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Singapore to expedite discussions with Indonesia on travel bubble involving Batam and Bintan

Singapore to expedite discussions with Indonesia on travel bubble involving Batam and Bintan

The view from a room at the Banyan Tree resort in Bintan. (Photo: CNA/Aqil Haziq Mahmud)

BINTAN: Singapore will discuss with Indonesia on how it can expedite the arrangements for a travel bubble with Batam and Bintan, and ensure its success with more Singaporean visitors, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Jan 25).

"We would like to make the travel bubble a success, to be able to have more Singaporean visitors. And we will discuss with them and see how we can expedite things," Mr Lee said. "And I think the ministries (of both countries), particularly the transport ministries, will be talking to each other on this."

Mr Lee was speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the 5th Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in Bintan, where he and Indonesian President Joko Widodo witnessed the signing of agreements covering flight information regions, extradition and defence cooperation, among others.

During the retreat, Mr Lee said the countries will also discuss making the travel bubble with Batam and Bintan apply both ways, and expanding air and sea travel to more destinations in Indonesia.

On Monday, Indonesia announced that it has opened a quarantine-free travel corridor that allows people from Singapore to travel to Batam and Bintan.

The current arrangement is for people to only visit Nongsa in Batam and Lagoi in Bintan. Travellers must test negative for the coronavirus 72 hours prior to departure and again upon arrival at Batam’s Nongsapura ferry terminal or Bintan’s Bandar Bentan Telani terminal.

In November last year, Singapore announced a unilateral air vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Jakarta.

"We would like to go further with that, and the Indonesians would also like to go further with their proposals. But of course, it would depend on the COVID-19 situation," Mr Lee said on Tuesday.

Mr Lee had said during a joint press conference with Mr Widodo earlier in the day that these talks will continue at a pace both sides are "comfortable" with.

He later told reporters that Singapore's and Indonesia's COVID-19 situations are "not completely synchronised".

"When our COVID numbers are high like now and their COVID numbers are lower than ours, they are naturally concerned about us," he said.

"But sometimes our COVID numbers are low, and their COVID numbers are higher than ours, which has happened. And then we are concerned about them. So for both sides to be comfortable to open up at the same time, it's not easy."

Nevertheless, Mr Lee pointed out that discussions should start now in preparation for more suitable conditions.

"We have to pose to them: How about we do bilateral VTL to more destinations? Let's talk about it. You may not be ready to implement yet, but let's discuss it so when the conditions are suitable, we are able to do," he added.

"And they are prepared to talk."

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Source: CNA/hz(aw)