There’s been plenty of debate these past couple of weeks about the airspace issue between Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore’s Seletar Airport started using the Instrument Landing System (ILS) for plans approaching from the north over Malaysian airspace. Since Singapore’s Selatar Airport is only about 2km from Malaysia’s Pasir Gudang, the systems strict height restrictions within the flight path area – which covers a huge area over Pasir Gudang - is a point of contention with the Malaysian government.
Painting a picture of the problem that Malaysia faces, one netizen Edwin Lam pointed out that the plant he works at in Pasir Gudang, Lotte Chemical Titan has a tower that exceeds 100m, well above the height limited that would be imposed by the new ILS system that Selatar Airport is using.
A cursory check online reveals that the plant in question is about 4km from Selatar airport which will put it above the height limit claimed by both Malaysia (54m) and Singapore (93.8m) at the 3km point. Even adjusting for the additional 1km for the height limit, the height difference is simply too little for any comfort.
One measured reply to the discussion suggested returning control of the airspace back to Malaysia as it infringes on the sovereignty of the country. After all, it is their airspace.
But another person, Izwan Jay, pointed out that the indiscriminate flaring done by the plant in question leaves a chemical smell in the air that reaches the Republic. He then suggested lowering the plant’s height to keep the odour on the Malaysian side instead – basically, you keep your business on your side of the aisle before asking me to do the same.
However, Mr Lam disagrees that the Lotte plant is responsible for the chemical smell. So perhaps that point is moot.
An a separate point, one Edmund Teo, then commented that Malaysia shouldn’t be complaining about the height restrictions as 80% of Singapore is already dealing with height restrictions. He pointed out that there are not buildings taller than 20-storeys in many areas of the island but it’s still able to comfortably house 5.6 million people. Mr Teo is suggesting that there’s no real complaint here.
To this, Mr Lam noted that land development is an internal issue and Malaysia has no reason to agree with the height restrictions that could hinder future high rise development in the Pasir Gudang area. This circles back to the point of sovereignty pointed out by a different user earlier. This is one argument that’s hard to argue with. If the Malaysian government wants to reclaim their airspace, aren’t they well within their rights to do so?
Later, Mr Lam also emphasised that the while the airport is in Singapore, the airspace is over Malaysia. So even though the ILS is ‘good’ for their neighbours, it’s merely a luxury system that would only lead to bigger dispute should Pasir Gudang develop further in the future. And considering that Malaysia is still developing, there’s a good chance that if not resolved amicably now, the issue will continue to haunt both nations.
This conundrum is basically a case of two nations learning how to be good neighbours and right now, it's not going very well.