A delegation from the Labuan Chinese Chamber of Commerce (LCCC) led by its Chairman Datuk Wong Kii Yii paid a courtesy call on new Director of Maquis (Malaysian Quarantine Inspection Services) Nazurul Azwan bin Mat Rahim and his senior officer, Liza binti Kimduit on the matter.
"During the meeting we expressed our concern and that the local business community faced hassles in importing roast meat while other states did not face similar problem.
Wong said the chamber was happy that after listening to its woes and explanation, Maquis better understood the local situation and agreed to liberalise the import of roast meat without comprising on quality and standard. "This was acceptable to us," said Wong.
Wong said government departments should understand the fact that Labuan had been given rights as a "Free Port" under Clause XVIII of Section 154 to 160 of the Customs Act 1967. Under the Section, Labuan was a 100 per cent free port.
He said the special right of the island should not be eroded by aspects that were not appropriate to the position of Labuan.
"Of what use is the free port status if the Customs Department allowed in free products from overseas but placed barriers in the way by other agencies," asked Wong.
Another fact that needed to be noted was that it was undeniable that Labuan relied heavily on imports for food, including agro-based products and livestock because local production was limited despite the Agriculture Department having various programmes but failing to increase local production.
He said the limited local production was also due to the fact land was costly in Labuan - between RM30 to RM5 per sq ft depending on location.
"Landowners prefer leasing out their property to oil and gas companies and earn a steady and good income than plough to land for uncertain profit or invest on livestock breeding."
He said the import of foodstuff, as long as such stuff had been issued with health certificate, needed to be hassle-free because such import were not only for the domestic market but also to serve the demand of international-composition.
He said if the supply boats could not get the required meat from Labuan they would source from other places resulting in the local economy not benefiting from the presence of the Oil and Gas player.
He said having good infrastructure and good foods were equally important in attracting oil and gas players to the island.
During the meeting the problem faced by timber importers was also raised.
The issues related to fumigation of imported timber, costs and delays.
On this, Nazurul said Maquis could arrange for another meeting which would include officials from the Agriculture department to settle the matter.
The chamber delegation included its Deputy Chairman (Chin Kon Thai) and Secretary-general (Roger Foo) Seah Kiat Leong, SK Tan and Bernard Wong.