My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

OTGV #54 - Heritage Tours

Broadcast Date: 19/04/04

Uniquely Singapore, the new advertising sting adopted by the Singapore Tourism Board. But can Singapore live up to the title?

Chong Ching Liang ponders this question.


STB's new brand campaign "Uniquely Singapore" is chosen as it's designed to highlight the country's blend of traditions, culture and modernity.

But some sardonic Singaporeans have questioned -- Just what is so Unique about Singapore?

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

Some tour agencies see the branding as a good start.

Journeys is a heritage tour agency and its founder, Jeyathurai gives his take on the re-branding of Singapore.

"Because they are trying to focus on what is unique about Singapore so it is important that the investments that goes in actually amplifies and enhances what is unique about Singapore so that it cannot be replicated somewhere else."

Others such as Ow Yong Kit Fun, of JTB tour agency feel it's about time that Singapore starts working at developing some kind of character.

"We often received feedback from our tour planners in Japan saying that Singapore has no identity of its own. Only Merlion is not a big impact for them. I hope there will be more and more aggressive promotions on Singapore in Japan targeting repeaters. You know they travel to Hong Kong many times, they travel to Bangkok many times but Singapore, only once is enough."

But a glitzy campaign won't help if there isn't any substance to what you are advertising.

One of Singapore's pioneer architects and now urban thinker and writer William Lim recalls an interview he had with me some four years ago.

"Years ago, last time we interviewed we say let's preserve Changi Prison. I say let's use it as prison hotel. A few of us also mention that in serious discussion, in interviews everywhere. Now we are perhaps in a process of tearing them down. Are they listening? I mean why are they not preserving Changi Prison?"

Back then, Mr Lim had said Changi Prison won't be a white elephant if it's converted into the world's most unique youth hostel.

Some analysts think it's a radical idea but it may well work with heritage and tourism going hand-in-hand in a brazen combination.

But we may never find out if it'll ever work as all that may be left of Changi Prison is just one segment of its outer walls.

The historic clock tower where Lord Mountbatten announced the Japanese surrender to the prisoners-of-war may be gone.

Old prisons have a certain character that help the Uniquely Singapore slogan says Mr Jeyathurai.

"Saving Changi Prison or other heritage sites can easily turn into tourists dollars and therefore has economic utility. You cannot even get a ticket into Alcatraz nowadays; it is so difficult and thinks of the thousand of people that visit it. The economic argument is an argument that cannot be used for saving Singaporean heritage because by creating an identity that is uniquely Singaporean everybody would come. If you are the same as every other place in the world, what is the point of coming to Singapore?"

Alcatraz has its Al Capones, Changi Prison -- its Adrian Lims and other notorious criminals that are the subjects of many a local drama serial.

But more importantly, it is the closest Singapore has to a truly international heritage site, explains Mr Jeyathurai.

"Changi Prison Singapore not only has the story of what prison life is about and to see what colonial prison were like, but it goes all the way back to the WWII, and it connects with so many other countries who is interested in the history of what their soldiers and civilians have gone through in Singapore."

The problem is STB doesn't own any of the land titles for these heritage sites.

The various stakeholders do.

So for Changi Prison, the Home Affairs Ministry must be consulted and overall, there's still the Urban Redevelopment Authority to convince.

The URA makes all the master plan to ensure Singapore's physical development is smooth, through what it thinks are timely buildings and demolishing.

Take for instance, the older one or two-room HDB flats in town, themselves an interesting social heritage sites, will be gone at some time.

Mr William Lim wonders why there isn't an alternative to "tear" and "rebuild".

"Why tear them down? They are right in the centre of the city. Why don't just let go and say, okay you guys, you can do whatever you like, you can have a boarding place there, you can have a shop there, artists can stay there, artist studios can operate there, it becomes an energy area. One of the biggest problems with Singapore is that we are too damn efficient. So these areas are immediately being "corrected" -- re-built, tear down for who-ever it is so that you don't have these rather run-down places."

Think that's upsetting for the heritage activist?

Just listen to what Mr Lim has to say about rumblings that the Newton Hawker Centre may soon make way for more condominiums.

"You find there's some vibrancy in certain areas which the combination is highly complex and location as well as circumstantial specific. If you find there is an exciting place, plan round it. Don't disturb it. Newton Hawker Centre is an example. Nobody understands why. The food is good but not that good, there is better food. It's terribly expensive, why everybody wants to go. It cannot be explained. And you say 'oh, the thing is old-fashioned and some of the pavement is breaking up' but nobody complains. Best thing for the planners, you see good things don't touch it!"

Newton used to be the congregation place for Singapore's musicians and artistes.

One expatriate travel writer even called it Singapore's Greenwich Village.

Changi Prison was the place British and Australian tourists would flock to relive how they or someone they knew, once suffered in the second great war of modern human history.

Strip away all these physical icons of national character and heritage away in the name of development -- what else is there to make Singapore truly unique?

