Saturday, December 7

Mulu chosen for BIMP-EAGA Expansion of Air Linkages

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KUCHING: Mulu has been chosen as among the three new townships in Malaysia for the Expansion of Air Linkages under the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the other two areas to be opened up under this initiative are Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah.

“The three designated points namely Sandakan, Tawau and Mulu are in addition to the four existing designated points that were designated earlier namely Kuching, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and Labuan,” he told a press conference after the 11th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting here yesterday.

“We are opening up the townships in stages. This means that there will be more connectivity, tourism and passengers coming in to the townships and this will enhance the economic growth within the areas.”

Liow said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Expansion of Air Linkages would be signed next month in conjunction with the 22nd Asean Transport Ministers’ Meeting in Manila.

“Besides the three additional designated points in Malaysia, Indonesia will be opening up two more townships and Philippines will definitely be opening up more townships but they will only announce it during the meeting in Manila. As for Brunei, they have Bandar Seri Begawan that has been opened up,” he said.

Present at the 11th BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting were Brunei Minister of Communications Datuk Seri Setia Awang Mustappa Sirat; Indonesian Ministry of Transportation secretary-general Sugihardjo, who represented the Minister for Transportation; and Philippines Department of Transportation undersecretary Felipe A Judan, who represented the Department of Transportation secretary.

Meanwhile, a joint statement issued after the BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting stated the ministers looked forward to the signing of the Protocol to Amend the MoU on Expansion of Air Linkages, which aims to provide more flexible approaches to facilities the sustainability of air services on existing routes and encourage the opening of new routes.

“We urge the transport officials to work closely with the airlines to ensure the full implementation of this protocol,” said the statement.

We recognise that in view of the BIMP-EAGA’s archipelagic geography, maritime transport will continue to play a crucial role in enhancing transport connectivity and bolstering intra-EAGA trade.”

The statement noted the decision by the Sea Linkages Working Group to align sub-regional efforts on non-convention sized ships (NCSS) with the initiatives under the Asean MoU on the Improvement and Harmonisation of Safety Standards and Ship Inspection for Non-Convention Ships.

“However, as a way forward and to facilitate and promote maritime trade within the sub-region, we expressed our support for the proposed initiative to pursue at the bilateral level the negotiations and agreements related to the safe operations of NCSS across BIMP-EAGA waters. We also took note of the efforts by the transport officials in supporting the initiative of tourism sector in developing cruise tourism within the sub-region,” said the statement.

The statement commended the successful conduct of the BIMP-EAGA Air Linkages Rountable with the theme ‘No Region Left Behind – Safe and Reliable Air Transport Key to Economic and Tourism Development’ on Sept 6 in Brunei.

“We reiterated the significance of close cooperation among stakeholders in the transport and tourism sectors in resolving the issues related to the sustainability of intra-EAGA air services. We are pleased to note the plans of Sriwijaya Air of Indonesia to develop the Bandar Seri Begawan – Pontianak and Bandar Seri Begawan – Balikpapan routes in 2017.”