The proposed bridge to link Labuan and Sabah is now possible after it was merely talked about by the people years before.
Representing former chief minister Tan Sri Harris Mohd Salleh at a briefing session for the committees of Malay, Kadazandusun, Chinese and Indian chambers of commerce at Tiara Hotel here, Raden Kakung said both the people of Labuan and Sabah were looking forward to have the bridge built.
“The bridge is possible as a company from China is willing to build it for a land swap without cash payment.
“An entreport with an integrated bridge has also been planned. The Labuan side will provide sea land for reclamation, which will be developed into commercial and residential properties especially for retired overseas people.
“This is also the plan for the Sabah side. To realise this aspiration, the Federal Government should formulate a policy allowing foreigners to have permanent residence permits in exchange for their investment on the island,” he said before the briefing session.
Reading a speech on behalf of the former chief minister, Raden said that Harris recalled a concept initiated by the British to make Labuan like a little Singapore or Hong Kong, which remains a dream to the people of Labuan.
“Indeed, Labuan is just like Singapore. The economic activities of Singapore are tied up with the financial centre as well as oil and gas. Tourism, property management and other businesses just simply follow.
“Nevertheless, Singapore is far away from Labuan. Therefore, it is not a direct competition as Singapore is a well-established oil and gas centre. Any establishment trying to compete with it in the same business will fail.
“Its friendly neighbours of Sabah and Sarawak recognise the fact that Labuan with a population of 100,000 can only survive and thrive with the presence of oil and gas industries, which will guarantee employment,” he said.
He said further that in order to make Labuan a fully integrated and functional oil and gas centre as well as tourist destination especially from the mainland of China, there were discussions currently in progress to make Labuan the hub for tourists to visit Borneo Island.
“There has been a proposal by a company to take over the management of Labuan Airport to extend its runway by another 1,000 meters in order to accomodate larger aircraft. Plans are also underway to build large new International Terminal and to move the Air Force to Tawau.
“Labuan Airport will then be a 100 per cent civilian airport and Tawau Airport will become partly a military airport. The proposal to develop Labuan into a major transit point for the whole island of Borneo is logical,” he said.
Raden explained that the Airbus A380 aircraft would fly directly from China to Labuan while the Boeing 737 aircraft would bring transit passengers to whichever destination in Borneo they wished to spend their holiday.
The airline company is expecting these developments to happen within a few years of managing Labuan Airport.
Raden was optimistic about the plans as the funds were available for the physical development of Labuan.
He estimated that in three years’ time, there would be around 120 million Chinese visitors going overseas.
“If twenty million or one sixth of these tourists visit Borneo through Labuan, it means that there will be about 55,000 Chinese tourists a day passing through Labuan.
“These numbers could be doubled taking the return journeys into account. The people of Labuan must work to catalyse the completion of the physical and economic development of Labuan.
“At the same time, the free port status must be maintained in Labuan alongside with its vision to be an economically viable island,” he said.
Raden said that Harris remained personally committed to the survival of Labuan, as he was responsible for the handing over of Labuan to the federal government for administration.
Also present at the event was the architect for the Labuan Bridge, Sim Sie Hong.
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