Statement by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Marine Debris In Bangkok, Thailand, on 5 March 2019

General Surasak Karnjanarat,

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand


Dato Lim Jock Hoi,

Secretary-General of ASEAN


Excellencies and Distinguished Guests


1. I would like to thank Thailand for taking the initiative as ASEAN Chair to convene this Special ASEAN Meeting on marine debris pollution. Our climate, livelihoods, food supply, and even recreation are dependent on healthy and resilient marine ecosystems. It is therefore timely for ASEAN to meet and discuss this important issue.

Singapore’s Efforts

2. For an island city-state like Singapore, the oceans and seas are inextricably linked to our survival and wellbeing. Singapore therefore takes the issue of marine pollution seriously. We address marine litter as part of our holistic approach to tackling pollution and waste. This includes stringent regulations on pollution control and waste management, as well as an integrated solid waste management and collection system to minimise waste at source. 

3. Under the Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA), discharges of trade effluent, oil, chemicals, and sewage are tightly controlled so that they do not cause pollution to our watercourses. We also enforce strict anti-littering laws under the Environmental Public Health Act (EPHA), and have a comprehensive waste management system to minimise waste at source and collect all waste for proper disposal. Since the 1990s, all municipal waste in Singapore is collected and incinerated at Waste-To-Energy (WTE) plants, with the resulting ash disposed of at our offshore landfill. We therefore minimise the risk of illegal landfilling or dumping in Singapore, which could be sources of pollution that can wash into the ocean.  In addition, many of our tidal rivers have been dammed up to form reservoirs as sources of water supply, and do not flow into the sea. For those that continue to flow into the sea, waterway clean-up measures further prevent land-based litter, including plastic waste, from reaching the sea. An average of 280 tonnes of litter is collected monthly from our outlet drains, canals and waterways. Singapore also conducts regular water quality monitoring of inland water bodies and coastal areas to ensure that they meet international water quality standards.

4. Singapore was one of the first countries in Asia to ratify all six Annexes of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) MARPOL Convention, the main international convention to prevent pollution by ships. MARPOL Annex V in particular prohibits the discharge of garbage, including all types of plastics, into the sea. In our port, as part of our MARPOL obligations, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore deploys garbage collection craft daily at scheduled timings to collect garbage from ships at the anchorages.

5. Going forward, Singapore will not let up on our efforts to address waste at source.  We will be releasing our inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan later this year, which will detail strategies to achieve our vision of a Zero Waste Nation. As part of this effort, Singapore intends to tackle the excessive consumption of all types of packaging waste including plastics. To encourage businesses to minimise their contribution to packaging waste, the implementation of mandatory reporting of packaging data and packaging reduction plans will be brought forward to 2020. This will include single-use plastic packaging. Our National Environment Agency is also studying the feasibility of implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility framework for packaging waste including plastics.

6. However, Government efforts are not enough. Fostering shared ownership in building a sustainable environment and minimising waste is key. This is why we have designated 2019 as our Year Towards Zero Waste. We will partner the People, Private and Public sectors on initiatives that reduce waste generation and promote recycling. Environmental groups help raise awareness and encourage the public to keep our city and watercourses clean. One such environmental group is Green Nudge which conducted a coastal clean-up last week. In just ninety minutes, Green Nudge recovered more than 200 kilograms of contaminated plastics and Styrofoam washed up onto our coast, highlighting how litter in the ocean is a transboundary issue affecting all countries, including Singapore. 

Addressing Transboundary Marine Litter through Cooperation

7. Tackling transboundary marine litter requires collaboration at all levels. Singapore is playing our part. Under the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), we continue to offer courses on sustainable development through which we share our approaches to tackling waste and pollution. We have partnered Norway under the Third Country Training Programme (TCTP) to conduct a capacity building workshop in 2017 for ASEAN Member States on integrated waste management as a means to reduce marine litter. A re-run of the workshop will take place in Singapore two weeks from now. A similar workshop was also conducted with the UAE as part of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week held in January 2019.

8. Regionally, as the current ASEAN-EU country coordinator, Singapore is working with the EU and ASEAN Member States to convene a policy dialogue on circular economy, marine litter and climate change to exchange best practices and explore collaborative partnership.  Internationally, Singapore was privileged to have worked with Portugal to facilitate the negotiations on the “Our Oceans, Our Future: Call for Action” Declaration, which was endorsed by World Leaders in 2017 to support the implementation of SDG14. This declaration included a strong commitment to accelerate actions to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds. We recognise that by working together, pooling our resources, and forming partnerships, we stand a better chance to succeed in our efforts to protect our oceans and its precious resources.      

9. On this note, I would like to congratulate Thailand for convening this Special Meeting, and for giving greater focus to the issue of marine litter through the Bangkok Declaration and the Framework of Action which build on the East Asia Summit Leaders’ Statement on Combating Marine Plastic Debris adopted in November 2018 in Singapore. The Declaration and Framework will help add momentum to national efforts and pave the way for greater cooperation to address marine debris pollution.

10. Thank you.   

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