KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — The government’s decision to build the Maritime Region Headquarters 4 (Mawilla 4) in Bintulu, Sarawak, is to safeguard the security and importance of national assets.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said Bintulu is a strategic area and is close to the Beting Patinggi Ali (or Luconia Shoals) in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the South China Sea and the Kasawari Gas Field area.
“Currently, there are many national assets that need to be protected, such as oil and gas wells and the Patinggi Ali Shoal which are within 80 kilometres from Bintulu.
“The decision to select Bintulu as the location for the construction of Mawilla 4 is a strategic move in protecting the country’s assets and interests,” he said during an oral answer session in Dewan Negara today.
He was responding to a question by Senator Tan Sri Mohamad Fatmi Che Salleh regarding the government’s priority in building Mawilla 4 and the importance of building an air force base facility in Sabah or the Eastern region of the state, like in Bintulu.
Taking into account the importance of the Kasawari Gas Field and Patinggi Ali Shoal, which contribute to almost 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Mohamad said the construction of Mawilla 4 in Bintulu is a priority.
According to him, it is a step to further strengthen control and monitoring of the strategic and high-value areas.
“For now, security monitoring and control in areas with high-value assets to the country is using the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) assets from the Kota Kinabalu Base in Sepanggar Bay.
“With the construction of Mawilla 4, the RMN ships stationed there can arrive at the location within four to five hours at a speed of 25 knots, compared to up to 16 hours from Sepanggar Bay at the same speed,” he said.
However, he said the construction of Mawilla 4 did not mean the government had forgotten Sabah’s interest.
On the contrary, Sabah already has the necessary strength, in addition to having many airports that can be used by the air force to operate when the need arises, he added.
Meanwhile, in response to a question by Senator Datuk Noraini Idris about the effect of the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESS Zone), which has been extended to the tourism industry, particularly marine activities in the coastal areas of Sabah, Mohamad said he would bring issues and concerns raised to the cabinet.
“It may be done only in certain areas because the government is encouraging tourists to come to our country, especially to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding that the implementation of the MCO is under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry.
Before this, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain was reported to have said that the curfew in the ESS Zone which was supposed to end on October 17, 2023, had been extended, effective on October 18 from 6am in all the state territorial waters, except Tawau. — Bernama