KUCHING: The Rural Air Services (RAS) in the state is currently being reviewed to improve rural and remote access, reports The Borneo Post.
This was among the transportation development matters discussed between Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg during the former’s courtesy call on the latter yesterday at Wisma Bapa Malaysia.
“We are aware of the need to improve access to air services in rural Sarawak because there are a lot of far-to-reach small towns from the city and it is quite risky to use helicopters.
“So we will further expand the RAS operations but now we are in the process of reviewing the whole RAS in Sarawak,” Liow said, adding that the ministry was looking into the whole package of MASwings services in the state to determine which routes still need subsidies and those which can be cut.
“Now we are allowed to take away the subsidies for some of the destinations like Kuching to Sibu or Kuching to Bintulu as those are plied by commercial airlines like AirAsia and we also allow some other private airlines to take the routes.”
Liow said the ministry will ask MASwings to focus on priority rural routes such as Ba Kelalan, Bario, Kapit, Miri and Bintulu, which will be provided with subsidies. He also said that Abang Johari has indicated that he wanted more remote areas to be covered such as Sadok near Betong.
The minister gave his assurance that the review would consider the state government’s wishlist as it was committed to improving the RAS in Sarawak.
He also revealed that RM190 million in subsidies was allocated for RAS operations in East Malaysia annually.