Spaoh’s Bebuling airport to drive agri-food, tourism sectors in Betong District

An artist's impression of the Bebuling STOLport in Spaoh, Betong.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 30: The Bebuling Airport in Spaoh will become an important logistics hub and enabler which drives, supports and sustains the agri-food and tourism sectors in Betong District.

Construction on the RM108 million short take off and landing airport (STOLport) featuring a 790-metre runway, a 185-metre taxiway, two units of aircraft parking spaces, a terminal building and a watch tower have commenced with completion scheduled in September 2023.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that transport is vital to every industry, including agriculture to ensure an efficient supply chain, and tourism to enable people to reach places they desire to visit.

“Access to markets is important for agriculture and tourism development as these two are among the main economic activities in Betong. The airport is to connect the movement of cargo and people. I am here today to fulfill my promise today.

“Betong is part of the food basket areas in Sarawak. Apart from that, cattle rearing is also being developed in Salcra farms and other oil palm plantations with plans for a slaughterhouse to be set up,” he told a press conference after officiating at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bebuling Airport in Spaoh today.

Abang Johari operating the excavator to symbolically break the ground to signal the start of construction on the Bebuling airport.

So from the agriculture perspective, Abang Johari said, the Bebuling STOLport will cater for the cargo transportation by air in food basket areas including Bukit Sadok.

“We need to bring our produce to the markets and air cargo is important especially for perishable produce with a short life span to reach the end destination in a consumable state,” he added.

With efforts ongoing to position Sarawak as a net food exporter by 2030 as well as an office set up in Singapore offering a range of local produce and products including tilapia fish, midin and even gula apong already exported there, Abang Johari said the airport will improve the productivity and growth of Sarawak’s economy and uplift the rural community.

“This is our long-term strategy considering the importance of food security in Malaysia and globally. Sarawak still has a lot of room for development especially with technology,” he said.

As for tourism, he emphasised that better air connectivity is crucial to promote Batang Ai and the historical Bukit Sadok which was the last bastion for Dayak Iban nationalist warrior Rentap in his fight against the White Rajah rule, as tourist attractions and destinations in Betong District.

“With this, tourists can take a flight here from Kuching which only takes one hour compared to my experience when I was a tourism minister where I brought travel agents from Hong Kong (to Batang Ai) which took a four-hour bus ride. They said it was too long and tiring,” he shared.

Apart from Bebuling, a STOLport is also being developed in Bukit Mabong, Kapit and an airport in Lawas which Abang Johari described as a multi-pronged strategy that will benefit the State’s economy and provide more opportunities for the local community.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Assistant Minister of Transport Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, Betong MP Datuk Robert Chuat Lawson as well as incumbents Dato Gerald Rentap Jabu (Layar), Razaili Gapor (Beting Maro) and Mohd Razi Sitam (Saribas) were among those present.

Abang Johari (centre) together with other distinguished guests taking a closer look at a model of Bebuling airport. Photo credit: Sarawak Public Communications Unit