3 bridges hang in the balance as Sarawak awaits word from Putrajaya

Masing delivering his winding-up speech at the DUN sitting today (July 17, 2018). Screen grab captured from the DUN CCTV feed.

KUCHING, July 17: Sarawak is still awaiting confirmation from the federal government to construct three bridges across Batang Rambungan, Batang Igan and Batang Lupar, said Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation (MIDT) Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

He said the former Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government had decided to fund the first two bridges while both Sarawak and the federal government were to share the building cost of the proposed Batang Lupar bridge.

However, with the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government reviewing projects worth more than RM10 million and having placed rural infrastructure as “moderately critical”, the Sarawak government was not certain if previous promises would continue to be honoured.

Despite so, Masing gave an assurance that the state was committed to constructing the proposed Coastal Road and the Second Trunk Road.

“Although building of infrastructure might no longer be a priority as far as the federal government is concerned, the state government is committed to building them in order to provide the necessary connectivity that will allow Sarawak to grow economically,” said Masing, who is also deputy chief minister.

He added that in the event federal funding was not forthcoming, the state government shall shoulder the responsibility to ensure that these bridges were built.

“While Peninsular Malaysia can wait for their high-speed rail, the people of Sarawak cannot do without basic connectivity and cannot wait in perpetuity for these developments to take place. The building of the coastal road network and Second Trunk Road will directly benefit 60 per cent of our population residing in these areas,” he said.

He said the procurement process shall be based on a tender basis to ensure transparency.

“In order to nurture local construction companies in Sarawak, local Sarawakian contractors shall be given preference while other performance-based tender pre-qualifications are still being finalised,” said Masing.

He added that since the last DUN (Sarawak Legislative Assembly) sitting, the Public Works Department (JKR) had been working on procurement procedures and project work scopes for the commencement of physical works scheduled in the first quarter of 2019.

The main components of the Coastal Road Network projects are as follows: Batang Rambungan Bridge and Batang Igan Bridge, which were supposed to be funded by the Federal Government; Batang Lupar Bridge, which was supposed to be jointly funded between the Federal and State Government on a 50:50 basis; Batang Rajang Bridge, including a 17km access road, are to be state-funded; Batang Saribas Bridge, to be state-funded; Sungai Krian Bridge, to be state-funded; Batang Paloh Bridge, to be state-funded; Muara Lassa Bridge, also stated-funded; Bintulu Jepak Bridge (Kemena); upgrading of Kidurong to Samalaju Coastal Road including connecting road to Bakun Junction; and pavement rehabilitation and upgrading to critical stretches of the whole of the existing coastal road. — DayakDaily