Tuesday 9 July 2013

Parliament Highlights - 8 Jul 2013

Singapore to push for action at haze meeting
Top of agenda at Asean meet: Seeking accurate land concession maps
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

SINGAPORE will seek several concrete outcomes at an Asean haze meeting in Kuala Lumpur next week, and topping the agenda is an urgent push for Indonesia to provide official and accurate land concession maps.

These maps, combined with satellite technology, will be instrumental in holding companies or individuals who clear land illegally to account, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

"Without those maps, it's very difficult for me to point fingers... authoritatively, bearing in mind that these activities occur in another sovereign land."

Dr Balakrishnan, who was one of five ministers who addressed Parliament yesterday on the haze issue, will lead a delegation to Malaysia for the three-day meeting, which begins on Monday.

There, Singapore will also urge the other participating countries - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand - to agree on a date for launching a sub-regional haze monitoring system. It will help identify errant companies whose activities contributed to the air quality soaring to record hazardous levels last month.

The KL meeting will be the 15th time the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution is coming together. The group was formed in 2006 to help Indonesia combat the annual haze, which has dogged the region for years.

As the haze is not just an environmental problem, Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore will also ask for high-level officials from all relevant agencies and ministries in the five countries to be involved in tackling the scourge. It will also urge Indonesia to renew a collaboration on fire prevention and sustainable farming practices, and to commit to ratifying an Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement as soon as possible.

Indonesia is the only Asean country yet to ratify the 2002 agreement, a point made by MPs like Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) yesterday.

At least 15 MPs asked about the haze, while various members of the House had tabled 30 questions for the session.

The extensive range of topics discussed over three hours included questions such as whether the Government could have done better in communicating with the public, and whether Singapore could impose criminal sanctions on errant companies.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam disclosed that the Government was looking at introducing extra-territorial laws to punish Singapore-linked firms if there was "credible and usable evidence". Mr Shanmugam, who is also Foreign Minister, however stressed that the primary responsibility for taking action lies with Indonesia.

Tackling the haze through regional cooperation was a point raised by Dr Balakrishnan as well.

He expressed appreciation for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's commitment to tackling the haze, and added: "We need continued vigilance and we need decisive action by the Indonesian authorities to prevent another recurrence of the haze over the next two to three months."

But looking back, Dr Balakrishnan and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the haze brought out Singaporeans' resilience.

Dr Ng, who chairs an inter-ministerial committee on the haze, said Singapore needs two essential elements to withstand similar threats in future - trust between leaders and people, and care for each other. "The day we lose that trust, the day we stop caring... any crisis will be too big for us."

S'pore looking into laws to deal with firms behind haze
Extra-territorial laws to tackle errant companies to be studied
By Elgin Toh, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

SINGAPORE is looking at introducing extra-territorial laws to deal with companies found responsible for slash-and-burn practices that caused the haze, Law Minister K. Shanmugam disclosed in Parliament yesterday.

The Attorney-General has been asked to study the possibility of extending the arm of the law beyond Singapore's borders, as well as to "consider what legal options are available, if credible and usable evidence is received that Singapore-linked companies are involved", he said.

The announcement was made in his response to MPs' questions at the first parliamentary session since the haze crisis began last month.

Many MPs had asked if tougher action could be taken against errant companies and Indonesia.

Several MPs were uncompromising in urging stiff measures against the companies, with Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) calling for a boycott of companies found to be at fault.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Foreign Minister, said the primary responsibility for taking the companies to task lay in the hands of Indonesia.

Singapore, however, has formally sought from Indonesia, via a diplomatic note, clarification on whether Singapore-linked companies were involved and, if so, evidence of wrong-doing.

"We are awaiting Indonesia's response," he said.

Mr Shanmugam, who praised Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for showing "statesmanship" by apologising, stressed that Singapore had hitherto adopted a cooperative stance in its dealings with Indonesia and other Asean states.

The approach has yielded encouraging outcomes, he added.

A three-way cooperative process involving Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia has been set up to tackle the haze problem.

