Published on: Saturday, February 15, 2014
Labuan: Labuan Corporation (LC) is keen on former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh's offer to build the "Labuan Bridge" but wants the bridge to be only between here and Pulau Daat which is less than half the sea distance from Menumbok and where the Council's jurisdiction ends.
LC Chairman-cum-Member of Parliament Datuk Rozman Izli said this half length bridge would be less costly to implement, less complicated and be readily commenced without having to wait for Sabah's approval.
And when the Labuan Daat link is already in place Sabah could still decide whether it needed the other half of the bridge and have it connected to Menumbok or Mempakul.
What Rozman said was in accordance to Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor who had remarked on his maiden visit here as a Minister last May that the bridge, if implemented, would be on a "trade-off-basis" meaning the private investor will finance the construction of the bridge and highway (in Sabah) in return for reclaimed land right and collect tolls at the bridge and highway.
Rozman would not disclose further details saying discussions with the potential investor were still on and many matters had yet to be finalised. "It is just that too many people had been asking about Harris proposal and this is the development."
The sea channel between Labuan and Sabah is wide and about 13km.
Earlier studies had indicated that building a full length bridge spanning across the channel connecting Labuan to Sabah may cost about RM5 billion.
However, the proposed link between here and Daat cover a shorter sea distance and the cost would be much lesser depending at which point of Labuan the bridge would commence. A retired Marine officer told Daily Express the distance between Tg. Aru beach here to Daat is 4.5 nautical miles while from Tj Taras it was merely 2.5 nautical miles.
With the less-than-half bridge in place, the sea distance between Labuan and Menumbok would be shortened. It would become possible for ro-ro ferries to operate on shuttle service basis without service users from Sabah and here having to do advance bookings.
Ferry services are important for the island's economy and tourism. Some 300,000 vehicles use the ro-ro ferries yearly.
The ferry terminal at Daat being new could be better planned to provide first class facilities and with the relocation of the terminal from here congestion in the town area may be eased to some extent.
Pulau Daat (271.96 hectares) is the largest of the six islands Labuan.
The others are Kuruman, Rusukan Kechil, Pulau Papan and Burung.
Daat is earmarked for an Entry Point Project (EPP) as a site for a RM4 billion mega integrated petroleum complex but after several MoUs signed in 2012 with Sarawak O & G company, Suria Offshore Hub & Borneo Oil and Gas venture to build a tank farm and other projects, the planned complex slipped into doldrums with the main investor from China withdrawing.
Since then, the island had been lying idle with some preliminary work having been completed and illegal settlers relocated. The Daat project was reported to have created 3,000 job opportunities.
According to some quarters having a bridge up to Daat may not be the "smartest idea" but without choice. One advantage was that such a connection would not require approval from Sabah.
Though Sabah had been in support of the bridge proposal, it never had been as enthusiastic about it like Labuan. Labuan had been clamouring for the bridge since 1997.
The obvious reason for Sabah's muted support on the project was that the bridge would result in Menumbok being "bypassed".
The economy of the village depended on the ferries and some speedboat owners in Menumbok services to Labuan and other points.
Not long ago, Harris through Shandong Laigang Gaya Sdn Bhd (a joint venture between Gaya House led by Harris and China-based Shandong Laigang) had submitted a mega economic development plan for Labuan.
The overall development plan which would take 20 years to complete was reported to cost RM60 billion.
The proposed bridge between Labuan and Menumbok was one of the components of the submitted package, the others were an integrated entreport and a Marina city.
No cash payments were required from the Government but land swap for the projects to be built. Some 8,500 acres of submerged land would be required for the full implementation of the projects.