify or seek approval from PUB. This is to ensure that
control of DBOO plants rests with individuals or groups whose interests are
aligned with the long-term interests of Singapore’s water security and the public
interest. For example, we may need to ensure that there is sufficient diversity
in the ownership and operation of DBOO plants in Singapore. This will reduce
the risk to Singapore’s water security from having mega conglomerates monopolising
our critical infrastructure but then unexpectedly collapsing. Given the
strategic role that DBOO plants play in Singapore’s water security, PUB must maintain
oversight of controllers who directly or indirectly control substantial equity
interest and/or voting power in these designated parties.
16. Second, these designated parties cannot be dissolved, terminated
or wound up voluntarily without PUB’s consent. The dissolution, termination or
winding up of these designated parties will adversely affect our water
security. If there are court proceedings for the dissolution, termination or
winding up of these designated parties, PUB will be a party to such proceedings,
and the court must consider representations made by PUB in such proceedings. This
ensures that the court does not make any decision without having considered
water security considerations. In addition, the creditors of these designated
parties cannot enforce security over the property of such parties, or enforce
any court order against such parties, without giving prior notice to PUB.
17. Third, the Minister will be empowered to issue Special
Administration Orders, or SAOs. An SAO is an order of the Minister directing
the takeover of control of the affairs, business and property of a designated
party by another person, so as to ensure the continued operations of the DBOO plant
for the public interest.
Speaker, Sir, we are mindful that while such powers are similarly found in the
other legislation I referenced earlier, concession companies may have some
concerns over these powers. I would like to assure Members that these levers will
not be exercised lightly and the Bill has limited their use to exceptional
circumstances, such as when Singapore’s water security is under threat. As far
as possible, PUB will continue to rely on existing contractual safeguards where
appropriate, which have served PUB well thus far. But as I mentioned earlier,
when it comes to water security, we take no chances.
AMENDMENT #3: SUPPORT IMPLEMENTATION OF ADVANCED METERING
third group of amendments relate to smart water meters. Clauses 2, 5, 6, 7 and
11 will update the Public Utilities Act to extend existing powers of PUB in
relation to water meter installation, maintenance and enforcement to cover smart
powers will support PUB’s Smart Water Meter Programme, the first phase of which
involves the deployment of some 300,000 meters, starting from next year, in new
and existing residential, commercial and industrial premises. This will allow
PUB to leverage digital technologies to encourage behavioural change towards
water conservation, optimise water demand management, and achieve greater
updated provisions would empower PUB to: first, install smart water meters, including
ancillary equipment; second, enter premises at reasonable hours or at such
other time as may be agreed with the owner or occupier of the premise to carry
out inspection or works on smart water meters; third, direct the owner to
remove any object that hinders or obstructs access to a smart water meter; and fourth,
take action against any person who interferes, interrupts or obstructs with the
operation of a smart water meter supplied by PUB. In addition, the amendments
specify the circumstances under which a person would be presumed to have
tampered with a smart water meter and thus committed an offence.
AMENDMENT #4: RAISE
MAXIMUM PENALTY FOR OFFENCES RELATING TO WATER TANK SECURITY
last group of amendments relate to water tank security. While PUB had made
great efforts to protect its water infrastructure and ensure that potable water
supplied to consumers is safe and fit for drinking, building owners and managing
agents also have a part to play in ensuring our water remains safe for
drinking. For example, they need to take the necessary steps to prevent unauthorised
access to the water tanks in their buildings, as these intrusions may disrupt
or contaminate the water supply to customers.
a lapse in water tank security, such as failing to lock the water tank access
door, is already an offence under the Public Utilities (Water Supply)
Regulations. The offence carries a maximum penalty amount of $10,000, or
imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. PUB can offer to compound the offence
by collecting a sum not exceeding $3,000.
10 introduces a new Section 45A to provide increased deterrence and enhance the
security of water tanks by raising the maximum penalty amount for such offences
to a fine of $50,000, or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. This is in
line with the maximum penalty amount for causing contamination to the water
supply by PUB, or interfering with or disrupting PUB’s water supply. In
addition, the maximum composition sum for such offences will also be increased
from $3,000 to $10,000.
increased penalties will serve to remind building owners and management teams
to take water tank security seriously. The vast majority of the building owners
and management teams are diligent in ensuring water tank security and need not
be concerned by the change.
Speaker, in summary, PUB’s work continues to evolve. As PUB takes on a new role
to defend our coasts, it also continues to diversify our water sources,
digitalise its operations, and enhance water security. The proposed amendments
to the Public Utilities Act that I have elaborated on in my speech are necessary
to ensure that the Public Utilities Act remains effective and relevant.
Ultimately, these proposed amendments will allow PUB to continue to fulfil its
mission of safeguarding our water security, and ensuring a safe and reliable
supply of water for all.
27. Sir, I beg to move.