It was significant, he added, that all Asean countries now had to report at Asean summits "what they have done and what they have not done" on the haze issue.

Singapore has also offered to renew environmental collaboration with Indonesia's Jambi province, and to repair the air quality and weather monitoring stations it set up in 2009.

Later, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan explained that collaboration with Jambi lapsed in 2011 owing to local reasons, like the change in the province's leadership. Urging MPs to be sensitive about cross-border relations, he added: "If you want to go to your neighbour's house even if it's for collaboration, you need permission."

Mr Shanmugam had made the same point, saying he did not consider it wise for Singapore to be too abrasive.

Several MPs suggested more forceful action, with Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) asking why Singapore had chosen not to raise the issue at the United Nations, as it did during the 2006 haze crisis.

Exerting pressure could result in relationships being downgraded from "friendly" to "cool and correct", said Mr Shanmugam.

"We must maintain a clear, long-term perspective of the bilateral relationship and do our utmost to avoid hurting this relationship as much as possible."

While not ruling out UN action, he added that assertiveness could be counterproductive as it could cause groups in Indonesia to align against a solution.

"What we want to avoid is creating a situation where for political reasons, parties or people within Indonesia then take a position to say, 'Singapore is threatening us. And therefore we must react, and therefore we must not do what they ask'.

"I think we can very quickly get into those sorts of dynamics. International relations have to be handled delicately," he said.

More resources for early warning system
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

MORE resources are being poured into enhancing Singapore's haze early warning system, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament yesterday.

To improve its early detection and warning capabilities, the Meteorological Services Singapore (MSS) of the National Environment Agency (NEA) would be using more meteorological data, more computer modelling of images and finer resolution of satellite images. It will also install more wind sensors.

For a start, it hopes to get feeds from new satellites which have greater resolution as early as next year, said Dr Balakrishnan.

"We need resolution down to about one- to two-kilometre range, to be able to identify a hot spot. The new satellites will also have greater spectral sensitivity, which means you can also see fires at an early stage, maybe even at the underground level," he said.

More wind sensors beyond Singapore's shores would also be needed to provide a more accurate prediction of weather patterns, "whether there will be rain or drought", he added.

Better information such as the speed and direction of the winds would be able to determine how quickly the haze would reach Singapore.

Dr Balakrishnan gave this answer in response to the flurry of queries from MPs on how Singapore could do better in coping with the haze.

Beyond the overview of tackling the problem at the regional level, he also spelt out the steps to improve monitoring as this would help people plan and prepare for their day.

But he cautioned about the difficulties of early warning: "We must not forget that while the fires are beyond our immediate sight, the haze actually only takes a few hours to reach us. This makes early warning very challenging even with perfect knowledge of the ground situation and winds. Under ideal conditions, the longest warning that we can have from the time the smoke emerges from the fire to the time the haze hits us is around six to 10 hours. This helps frame how difficult early warning is."

Noting that it would be impossible to achieve 100 per cent accuracy, the minister added that enhanced capabilities for early detection could improve the precision of forecasts.

The minister also explained his decision not to publish real-time data or raw data instantly during the recent haze crisis, to avoid "the risk of confusion or worse, publishing unverified or inaccurate data".

With accuracy as his primary consideration, he said he found that publishing the 24-hour PSI, the 24-hour rolling average PM2.5 and the three-hour PSI were essential, as the shape of the three-hour PSI graph and that of the one-hour PSI graph were "virtually identical".

Despite not publishing real-time data, Dr Balakrishnan reassured the House that the ministry is monitoring spot-data closely and would intervene when a sudden change is spotted.

N95 masks were meant for health workers in an epidemic
That's why it took time to get stocks out to public during the haze episode
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

SINGAPORE's stockpile of nine million N95 masks was not readily available in the shops last month because they were meant for an infectious-disease epidemic, said Dr Ng Eng Hen in Parliament.

The masks, which filter out small particles, were not originally for the public. They were kept by the Government to prevent the spread of disease to health-care workers, he explained.

