MIRI: The federal government through the Ministry of Transport is making the expansion and upgrading of Miri Airport estimated to cost RM285 million top priority.
The project will be implemented in the second rolling plan of the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) in 2017 to enable the airport to handle four million passengers annually.
This was announced by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai when declaring open the newly extended apron and covered walkway of the airport costing RM68 million yesterday.
Others attending the ceremony were Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for Senadin Datuk Lee Kim Shin, BN candidate for Piasau Datuk Sebastian Ting, Ministry of Transport deputy secretary general Datuk Chua Kok Ching, Department of Aviation director general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman and Deputy Miri Resident Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf.
According to Liow, Miri Airport was designed to receive two million passengers annually but the number of passenger arrivals had exceeded its capacity.
“It is the government’s hope and mine, that the upgrading work which have been implemented and being planned can further boost the economy of Miri City, especially in terms of tourist arrival and business opportunities for the locals,” he said.
Liow said it is important for the government to upgrade Miri Airport as it is the second busiest airport in Sarawak after Kuching International Airport.
During a press conference later, Liow said upgrading the airport to an international status would not be much of a problem as it had several features to be one, like immigration counters and flights coming in from Singapore.
He added a key feature that needed improvement would be separate departure and arrival halls which the airport did not currently have.
Liow said the ministry had to address the expansion proposal urgently as the airport is also being used as hub for the Rural Air Services (RAS).
“The government and the Ministry of Transport is committed to ensure continuous development in Sarawak, especially in the sector of maritime and aviation.
“For aviation, the government has allocated about RM411 million for Mukah’s new airport, a bigger airport which can also cater for bigger aircrafts such as ATR turboprops,” he said, adding that the total cost including maintenance would be about RM700 million.
Apart from that, he said the government had also agreed to extend MASwings’ contract for Rural Air Services (RAS) by seven more years.
“In line with that, the subsidy allocated for RAS will be increased from RM160 million a year to RM190 million a year starting 2018, depending on RAS rationalisation,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, Lee when met by reporters at the function expressed his gratitude to the federal government for approving the much-needed upgrading project for Miri Airport as well as putting the project in its priority list.
“I am very happy that the three items I requested for which are upgrading of Miri Airport to Miri International Airport with international standard facility, extension of the airport to overcome congestion and additional car parks for the airport, have been approved through the RM285 million upgrading project,” he said.
According to Lee, the airport only has 412 parking lots and its car park has not been upgraded in the last 13 years.