KUCHING, Sept 6: Works Minister Baru Bian said diversion of the proposed Pan Borneo Highway to bypass Brunei has long been deemed as necessary to improve the living standard of rural folk in the northern region of Sarawak, especially Limbang Division.
He said the diversion would open up the interior for agricultural activities and business opportunities for the people.
The Ba’Kelalan assemblyman described the diversion as a “lifeline” for Limbang as currently the only highway from Miri bypasses Limbang through Temburong, Brunei.
“I welcome the prime minister’s statement on the possible diversion of the Miri-Lawas-Sindumin road, which reaffirms our view that a diversion is necessary for a number of reasons.
“The Works Ministry has started to look at the best alignment for this diversion, and I will personally monitor the progress,” Baru said in a statement.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced on Monday that the Pan Borneo Highway project would not cut into Brunei. The Malaysia and Brunei governments have agreed in principle on the proposed arrangement, which was based on factors including cost and immigration issues.
Baru believed that the highway diversion would also give tourism in the state’s northern region a boost as travelling to the various attractions would become easier.
“Places such as Mulu, Mt Murud and Batu Lawi have huge potential for tourism, especially the latter two destinations, which have not been promoted as tourist destinations,” he added.
By bypassing Brunei, the initiative would also make it easier for patients from the rural region of Baram, Bario and Ba’Kelalan to get medical treatment in Miri Hospital. Currently, patients who need critical care have to cross Brunei to get to Miri Hospital. This poses problems for those who do not have passports.
“The alternative is to be flown by helicopter, which is out of reach for most folks. Patients from Lawas needing critical treatment currently have to go to the hospital in Kota Kinabalu, and this is an added stress to the hospitals in Sabah.
“The much needed diversion, therefore, is potentially a life-saver for the people of northern Sarawak,” he said.
On a related note, Baru said his ministry would assist the Sabah government to monitor the progress of the Pan Borneo Highway in the northern Borneo state.
Contractors have been appointed for 12 project packages, with work progress ranging between one and 37 per cent. Land acquisition, supply of building materials and labour are the main issues contributing to the project delay.
The ministry has advised Sabah Land and Survey Department to expedite and improved on its land acquisition process.
The work packages contractors have also been told to discuss with the project delivery partner to find alternatives and approaches to overcome the problem of insufficient building materials as well as the lack of skilled and semi-skilled labour issues.
The federal government has also worked on solving technical issues such as payment to the work package contractors through its project delivery partner to avoid future delay in payment. — DayakDaily