"That stockpile is quite important in case, touch wood, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (a virus similar to Sars) viruses come here," he said yesterday. "So the way they were stored... the assumption was for a particular rate of use."

He was responding to MPs' concerns that there were delays and bottlenecks getting N95 masks to the public during last month's haze episode - a major concern which saw queries from six legislators.

Dr Ng, who is Defence Minister and chairman of an inter-ministerial haze committee, explained that retailers' distribution channels could not cope with the spike in demand. "There are few systems where one day to the next, your demand is one day, 5,000; the next, one million," he said.

But despite the crunch, the Government decided to provide for the needy, he added, distributing about a million masks to 200,000 households.

"We didn't know how long the haze would last," he said in response to a question from Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC).

"There wasn't really a shortage, but out of concern that the poor and vulnerable would not be able to get (masks), we met and decided that ministries would push the masks out."

The Government is now rebuilding its supplies of N95 masks, added Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

But, he stressed, the masks may not fit everyone. Responding to Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) on the options for children, Mr Gan explained that there are no N95 masks suitable for small children.

"MOH will continue to explore the different masks available in the market to see which of them will be suitable for use by our children," he said.

The hoarding of the precious N95 last month also drew the attention of MPs. Mr Desmond Lee (Jurong GRC) asked if the Competition Act could include provisions to prevent essential items from being hoarded.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan replied that the Control of Essential Supplies Act, last used in the 1980s for petroleum, was still in place to provide for control and rationing of necessities in a crisis. But the Act was not invoked this time as the spike in PSI was for only a short time.

Households could also buy their own N95 masks even after the haze subsided, he added, to have their own small stockpiles so the Government would not have to distribute many masks in a brief period.

Task force met before crisis struck, says Ng Eng Hen
By Grace Chua, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

CALL it great timing but a fortnight before the haze enveloped Singapore, the national inter-agency haze task force had actually met to work out how to coordinate its action plans should the haze return.

The meeting was held on May 29, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen disclosed in Parliament yesterday.

"The task force is in fact activated yearly ahead of the dry season, to review its procedures and responses and coordinate agencies' ground actions," said Dr Ng, who chairs an inter-ministerial haze committee that oversees national efforts to tackle this year's crisis.

The committee was formed last month.

The task force, on the other hand, is almost 20 years old.

Set up in 1994, it holds its yearly review before the annual dry season, when the threat of haze rears its ugly head.

Made up of 23 public agencies, it reports to a Crisis Management Group on Haze, part of a series of groups set up in 2004 to handle specific threats when they arise.

The task force further reports to a Homefront Crisis Executive Group made up of the permanent secretaries of relevant ministries, like the Ministry of Communications and Information.

Dr Ng's new committee, however, comprises ministers from key ministries like Environment and Water Resources, Foreign Affairs and Health, and oversees overall national efforts to tackle the crisis.

The committee is "an added and new step, and one calibrated appropriately to deal with the haze problem", he said.

Yesterday, replying to MPs' questions on the national action plan, he said the focus is on three areas: protect public health and safety; work with Indonesia to curb the burning; and maintain social and economic resilience.

So, when there was panic-buying of N95 masks and bottlenecks in getting the masks to retailers, "the first task was to restore calm and protect the vulnerable".

Hence, priority was given to handing out free masks to needy households and distributing three million masks to retailers.

As the haze persisted, the Health as well as the Social and Family Development ministries sent out more boxes of masks to retailers, introduced subsidised GP visits for the young, old and needy, and gave subsidies to childcare centres to buy portable air-conditioners.

Dr Ng's committee also came up with plans to ensure there is no disruption of essential services like utilities, and to protect workers who spend long hours outdoors, like those in construction, shipyards and cleaning.

But he admitted that people could have been given more information with greater timeliness, although "not everyone wants or needs the same amount of information".

He assured the House the response to crises is robust, saying "our basic structure is comprehensive and sound, but we should always learn from every episode".

"MPs rightly ask: Can Singapore withstand the next national threat, the next big one, one even more severe? I believe so but only if we maintain the trust and care for one another. Trust and care between leaders and the people and for each other."

