Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen officiated at the opening ceremony of the third Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange (APMHE) this morning. The APMHE 2017, held from 23 to 26 May, is a regional military medicine conference jointly organised by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the United States Pacific Command (US PACOM).

During his opening address, Dr Ng highlighted the importance of building the capabilities of military medicine practitioners as they are experts who lead the responses to modern security challenges, namely in bio-terrorism and control of pandemics. Dr Ng also spoke about the key role military medicine communities play in building relations and trust among militaries. With reference to the inaugural ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Military Medicine Exercise in 2013, Dr Ng said, "What we have learnt as we worked together for HADR missions, (is that) military medicine communities often act as a bridge to build relations and trust among militaries... In 2013, the inaugural ADMM-Plus HADR and Military Medicine Exercise organised by Singapore, Japan, Vietnam and China brought more than 3000 military participants from 18 countries closer together as they jointly developed and executed exercise objectives... After 2013, it became the working model for both Experts' Working Groups to combine their efforts to conduct ground exercises."

On the growing medical needs of Singaporeans resulting from an ageing population and the need to expand ambulance fleets to meet this need, Dr Ng said that, "The SAF's primary mission is to defend the nation against external threats, but in the area of emergency care, using SAF medics to respond to civilian medical emergencies is synergistic and mutually helpful. It will meet the growing demand as well as allow our medics to keep their skills current, to better respond in times of military crisis. The SAF has therefore, as part of the ongoing partnership between SAF and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), offered SAF medics to be deployed on SCDF ambulances... The pilot project will start at the end of this year."

Chief of Medical Corps Rear-Admiral (RADM) (Dr) Tang Kong Choong and Command Surgeon for US PACOM, RADM (Dr) Brian S. Pecha also gave welcome addresses at the opening ceremony. In his address, RADM (Dr) Tang noted that the APMHE was a good platform for military health practitioners to exchange ideas for collaboration and further advancement of the practice of military medicine and related areas in the region. He added that it was the privilege and honour of the SAF to be able to host the APMHE in 2017 as the SAF Medical Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The four-day conference, involving over 500 delegates from 28 countries, covers contemporary military health issues and features over 250 oral presentations and posters that share the operational and research experiences of Asia-Pacific militaries.