Parliamentary Speeches

Infrastructure Protection Bill 2017 - Wrap-Up - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Manpower

Published: 02 October 2017

1. Mr Speaker, I thank all the members who have spoken up in support of the Bill. They raised many useful points which I shall address.


Cost of Security Measures


2. Let me start by talking about the cost of the security measures which Ms Joan Pereira, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Louis Ng and Mr Melvin Yong highlighted concerns about.


3. Terrorists have imposed many costs on society. I think members agree that all of us bear that burden.


4. Much of the cost of strengthening protection and enhancing security responses is borne directly by the Government.   Members will agree that safety and security is not only in our collective interest, they also impact the bottom-line interests of businesses. Therefore, businesses must also contribute.


5. In this high threat environment, building owners and developers recognise that ensuring the security of their buildings is part and parcel of carrying out business. A recent survey by the World Economic Forum found that business leaders in Singapore see terrorist attacks as their top global risk. Their concerns are not misplaced.


6. They know that if the security of the building is breached, the damage to property could be much more costly. This is why even without the Bill, many buildings today already put in place security measures like CCTVs and vehicle barriers. Most of these security measures do not involve complex systems and are maintained as part of the buildings' other facilities. 


7. In fact, security-by-design can offer cost savings to businesses in the longer term. When security measures are properly planned and seamlessly integrated into the design of the building, the use of technology, such as CCTV and access control systems, coupled with the appropriate processes, can help save on manpower cost. The flow of vehicles can be designed to reduce the risk of an attack to crowded areas, and minimise or even eliminate the need for bollards.


8. The security requirements under the Bill also apply only to designated buildings, and not all buildings. Based on the proposed criteria, we expect a handful of new developments each year to be affected.


9. In past projects where security-by-design was implemented, the cost of security measures was between 0.2 and 3% of the total construction cost. But I should add that not all of this cost is attributable to the design process per se, since all buildings have to be fitted with some security measures in any case. Also, given that MHA will try to make known as early as possible which buildings need to undergo security-by-design, developers will likely factor in the cost of security measures in their bid price for the land.


10. Mr Darryl David is right to point out the need to ensure that buildings not designated as Special Developments and Special Infrastructures are also protected. Directives and orders offer a calibrated way to safeguard these buildings when a specific security risk has been identified, without having to impose security-by-design on all buildings. They can be used to require security measures such as those mentioned by Mr David, including security checks and bollards.


11. To help manage costs, MHA will engage building owners on what security measures would be effective and practical. Directives will be issued only as a last resort where owners refuse to take action and there is a risk to the public.


Clarifications on Special Developments and Special Infrastructures


12. Let me now provide some clarifications on Special Developments and Special Infrastructures.


13. Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Desmond Choo asked about the kinds of buildings that would be designated Special Developments and Special Infrastructures. 


14. It is fair that building owners and developers know, as early as possible, whether security-by-design requirements will apply in their own cases. This is why we intend to publish the criteria in the Gazette on what types of new developments will be designated as Special Developments.


15. What is the criteria based on? Essentially, we look at indicators that signal the high likelihood of public footfall being very large. That would naturally include the size, location and type of the developments. For a start, we will include developments with Gross Floor Area of over 100,000 square metres, are located in specific planning areas (and there is a list that would be identified in the Gazette), and are designated by URA for commercial, community and mixed use. Existing buildings that meet the criteria will generally also be designated as Special Infrastructures so that security can be incorporated in their design during renovation.


16. By publishing the criteria in the Gazette, developers and building owners will therefore have good sense if they are affected.  Those who are unsure can approach MHA for clarification.


17. As for the timeline, we will inform the building owners as early as we can. Along with the high public footfall criteria, the details of the security-by-design review process will be provided to the industry. We will also be reasonable in the amount of time given to developers and consultants to comply with requirements under directives and orders. 


18. Mr Darryl David asked about the Commissioner of Infrastructure Protection. This person would be a senior public servant in the Ministry of Home Affairs who has the necessary professional expertise to make assessments, and to coordinate with relevant Home Team agencies. MHA has been working with selected building owners over the past decade on security-by-design. So there is already a team in place and we will make sure that the team is adequately resourced to implement the new requirements, but there is no new agency needs to be set up for now.


