Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at Ubin Day 2016

Jun 4, 2016

Good morning. I’m happy to be here at Ubin Day 2016. A warm welcome to everyone!

Ubin will always have a special place in our hearts. Many of us have precious memories of this place. I came here for the first time more than 20 years ago on a cycling trip with friends. I remember when I first stepped foot here, it felt like I entered a time-machine. It felt like a very new place. Since then, of course, I have been back here many times. In fact, when I was in the Energy Market Authority, we started the micro-grid project to bring clean energy to Ubin. We changed the old diesel generators which were dirty and unreliable to these micro-grids that are powered by solar energy and bio diesel. It is clean and reliable. I asked the headman of Ubin earlier about it, and he said everyone likes it better. So I think it is serving the residents and businesses in Ubin very well.

I think my experience in Ubin is not unique. Indeed, many Singaporeans are rediscovering Ubin and we have many groups organising activities here on Ubin on their own. Even my own residents – we have grassroots leaders and residents organising activities and tours and many of them want to come back. This is why we have Ubin Day. It is really to bring all of us together to celebrate everything that is special about Ubin.

Ubin day is also not new. The first Ubin Day started in 2002. Then, we brought it back in 2014 because of the strong support of our Friends of Ubin Network and our volunteers, and that received a very warm response. Many people said we should do it again. And in true Singapore tradition, when we want to do something again, we must make it better. We must keep improving. So during SG50 last year, Ubin Day was not just for one day, but an entire weekend. This year we are upsizing it again; Ubin Day this year is not for just a weekend, but a whole month.

This year, Ubin Day has become part of a month-long series of event called Pesta Ubin. Over the last few weeks, Pesta Ubin has played host to almost 4,000 people. We had many activities such as cycling, kayaking, and kampong tours and games. There is something for everyone; it is really like a big kampong celebration. 

All this would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the members from the Friends of Ubin Network or FUN. FUN members and the community have been involved right from the start, and have been actively driving the organisation of Pesta Ubin and Ubin Day. But beyond what we see today with Pesta Ubin and Ubin Day, FUN has been instrumental to the success of The Ubin Project, since it was first launched in 2014. 

They have made invaluable contributions towards the Ubin project such as organising coastal clean-up efforts, re-forestation and mangrove restoration efforts, and animal and plant species recovery efforts. All of you are our partners in helping us realise the vision we had set out for The Ubin Project – working hand-in-hand with the community to preserve and sensitively enhance Ubin’s natural, rustic charm, and to ensure Ubin remains a memorable destination for all. Let’s give a round of applause for their hard work! We also appreciate the efforts of SMS Desmond Lee, who has been leading the project.

I am also happy to launch two books on Ubin today. The first book, titled “Footprints on an Island – Rediscovering Pulau Ubin” is authored by Dr Chua Ee Kiam, a FUN member, Choo Mui Eng, a nature and heritage enthusiast and Wong Tuan Wah, Director of Conservation at NParks, with the help of students and staff of the ITE West. It is a wonderful work; it is a labour of love. It contains beautiful stories about the heritage of Ubin, including stories gleaned from the residents of Ubin who have been living here all their lives.

The second book, “The Hunt for the Green Boomerang”, is authored by Neil Humphreys and illustrated by Cheng Puay Koon. This is a children’s book that introduces readers to Ubin’s fascinating flora, fauna and heritage sites. The book was made possible with the sponsorship by HSBC through the Garden City Fund. We thank HSBC for their support and hope that our partnership will continue to flourish.

Just like there are many partners involved in Ubin, there are also many organisations in charge of the day-to-day running and management of Ubin. Despite being a small island of 10 square kilometres in size, there are 12 different government agencies taking care of Ubin – we got the roads, we got the utilities, we got the buildings, we got the land and many more. We have had feedback from some of you that it can be very confusing - when you want to do something on the island, you don’t know who to approach. So the FUN members have shared with us that it may be better to have one agency as the centralized managing agency. We think it is a good idea so we have been studying this.

I am happy to announce that NParks has been designated as the central managing agency for Pulau Ubin. We think this is a very good fit because NParks’ entire DNA is about nature and greenery. And they have the expertise to help enhance and conserve the rich biodiversity in Ubin. I am very happy that NParks will now take charge of the entire island. This means going beyond just the nature-related portfolio. It will also look at roads, buildings and everything related to Pulau Ubin. It will also look at how to have a better overview of all the activities at Pulau Ubin, and how to facilitate ground-up projects.

For a start, NParks has already consolidated all the activities taking place for the year and has done up an events calendar. NParks is also in the midst of doing up a new Ubin microsite and an Ubin mobile app. These will serve as resources to help those who may be interested in exploring Ubin on their own.

Although NParks will be stepping up its efforts, we also need all of you to step forward as well. We already have a strong base of volunteers – the FUN - but I hope more people will join the network and join us in this effort to keep Ubin special. I think if all of us come together, we can continue to keep Ubin a special island for future generations and create many more happy memories on Ubin in the years to come. 

So on that note, I wish all of you a very happy Ubin Day. Enjoy the day, and also the rest of the activities for the month. Thank you.