KOTA KINABALU: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sabah secretary Chan Foong Hin has asserted that he does not ‘oppose for the sake of opposing’ as recently claimed by Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) deputy secretary-general Datuk Ho Jia Lit.
In response to Ho’s statement, he denied verbally attacking Special Task Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang and undermining the state government’s efforts in establishing the Sepanggar and China ports ties.
“In my previous press statement pertaining to this issue (in Chinese), I only pointed out that the federal government had no intention of developing Sepanggar Port,” explained Chan, who is also Sri Tanjong assemblyman.
“Hence, I never ‘oppose for the sake of opposing’ as I never oppose against Teo’s suggestion to establish ties between the Sepanggar and China ports. Instead, it is Ho himself who ‘has exposed his tendency to politicize everything in order to gain cheap publicity’.
“I neither attacked the Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang, nor am I undermining the state government’s effort in establishing strategic partnership between Sepanggar Port and Ports of China,” he added in a statement here yesterday.
Chan said Sepanggar port’s absence in the Malaysia-China Ports Alliance list is indicative of the federal government’s interest.
He added the strategic alliance will serve not only as a maritime network between the two countries, but also the bond of trade, business and tourism.
“Under the port alliance, ten Chinese ports – Dalian, Shanghai, Ningbo, Qinzhou, Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Shezhen, Hainan and Taicang, will collaborate with six Malaysian ports – Port Klang, Malacca, Penang, Johor, Kuantan and Bintulu. Sepanggar Port of Sabah has been left out in this strategic alliance.
“Is that proof that the federal government never have us in their mind? In Ho’s statement, he didn’t dare to respond to this point I raised up earlier.
“Is RM1.1 billion a very big fund to expand Sepanggar Bay Container Port (SBCP)? One should compare apple to apple, then a broader perspective is taken to do the comparison. In Sarawak, Bintulu Port Authority has planned to invest RM550 million in six major port development projects to reduce its dependency on liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo,” said Chan.
He pointed out a new RM1.8 billion Samalaju Industrial Port is expected to commence operation in June this year.
“Isn’t the port upgrading developing fund in Sarawak bigger than ours in Sabah? What can we achieve with the RM1.1 billion allocated? Our Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Pairin Kitingan had said before, it has the capacity to achieve the cargo volume of more than 1.25 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per annum by 2030 and will be at par with other ports such as Pulau Pinang and Johor,” said Chan.
“But how much do we actually need? According to another Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah, at least RM2 billion is needed to develop the Sepanggar Port here into a transshipment hub in the region. He said the cost depends on the size of the area and location of where the works will start. Works to expand the port will be implemented in phases and careful planning is important as this will include the development of the infrastructure in Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP) where some RM300 million is needed.
“Apparently, the RM1.1 billion is just a starter pack, it still far behind the budget needed to build Sepanggar port as a transshipment hub,” he added.
According to Chan, for Sabah to unlock the potentials of container exchange it has to deal with the lack of manufacturing and downstream processing activities that lead to insufficient container volume.
He said the volume of import containers is twice as large as export containers, thus affecting freight rates with ships having to return half-empty.
“The average size of shipment or container exchange in Sepanggar Port, for instance, was 287 TEUs in 2016, compared to 500 to 1,200 TEUs container exchange prevailing at the container ports of Peninsular Malaysia,” explained Chan.
“Therefore, I urge Ho to spend his time together with his party LDP, in demanding the two important ‘gifts’ from the federal government. Firstly, double the budget to RM2 billion to develop SBCP. Secondly to include Sepanggar Port in the Malaysia-China Ports Alliance,” he concluded.