Some cause anxiety by spreading rumours
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

SOME mischievous individuals set out to spread rumours and cause unnecessary anxiety during the recent haze, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

Their impact, he added, was amplified because of the Internet and social media. Still, he noted that Singaporeans largely helped one another.

The first of five examples of misinformation he cited took place on June 19, when the National Environment Agency (NEA) website said the Pollutant Standards Index was 321. Someone circulated an altered screenshot alleging that NEA had reported the PSI as 393.

Said Dr Yaacob: "This was a calculated and mischievous act, intended to undermine public confidence in the NEA."

On the same day, The Real Singapore website put up an article falsely attributed to Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng.

Someone had impersonated her to comment on the Government and Singaporeans' reaction to the haze, while the article was plagiarised from another netizen's Facebook comment, noted Dr Yaacob.

He also named blogger Ravi Philemon who, on June 22, alleged that a friend said nine million masks would be brought into Singapore, but none were for the public.

This was even as the Singapore Armed Forces and People's Association staff and grassroots volunteers were "working hard into the early morning" to ensure one million masks would be distributed from warehouses to community centres, to be given out to households the next day, he added.

In another case, someone accused Tan Tock Seng Hospital of jacking up the price of its N95 masks when the price remained the same. And on June 25 when rain and hail fell over western Singapore, someone alleged, "without foundation or basis in fact, that Singapore was receiving acid rain", said Dr Yaacob.

He assured MPs Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) and Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), and Nominated MP Tan Su Shan that the Government acted by declaring the rumours false on its Cut Through The Haze microsite, before they took root and caused further alarm and harm.

In such cases, the Government may ask for a correction so that the right information is put up online or ask the site to remove the content, he added.

While Ms Tan suggested that the Media Literacy Council help people who fall prey to misinformation, content providers and the larger Internet community could verify and correct any misinformation as well, noted Dr Yaacob.

He pointed out, however, that prominent members of the online community such as Mr Philemon, had rejected the idea of an Internet Code of Conduct, and greeted the formation of the council with scepticism.

Striking a positive note, Dr Yaacob said many members of the online community came up with crowdsource apps to find shops where masks were available or to share air-conditioned rooms.

Others like undergraduate Jeremy Chua set up the SG Haze Rescue page on Facebook calling for the donation of excess masks.

Said Dr Yaacob: "They show that there are many good-hearted Singaporeans who know how to harness the Internet positively."

In a blog post last night responding to Dr Yaacob, Mr Philemon said that he did not fabricate the comment on the nine million masks, but simply reposted a friend's comment.

Mr Philemon had posted on Facebook last month: "Yes the 9 million masks are coming into Singapore... But none will be for the public, the entire batch will be under exclusive control by the G and all distributions of the masks will be under the tightest of scrutiny."

Yesterday, the blogger said he also went to Johor Baru to buy N95 masks when they were sold out at pharmacies here, so that he could distribute them to others.

'New rules do not target individual bloggers'
Regulations targeted at news sites, says Yaacob
By Tessa Wong And Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

BLOGGERS have been and will continue to be free to comment on government policies and do not need to feel curbed by the licensing regulations on news sites instituted last month.

The Government has not stopped any of them commenting on the ruling since it kicked in, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament yesterday.

And despite accusations that the move would stifle Internet freedom, this has not occurred, he noted, even as several bloggers critical of the rules watched from the public gallery as he fielded questions on the regulations.

"Since we... announced the law on May 28, nothing has stopped the bloggers from commenting," he said, reiterating the Government's stance that the change does not target bloggers.

The new rules, which require news sites to post a $50,000 performance bond and take down offensive content within 24 hours, kicked in on June 1, three days after the announcement.

The idea that the rules would have a chilling effect on bloggers is "far-fetched". Said Dr Yaacob: "I don't think they are so easily 'chilled'."

If future operators cannot afford the bond, the Media Development Authority (MDA) would be willing to set a "reasonable" amount in line with the news site's finances.

"The intention is not to prevent the site from operating under a licence. On the contrary, the intent is to allow a qualifying site to continue to operate, under an individual licence," said Dr Yaacob.