19. Ms Lim also asked about competent persons who need to be approved by the Commissioner to prepare security plans. The Commissioner will make an assessment for each project, after assessing the person's relevant qualifications, past experience with security-by-design projects, and the nature of the project. There is no pre-approved list and we will provide broad guidelines on the requirements that competent persons should meet. In-house experts may also be included. But all will need to be approved for each project because some projects may require special expertise, or may be of a sensitive nature.


20. Developing industry capabilities in security consulting and infrastructure protection is also one of our key priorities. There are security and blast consultants, as well as other built environment professionals like architects, who are well-versed with security-by-design. In other words, it is not an idea that is completely new in Singapore. Over the last decade, a number of projects have already gone through this process. As the Bill extends security-by-design to more new developments, we will build up the pool of competent persons with the new scheme for Professional Engineers in Protective Security. We will also work with the security industry to develop security consulting capabilities, as part of the Security Industry Transformation Map.


21. Ms Lim also asked about the Commissioner requiring amendments to the security plan after it has been approved and complied with. This will only be done if warranted by a security risk. Given the evolving nature of security threats, the Commissioner must be in a position to order a review of the security plan so that new risks assessed to warrant attention can be mitigated. I think Mr Darryl David referred to this as security-by-redesign. We will try to avoid abortive costs as much as possible but it may not always be possible and we will have to weigh it against the value of enhanced security protection.


Developing Industry Capabilities


22. It is important for us to talk about developing industry capabilities and I will do so in this section.


23. Mr Melvin Yong asked whether the demand for security manpower will increase as a result of the Bill. As I mentioned earlier, the key benefit of security-by-design is that it can mitigate security risks upfront in the design of the building and offer cost savings in the longer term. A building that is well-designed for security, with the use of technology such as CCTV and video analytics integrated upfront, will require less manpower to guard. 


24. Not only do we save on manpower, this is an opportunity to create new, higher-skilled jobs and thereby attract new entrants to the sector. For example, guards with an integrated command centre can focus on analysing and responding to incidents over a much larger area, as compared to patrolling it on foot.


25. Mr Zainal Sapari, Mr Louis Ng, Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Melvin Yong spoke about the need to train security officers and uplift the industry. 


26. Indeed, the security industry is a key partner. MHA is working closely with industry stakeholders and tripartite partners to develop an Industry Transformation Map (ITM). This process has been on-going for some time.


27. Among other initiatives, the ITM will identify ways to enhance the skills of security officers. Currently, security officers guarding Protected Areas and Places must go through a counter-terrorism course. The course was updated earlier this year to be more relevant. MHA and the Singapore Police Force are working with stakeholders in the Security Tripartite Cluster to make this counter-terrorism course a licensing requirement for more security officers, and incorporate this in the Progressive Wage Model.


28. Mr Zainal and Mr Yong also pointed out rightly that technology is a key enabler to improve productivity and alleviate manpower challenges in the security industry. The members spoke passionately, and also suggested enhancing training and job roles, and recognising security officers with additional skills. The ITM will look into this, together with the other important related issues they raised, such as attracting more Singaporeans into the industry. 


29. Mr Zainal suggested mandating that all residential buildings carry out security risk assessments. There are thousands of such buildings and the general threat assessment does not yet warrant a blanket requirement on all of them. Nonetheless, the residential building owners can take reference from the criteria used to designate special developments or infrastructures and implement the appropriate security measures themselves. They can also refer to MHA's Guidelines on Enhancing Building Security in Singapore (or GEBSS). In addition, if they join the Safety and Security Watch Group, a Police Liaison Officer can help their premises undergo a security assessment. Mr Darryl David asked for an update on the inter-agency review of the Guidelines. This is on-going, and we hope to publish the revised Guidelines by early 2018.


Enhanced Powers at Protected Areas and Places


30. Let me now turn to the safeguards for enhanced powers at Protected Areas and Places.


31. Mr Darryl David asked about the criteria used to declare Protected Areas and Places. The PAPPA has been in place since 1948. Typically, the declaration is made at the application of the owner in charge of the sensitive location. Examples of such locations are military areas and critical infrastructures; they would generally not involve residential or commercial areas. 


32. Mr Louis Ng asked whether powers given to authorised officers are subject to guidelines, and the need to provide security officers with such powers. Mr Darryl David also mentioned the need to ensure authorised officers are properly trained.


