Abang Johari (centre) receives a token of appreciation from Lee while (from left) Abu Bakar, Uggah and Dr Jerip look on. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Sept 6): Sarawak plans to expand the operation of its airlines to serve the BIMP-EAGA region once it has successfully completed the acquisition of MASwings, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“The strategic advantage of having Sarawak’s airline will allow us control over route preferences in addition to enhancing the domestic aviation sector.

“We will not be limited to the decisions of the private airlines because we can tailor our flight offerings to cater to destinations in the Philippines, Indonesia and also Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei),” he said when closing the Sarawak Transport Conference 2023 here today.

In addition to passenger services, he said there is also a huge potential for air cargo movement within the BIMP-EAGA region, especially across the vast archipelago of Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Given the unique geographical challenges of this region, the provision of airline services is critical. While private sector interests are often profit-driven, Sarawak’s goal extends to expanding our exports into this region.

“As a result, the government is poised to intervene by offering these essential services through our own airline, ensuring seamless connectivity for trade and commerce,” he noted.

Abang Johari said Sarawak, through the invaluable support of the federal government, is also embarking on a study of the trans-Borneo railway and exploring the feasibility of a comprehensive railway network across Sarawak.

“This network will serve the expansive geographical areas, connecting major districts, divisional centres and key economic zones in Sarawak to facilitate the efficient movement of people and goods while simultaneously catalysing investment and trading activities.

“Our vision extends beyond the borders of Sarawak. We are also committed to identifying the feasibility of cross-border rail connectivity with our neighbours, Brunei and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“Within the framework of the BIMP platform, we must realise the immense potential of cultivating deeper collaboration and harnessing synergies to collectively contribute to the sustainable development of our region,” he said.

The transport sector, he added, is critical to serve as a bridge that connects nations, foster collaboration and integration among neighbouring countries and regions like BIMP-EAGA.

“Our region, Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines, needs to have good connectivity to connect with each other in order to grow our trade, investment and also as tourist destinations for our people.

“When we can be seamlessly connected, our industries and markets can overlap to create new opportunities for trade, investment and economic growth,” he said.

Adding on, he said this integration would allow for efficient movement of goods, capital and people, as well as reduce trade barriers and increase the region’s economic competitiveness.

“The strong transboundary connectivity will ensure that tourists can easily explore the beautiful and diverse landscapes and experiences offered by each country in the region,” Abang Johari added.

Also present were Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, and State Secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki.