Driving between Malaysia-Brunei-Philippines possible soon — Malaysian minister

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, June 3 (PNA) -– Driving from south Borneo, Kalimantan and Brunei through Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia to Palawan and Manila, Philippines and vice versa via a Roll On-Roll Off (RoRo) ferry service may become a possibility soon once the State Economic Planning Unit (SEPU) succeeds in its ambition to construct a ramp under the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) sub-regional economic cooperation initiative.

In a news article published Tuesday by the Borneo Post Online, the largest English news site in Borneo, Minister of Special Tasks, Datuk Teo Chee Kang, was quoted in saying that the SEPU “is pushing to expedite federal allocation to build a ramp for use by a RoRo ferry service that will link the Borneo Island and Philippines.”

The online article, which also shows a photo of Teo with Palawan State University (PSU) president Dr. Jeter Sespeñe and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), stated that once the ramp is realized, “people from southern Borneo, Kalimantan and Brunei could drive to Kudat and utilize the ro-ro ferry service to Palawan, and subsequently board another ferry to Manila.”

This bodes well for the local tourism industry as islands in the Philippines are now interconnected through the RoRo ferry service.

The minister added that they are now working hard to gain the “federal allocation,” and recently just had a meeting with federal officers in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Despite its absence, however, Teo said the sea cargo transportation has been put in place.

Developments in the establishment of the RoRo ferry service came after Alvarez, 17 town mayors, and businessmen in Palawan traveled May 30 to Kota Kinabalu for a cultural trade exchange experience.

Teo described the economy in Puerto Princesa in Palawan as “thriving” with 24 flights linking it to Manila on a weekly basis, and with American, Korean and Japanese tourists as regular visitors.

The minister was also quoted by the Borneo Post Online in saying “the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan, both World Heritage Sites, are merely one and a half hours apart from each other, and can be a unique selling point if bundled together as one travel package for diving tourists to consider.”

The minister said too, that MASwings, which flies to Palawan thrice a week from Kota Kinabalu since September last year, is expected to increase flight frequency to five times this month as more Malaysians become aware of the tourist attractions and business opportunities in the city and province.

Sabah and Palawan, he held, “should share their resources and establish stronger collaborative ties for mutual benefits,” such as in the eradication of poverty since Sabah has a program that the government could use as reference.

Teo said that the poverty rate in Sabah in 2009 was 19.3%, but in 2012 dropped to 8.1% and still going down.

Alvarez, on the other hand, was cited stating in the visit that he hopes the RoRo ferry service could already be operational early next year so more Malaysians can discover opportunities in Palawan and vice versa.

Also, part of the cultural trade mission under the BIMP-EAGA was the inking of an MoU for an education partnership between PSU and Jesselton College, formerly known as Institut Prima Bestari, a private higher education institution in Kota Kinabalu.

The higher learning institute has five schools, specializing in business, tourism, arts, law and languages.

Under the MoU signed with Sespeñe, student and staff exchange programs, workplace industry placements and education program exchanges can already be rolled in the following months.

In Palawan, Alvarez’ leadership sees great opportunities under the BIMP-EAGA initiative for residents of the province.

He believes it will be able to form part of the provincial effort to bring down poverty in Palawan’s 23 municipalities, especially those in southern Palawan, where a coffee and cacao farming project is expected to start soon.

Alvarez also said that the need for workforce of Malaysia can be filled up by Palaweños, who can be trained to become skilled workers. (PNA)