33. The private security industry supports the Home Team in ensuring the safety and security of Singapore. Under the current PAPPA, security officers and Auxiliary Police Officers can already be deployed to guard Protected Areas and Places and exercise appropriate powers. They must, however, first undergo compulsory training, which is mandated by the Police. This already includes the counter-terrorism course which I mentioned earlier.


34. Under the Bill, security officers and Auxiliary Police Officers will have to undergo additional training on how to exercise their proposed new powers. They need to become clearer on that. The Police will also develop rules of engagement on how these new powers are to be exercised, so that the security officers and Auxiliary Police Officers know the boundaries within which they operate.


35. There are other safeguards. For example, authorised officers will have to carry a map showing the specified surrounding area where they can exercise the proposed powers. And because they carry a map, there can be no dispute. Another safeguard: Clause 26 provides that if the specified surrounding areas includes private property, powers may only be exercised with the consent of the owner or occupier of that private property. Clause 31 further provides that when exercising such powers, authorised officers must identify themselves and state their authority to do so, if asked.


Clarifications on Unauthorised Photography


36. Mr Gan Thiam Poh supported making unauthorised photography of Protected Areas and Places an offence. Ms Sylvia Lim asked whether such a prohibition was reasonable.  


37. The purpose of this prohibition is to deter would-be attackers from carrying out pre-attack surveys of their targets. Today, while many Protected Areas or Places have 'no photography' signs outside, authorised officers are not able to stop persons from taking photos.


38. On the ground, the authorised officers will have to exercise some judgement. If photos were taken inadvertently, they would typically warn and ask the person to delete the photos. Further action would be taken if the person does not comply, or if there are security reasons to do so. 


39. The Bill will limit the availability of more recent and detailed photos of Protected Areas and Places. Such photos can threaten public safety and security by facilitating the planning of attacks. Making it clear that unauthorised photography is prohibited will also have a deterrent effect, allowing security resources to focus on cases that are more likely to be a real threat.


40. Ms Sylvia Lim also asked what were the reasons for the increase in fines under Part 3. Our consideration is as follows:


  • The PAPPA has not been amended since 1959.


  • The existing offence provision under Section 7 of the PAPPA is a fine of $1,000 and 2 years' imprisonment or both. That is clearly relevant in 1959 to serve as a sufficient deterrent. But we are now in 2017, so under the Bill, the fine for offences relating to Protected Areas and Places is increased to $20,000.


  • How is this benchmarked? This is benchmarked to similar, and more recent offences, such as those in the Public Order Act. For example, remaining in a special event area without authorisation, contravention of move-on orders. Those are the benchmarks that have been looked at.


Other Counter-Terrorism Efforts


41. Mr Gan Thiam Poh spoke about the need for other counter-terrorism efforts to complement infrastructure protection. I share his views that we need to step up on all fronts, including regional cooperation and strengthening religious harmony which we will debate in Mr De Souza's motion.


42. Ms Joan Pereira, Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Melvin Yong mentioned the importance of preparing members of the staff and public so that they know how to respond in the event of emergencies.


43. Just last week, DPM Teo Chee Hean spoke about the important role of the corporate sector. Businesses can help raise the preparedness of their workers, for example, by briefing employees on emergency escape routes and places to hide, and equipping them with fire-fighting, CPR/AED as well as first-aid skills. The SGSecure Guide for Workplaces was also launched recently and will be made available to all companies. We urge all companies to study the guide and take steps to raise preparedness.


44. As for Mr Yong's suggestion on coordinated evacuation plans, I think you talked about sector-level plans. Police and SCDF conduct annual exercises with SSWG members to enhance joint responses to crises and incidents. Some of these exercises are conducted with clusters of buildings located in the same area. So that is indeed what has happened.


45. Ms Joan Pereira and Ms Sylvia Lim spoke about protecting hospitals since they provide essential services. Let me assure members that MHA works closely with MOH on this. Efforts include building security measures, patrols by Police, and also engagement through the Safety and Security Watch Group scheme. Each hospital has put in place preventive security measures, physical security operations, contingency plans to deal with different scenarios, including terrorist incidents.


46. Mr Speaker, I hope I have addressed members' concerns.  The Infrastructure Protection Bill is an important step forward as we fortify Singapore's resolve against the threat of terrorist attacks.  With the support of the House, I beg to move.


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