SANDAKAN, June 12 — The Sandakan Airport that has been upgraded last year will serve as a catalyst to drive development in the district, especially in eco-tourism, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said.

He said the RM80.9 million project that was approved in 2017 and began construction in 2019 involved the lengthening of the existing runway from 2.133 kilometres (km) to 2.5km.

“With the expansion of the runway, the Sandakan Airport can handle Code C aircraft without any cargo limit and flights of up to six hours. This will directly encourage more commercial airlines to fly directly to Sandakan.

“It will also boost the number of domestic and foreign tourists and increase competitiveness in the economy, commercial and tourism spheres,” he told reporters after officiating the upgrading of the runway and inspecting the airport here today, along with Sabah deputy chief minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin.

Wee said efforts were currently focus on attracting tourists to Sandakan and tasking the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to ensure all flights to Sabah would consider Sandakan Airport.

According to Wee, the project also involved the expansion of aircraft parking area, upgrading work for the aviation navigation equipment and replacement and improvements to the air traffic management system at the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Region (KKFIR).

“The installation of radar and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment in Sandakan have been upgraded, where the problem of airspace previously not covered by radar due to the Kinabalu range has been overcome.

“In fact, the radar data is also shared with the Civl Aviation Authority of Malaysia with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) that is responsible to ensure that the airspace in Sabah and Sarawak is safe from any intrusion or threat,” he said.

In other developments, Wee said he would discuss with his ministry about public complaints in the state seeking road tax exemptions for the year and a half period encompassing the Pan Borneo Highway construction.

“I will not simply promise as it is subject to the country’s finances as the Transport Ministry is given the authority to collect income through the Road Transport Department,” he explained. — Bernama