Liow: Sandakan, Tawau and Mulu to have air links within BIMP-EAGA

KUCHING: Three more towns in Malaysia are set to have air links with destinations within the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (pic) said this follows the signing of the protocol to amend the MOU on expansion of air linkages at the 22nd Asean transport ministers meeting in Manila next month.

He said the protocol aims to provide more flexible approaches to sustain air services on existing routes and encourage the opening of new routes within the region.

“Every year, when we meet for BIMP-EAGA meetings, we like to increase the number of townships that we’re going to fly to. In Asean, we practise an open sky policy but we only fly to certain destinations within Asean countries.

“Through BIMP-EAGA, we are opening up to small cities within this region, which is crucial,” he told a press conference after attending the 11th BIMP-EAGA transport ministers meeting here Wednesday.

Liow said the three additional new destinations in Malaysia will be Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah and Mulu in Sarawak. Malaysia currently has four BIMP-EAGA flight destinations – Kota Kinabalu, Labuan, Kuching and Miri.

He said Indonesia will have two additional destinations while the Philippines will announce its new destinations at the protocol signing ceremony.

As such, he said more towns within BIMP-EAGA will enjoy air links within the region.

“This means there will be more connectivity, more tourism and passengers coming to the towns. This will increase and enhance economic growth within the areas,” he added.

The protocol was one of several points Liow highlighted in a joint statement by the transport ministers after their meeting. Brunei’s Communications Minister Datuk Awang Mustappa Sirat, Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry secretary-general Sugihardjo and the Philippines’ Transportation Department undersecretary Felipe A Judan were also at the meeting.

Liow also announced that a BIMP-EAGA drivers’ logbook was launched at the meeting to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers during cross-border movement of buses and coaches.

He said the logbook will help to promote self-enforcement and regulation by bus operators and drivers and assist enforcement agencies.

“They (drivers) are cutting across different countries with different laws and regulations. With the logbook, we can monitor the drivers whether they are abiding by the laws and regulations of that particular country,” he said, adding that the logbooks will be monitored by enforcement agencies of the BIMP-EAGA countries.