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Speech by Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the 116/19 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade, on 14 March 2020

Graduands of the 116/19 Officer Cadet Course

Parents

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. A very good evening to all of you. It is my pleasure to join you and your loved ones on this special day to witness and celebrate your commissioning.

2. Over the past nine months, every one of you standing on the parade square has demonstrated great resolve and discipline to meet the exacting training standards in Office Cadet School. Congratulations – you have truly earned the right to be commissioned as an officer of the Singapore Armed Forces. But what comes after today requires even more from you. As a commissioned SAF officer, the expectations on you are high – you have to defend our country’s sovereignty, protect our way of life, and lead your fellow soldiers. This is a solemn duty and a calling of the highest order, which you have chosen to accept today.

EVOLVING ROLE OF THE SAF

3. The role of the SAF has evolved over the years, in response to global developments. It will continue to evolve, to help Singapore tackle future challenges.

4. One of these challenges is climate change. As a low-lying city state, climate change is an existential threat to Singapore. That is why PM Lee mentioned in his 2019 National Day Rally speech that we should treat climate change defences like we treat the SAF – with utter seriousness. Our government has taken early actions to build Singapore’s climate-resilience. We have done this in three ways.

5. First, we have invested to learn more about climate change. We set up the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, or CCRS, in 2013. This has allowed us to better understand the science of climate change and its effects on Singapore and our Southeast Asia region. Last year, CCRS launched a S$10 million National Sea Level Research Programme to better understand sea levels around Singapore, and develop more robust projections of sea level rise. This year, we are setting up a new Climate Science Research Programme Office to lead, formulate and implement the National Climate Science Research Masterplan.

6. Second, we have put in place a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce our carbon emissions across all sectors. This includes the implementation of a carbon tax – the first in country to do so in Southeast Asia - efforts to improve industrial energy efficiency, and the greening of our transport. We are also harnessing more solar power. By next year, PUB will have deployed floating solar systems at Bedok, Lower Seletar, and Tengeh Reservoirs. With this, Singapore will be one of the few countries in the world to have 100 per cent green waterworks. We are also taking steps to better manage our waste streams, and move towards zero waste and a circular economy approach. On the international front, we continue to push for constructive multilateral agreements on climate action.

7. Third, even as we do our best to mitigate carbon emissions, we are also taking actions to address and adapt to the multi-faceted impacts brought about by climate change.  This includes sea level rise, more frequent and intense storms, prolonged dry weather, and the exacerbated threat of vector-borne diseases.  From April, PUB will take on the role of the national Coastal Protection Agency, to study both coastal and inland flooding holistically and develop plans to protect Singapore from floods and sea level rise.

8. I am heartened that MINDEF and the SAF are also doing your part to fight climate change through sustainable development. Earlier this month, the SAF unveiled its first net energy-positive building – a new hangar at Changi Air Base that harnesses solar panels and natural ventilation. MINDEF has also commissioned net zero-energy buildings in Kranji and Seletar Camps, and buildings in twelve army camps will be equipped with solar panels by the end of this year. Under a collaboration with the National Environment Agency and Defence Science and Technology Agency, MINDEF has established a waste management system that recycles food waste into biogas to generate energy. MINDEF’s efforts are projected to reduce 11,500 tonnes of carbon emissions. This will help Singapore achieve our target of halving our 2030 peak emissions by 2050. 

9. The SAF is also an icon which our people identify with and draw strength from, in times of need. Even as I speak, our nation is grappling with COVID-19. I am moved to see so many Singaporeans, especially our frontline healthcare staff, selflessly stepping up to contribute to our nation’s efforts to battle COVID-19. The SAF has also responded well to the crisis. 1,500 SAF soldiers worked round the clock to pack more than 5 million surgical masks for public distribution, while many others supported temperature screening efforts at Changi airport and our national contact tracing centres. These efforts underline the important contributions of the SAF in peace time, and its ability to mobilise resources at short notice.

DETERRENCE AND NATIONAL DEFENCE REMAINS CORE

10. No matter what comes our way, one thing will always remain a constant for the SAF — its core mission of defending Singapore and safeguarding our borders.

11. The SAF, like Singapore, may be small in size, but it stands tall and proud to defend our rights and advance our national interests. The source of that strength lies not just in modern and sophisticated weaponry, but the heart and dedication of the people who make up the SAF. Given our country’s physical constraint and small population, it is not possible for us to maintain a large, regular army. National Service, or NS, has therefore been integral in building up a strong and deterrent military force. Generations of national servicemen have put in countless hours, sweat and tears so that we can continue to live our Singaporean way of life. And in doing so, many have bonded over shared experiences and developed life-long friendships, further strengthening the social fabric integral to a cohesive and resilient society.

NS IS A COLLECTIVE CONTRIBUTION

12. Just as Singapore and Singaporeans draw strength from the SAF, the SAF is made up of servicemen and women who in turn draw strength from the support of parents, spouses, employers, and the community at large. To the family members, friends, and loved ones here today, your steadfast support, encouragement, and unwavering love for our graduands over their nine months of training have not gone unnoticed. I sincerely thank you for your support, on their behalf.

DEVELOPING LEADERS WITH THE RIGHT VALUES

13. Let me conclude. To the commissioning class, bear in mind that as an Officer of the SAF, your duty is to rally and nurture fellow Singaporeans who come from different races, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. You will have to inspire them to serve with distinction and commit to the common cause of keeping Singapore safe and secure. Remember also the trust placed upon you by their own families and loved ones, and always return these men and women under your command safely to them.

14. The end of today’s journey marks the beginning of a new one.  As the saying goes, the only easy day was yesterday. The road ahead will be tough, but it will build character and resilience. Be humble, lead with your heart, and serve with purpose. I have every confidence that you will be able to Lead, Excel, and Overcome, as the Officer’s Creed implores you to.

15. Congratulations once again to all graduands.

16. Thank you.

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