KOTA KINABALU, Nov 21 — Sabah will develop four border towns and connecting roads in preparing for Indonesia’s planned relocation of its capital to Kalimantan, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal today.
Shafie said the four towns — Serudong in Kalabakan, Pagalungan in Nabawan, Sebatik island in Tawau and Long Pasia in Sipitang — would be developed in phases.
“As a start, I’m delighted to say that the state government has created a district office for Kalabakan and is in the process of proposing a new township for the rural district,” he said in response to Paginatan assemblyman Datuk Abidin Madingkir who asked about Sabah’s strategy to benefit from the move.
He also said the federal government has approved RM600 million for the next year to build a road along Serudong Simanggaris and create a Custom, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) complex at the border.
“After the road is built, road connectivity from Tawau to Kalimantan will be established and can open up various opportunities for trading, new investments and product and people’s mobility,” he said.
Shafie also told the assembly that a site visit was conducted to Sebatik island last month to identity potential spots to develop that would be mutually beneficial.
“At the same time research is being carried out by the State Public works department to build a road from Long Pasia to the border of Kalimantan to see whether its feasible,” he said.
He also said that the state was in talks with low cost airlines AirAsia to introduce direct flights from here to Kalimantan.
“For now, there are flights from Tawau to Tarakan, and Tarakan to Balikpapan but this can be upgraded with flights straight from Kota Kinabalu to Balikpapan,” he said.
Shafie said that Sabah is better located than Sarawak and Brunei in terms of sea connectivity as its sea ports are facing the Makassar Straits and Sulawesi sea.
He is also expecting passenger traffic on ferries to increase as the capital develops rapidly.
Shafie also said Sabah can capitalise on tourism opportunities by going into niches like medical tourism and golf holidays.
He also said that Sabah should promote its institutions of higher learning and vocational schools to attraction Indonesians over.
“Modern and interesting shopping malls with international name brands also has the potential to attract visitors from there,” he said.