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Singapore Tourism Board Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Journeys Pte Ltd Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Changi Chapel and Museum Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

OTGV #53 - Green Cabs

Broadcast Date : 22/03/04

How clean is the air we breathe?

You'll be surprised to find out that even on a clear day, there are contaminants infiltrating our bodies.

These contaminants are the latest target for eradication by the Environment Ministry.

Hi, Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

The European Union has set limits for diesel engines' emissions through a series of directives known as Euro I to IV.

Diesel engines in Singapore now conforms to Euro II but will leap frogged to Euro 4 standards come October 2006, as announced by Environment Minister Lim Swee Say in Parliament.

Environment Ministry's top civil servant Tan Yong Soon explains Mr Lim's objectives.

"He mentioned that we will do two things. First we are giving this two and a half year lead time for the industry to plan to prepare itself for the new standard. And secondly, we will try and kick start the CNG, compressed natural gas vehicle so that by 2006 October, there is this viable option."

Head of Planning and Development at the National Environment Agency Joseph Hui on how to get people to switch to CNG and Euro-4 vehicles even before implementation date.

"In order to encourage them to bring it earlier you must provide the incentives to make it worth their while. From first of January 06 to 30th of September 06, they will continue to enjoy the 80% rebate of OMV. In the case of CNG and Euro IV buses and commercial vehicles, they will continue to be ARF exempt all the way up till 30-09-06."

Early adoption will be better for public health says Mr Hui as he explains the invisible threat of the older diesel engine emissions.

"This pollutant is matter that is less than 2.5 micron in size and this is what we called PM 2.5. And it is so small that one particle is less than one twentieth the diameter of a human hair. You can't see it with the naked eye. And because of its fineness, it is able to get into our lungs and reach places that bigger particles cannot reach. As a result, it has a more significant impact on health. It increases the risk of bronchitis; particularly those people who are asthmatic are more vulnerable."

This threat becomes even more significant when taking into account the Singapore Asthma Association's estimate that the illness hits one in five children and one in twenty adults here.

NEA's Director General, Loh Ah Tuan on the damage done by the current and older diesel engines.

"If we took a total amount of PM2.5 in Singapore, about 50% comes from diesel engines. So therefore we have to address this."

But the new Euro-4 engine that's required of all diesel vehicles after October 2006 isn't the cleanest option, CNG engines may be cleaner.

However, Mr Tan Yong Soon, says the government has no preference between the two.

"CNG hardly emit PM2.5 so in that aspect it is a better option but we are not prescribing an option. We are quite comfortable if a company want to adopt Euro-IV. What we particularly want now is to create CNG as a feasible option. Otherwise, if we don't introduce this policy, CNG is non-feasible. Over the last two years, there were hardly more than twenty thirty vehicles."

While the 2006 Euro-4 regulations target all diesel vehicles, Mr Hui explains why taxis are a natural target.

"Taxis are very heavily used, they are on the roads virtually 24 hours a day so in terms of emissions, it is significant compared to any other types of vehicles."

The environment stands to gain the most if all taxi cabs and buses adopt CNG vehicles.

But while CNG engines are much cheaper than the prohibitively expensive hydrogen fuel cells, they are still more expensive than diesel ones.

Comfort-Delgro that operates the two taxi giants Comfort and CityCabs told me that "even with the incentives, operating costs will be significantly higher than under current conditions".

In short, it doesn't think buying CNG taxis is a good business move.

This is in spite of CNG taxis being given more perks such as the waiving of the annual $5000 special tax and additional 20% rebate of the over the next 2 years.

But cost isn't the only issue.

Right now there's only one CNG refueling station and it’s in the middle of restricted access Jurong Island.

Comfort-Delgro's spokesperson Tammy Tan says refueling will be a great inconvenience because CNG tanks have smaller capacity and cabbies will have to top up twice daily.

A local CNG supplier, Gas Supply Private Limited is willing to open alternative refueling points but with a caveat.

It's spokesperson Leong Chee Wei.

"If we can get taxi companies to commit to a long-term ramp-up rate to convert their taxi fleet to CNG taxis, taking the total figures to say about 3 to 4 thousand taxis within the next two years, we are quite comfortable to kick start the CNG project."

A classic chicken and egg situation.

Shouldn't the government incentives the supply side further by providing incentives to gas companies as well?

Mr Tan Yong Soon

"What we are trying to incentivise here is to create the market, the demand the gas companies need not ask for any incentives. They will go and supply. That's why we have this package to induce the taxi companies to calculate and say 'yes, its worth bringing in CNG vehicles' over the next two years. When they make that decision, that is the best incentives the companies are looking for."

But will the market bite?

No public transport companies or fuel providers seem willing to think out of the cash box and see the wider picture of social responsibility.

It may well be when 2006 rolls around, Singapore still won't see any significant increases in CNG vehicles.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


Related Links:

Newsradio 938 (now 938Live) Image hosted by

Ministry of Environment and Water Resources Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

National Environment Agency Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

View My Stats