The whole idea behind the framework is to hold news sites to a higher standard than other sites, he added in response to questions in Parliament.

To qualify as a news site, they must have at least one news story on Singapore a week and attract at least 50,000 unique visitors from here in a month.

Some members pointed out that the definition for news sites was broad, and Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam who filed an adjournment motion on the rules said this could lead Singaporeans to believe the rules had been "crafted to censor blogs, especially those that discuss politics".

Dr Yaacob said this was not the case, and that the regulations were squarely targeting news sites to hold them to "a higher level of responsibility". "We need to license you so that you know that whatever you do, you must do it well and do it accurately because you're reporting for the benefit of Singaporeans," he said.

He noted that bloggers, Internet commentators and niche websites provide their personal views and do not regularly report on news. Hence they do not fall within the scope of the new licensing.

"However, should these websites morph into online sites reporting on Singapore news, MDA will have to separately assess if they meet the two criteria for licensing," he said.

Mr Choo Zheng Xi, part of the Free My Internet movement which opposes the rules, said he was "gratified" to see Dr Yaacob challenged by all three parties in Parliament - the ruling People's Action Party and the opposition Workers' Party (WP) and Singapore People's Party.

"We feel vindicated that our concerns over the new regulations are shared across the political spectrum," said the co-founder of sociopolitical blog The Online Citizen.

Separately, in a written response to a question filed by WP MP Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) on the criteria for media accreditation, Dr Yaacob said factors include the reach and distribution of the news organisation, and its professional standing.

"The platform of the news organisation, whether traditional or online, is not a consideration. The licensing of online news websites is not related to accreditation and has no bearing on the criteria used to accredit the media organisations," he said.

The Government is discussing the licence details with the three companies which own the 10 news websites that come under the licensing framework - Singapore Press Holdings, MediaCorp and Yahoo Singapore.

Yahoo is the only one among the three that does not have press accreditation for its reporters.

Trust needed for govt role as info provider and regulator
By Lydia Lim, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

WHEN it comes to information, many MPs want the Government to up its game as the primary source of timely, accurate facts and figures in time of crisis.

But there are some who fear that the Government is not just a supplier of information but it can also be a suppresser of news and views it finds inconvenient.

These two divergent views of government in today's information society were the focus of questions yesterday when lawmakers quizzed ministers about the haze and a new licensing framework for news websites.

They did so just weeks after the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) shot up to dangerous levels for a short spell, sparking mass anxiety over health and safety.

Yesterday, MPs gave voice to Singaporeans' demand for action to address the source of the haze in Indonesia, and for earlier warnings should air quality plummet again.

Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan devoted a substantial portion of his response to explaining the complexity of providing timely and accurate information, given that the source of the haze is "hundreds of kilometres away and spread over an area that is many times the size of Singapore".

He produced two satellite images and a chart to show how factors such as cloud cover and wind conditions make detection and prediction difficult.

"Under ideal conditions, the longest warning that we can have from the time the smoke emerges from the fire to the time the haze hits us is around six to 10 hours," he told the House.

Later, Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked for hourly PSI readings which the ministry has been reluctant to provide.

Once again, Dr Balakrishnan - a medical doctor - launched into a lengthy explanation of the complexity of providing meaningful data, given that other factors apart from PSI readings had to be taken into account in determining health effects.

He said Singapore was in the midst of updating the way it measures air pollutants and that he thought hard before deciding to turn down public requests for real-time data during the recent haze crisis.

"Why? I decided not to do so because the risk of confusion or worse, publishing unverified or inaccurate data, was too high. I could not take that risk in the middle of a crisis," he said.

Misinformation was the subject of three PAP MPs' questions and they gave Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim the perfect opening to take aim at individuals who had circulated haze falsehoods.

He named The Real Singapore website and blogger Ravi Philemon as among those who had contributed to the confusion. The online community had rejected the Government's previous attempts to encourage their coming together to build a responsible online environment and its proposal for a Code of Conduct, he said.

"Yet, when public anxiety was highest in the days when the haze was at its worst, where were these prominent members of the online community who believed that the Internet community should be left alone? Were they helping to clarify and reject online rumours, or were they helping to spread them or even create them?" he added.

It was a surprisingly sharp retort from a minister better known for being conciliatory.

But when the House turned to consider the Media Development Authority's (MDA's) new licensing framework for news websites, Dr Yaacob had to switch from playing offence to defence. Several PAP and opposition MPs pressed him to explain the very broad definition of news sites used in framing the regulation.

These are a source of anxiety and uncertainty for the online community, the MPs said, as they potentially allow the authorities to require individual licences for a whole range of content providers.

The minister's assurance that the Government has no plans to do so, and that netizens should "keep calm and continue posting" is unlikely to persuade bloggers who worry about having to play by the same rules as newspapers, which have operated under individual licences for far longer.

Yet, as Dr Yaacob observed, since the class licence scheme for websites took effect in 1996, MDA has not asked any site to take down content critical of the Government.

But as its own ministers said yesterday, the key issue here is trust. The Government has a credible record of being upfront with Singaporeans in times of crisis but when it comes to its openness to criticism, doubts linger.

Yesterday's sitting was a reminder that the political leadership needs to work on both fronts to maintain the trust of its supporters and to win over doubters.

As Dr Balakrishnan said: "Trust is that intangible, crucial ingredient to Singapore's success. Without trust in the Government, anything we say won't be believed, anything we do cannot be implemented."

Parenthood of IVF babies: Bill to plug loopholes
By Poon Chian Hui, The Straits Times, 9 Jul 2013

AS MORE babies here are born using assisted methods like in- vitro fertilisation (IVF), the law will try to provide more clarity on the parenthood of such children.

A Bill was tabled in Parliament yesterday, aiming to plug loopholes which may leave a child legally parentless.

The Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Bill also covers instances where a mix-up happens, such as the 2010 case in which Thomson Fertility Clinic used the wrong sperm.

Then, a couple discovered that their baby had the Chinese Singaporean mother's DNA, but not her Caucasian husband's.

If the Bill is passed, most children will have a single set of parents, even if they are the result of mistakes.

Generally, the woman who gave birth to the child will be treated as the legal mother.

But fatherhood has been contentious. Here, the Bill provides for three main scenarios.
- The woman's husband is the legal father. If unmarried, her long-term partner can apply to the court to be the father.
- If donated sperm is used, the husband or partner can still be regarded as the father if he had consented to the IVF treatment, or accepts the child as his own.
- Sperm donor has no claim to the child, unless he later marries the woman or becomes her partner.
But if the wrong egg or sperm is used, the birth mother and her husband will be the default parents - as if the mistake did not happen. This is so that the child is not left legally parentless.

However, the person whose egg or sperm was used by mistake can apply to the court for parental rights within two years of the mistake being discovered.

Currently, the law places such children on the same footing as those who are conceived normally, said the Ministry of Law.

And where the wrong egg or sperm is used, the legal parenthood of the child is uncertain.

A public consultation that was held last November found that most people support the Bill, which comes as more babies are born using IVF, from 720 in 2006 to 1,267 in 2011.

The proposed law does not seek to regulate IVF treatment in Singapore, which is performed in 11 clinics here and is overseen by the Health Ministry.

Under existing regulations, only married couples are allowed to undergo IVF.

Professor P.C. Wong, who heads the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the National University Hospital, said that the new rules will be particularly useful if the status of a couple's relationship becomes unclear. For instance, those who get a divorce after the woman becomes pregnant, he said. Here, the Bill will clarify that the former husband still has parental rights over the child.

Said Dr Yu Su Ling of Singapore General Hospital: "The recent IVF mix-up is a stark example of a child who may have ended up being an orphan without the protection of this law."

Lawyer Kuah Boon Theng welcomed the Bill, as legislation in this area is "long overdue".

"Our laws have to catch up with technology," she said, adding that the Bill will also ensure that children who are conceived with donor sperm are less vulnerable to paternity challenges.


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