Musa’s POIC vision finally bearing fruit
Published on: Sunday, May 01, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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Musa had a brilliant vision for POIC when he launched it in 2005. POIC was destined to cater for the downstream industry for the rapidly growing oil palm plantations in the East Coast where most of Sabah”s oil palm plantations are located. He has provided POIC with a total of 5,000 acres as he was also eyeing the vast area of Kalimantan that was being developed with large scale oil palm. He was right. 

Today, Kalimantan has achieved planting of at least 13 million hectares in 2020. More hectares coming! To put Musa”s vision in today”s context, Sabah has 1.7 million hectares and Malaysia has a total of 5.87m hectares. 

Kalimantan by itself has more than doubled Malaysia”s acreage. No doubt, tripling is only in a matter of a few years, considering there is insufficient cooking oil supply in Indonesia even now.

Musa has also commissioned two other crucial facilities [a] The construction of a deep-water port of 20-meter draught which is the only one in Sabah and Borneo. Today”s ULCV [Ultra Large Container Vehicles] with capacity of more than 20,000 or more containers, will have no problem berthing in POIC. [b] Musa has also completed the container facilities in 2018. 

POIC port is a very important, but grossly under-utilised asset.

Kalimantan”s only deep-water port is Kijing in West Kalimantan, facing the South China Sea. POIC is just a “stone throw” from East Kalimantan where development is gathering speedy momentum. Kijing”s draught is only 12m to 15m. POIC”s is 20m.


The potential of POIC, given the right policies and approach, can be tremendous and can live up to Musa”s full vision. 

Opportune time to develop POIC in a big way.

All the stars are coming together for a major expansion of POIC. 

[a] Musa has prepared the infrastructures. 

[b] Major developments are already underway in East and North Kalimantan and Indonesia”s new capital will generate big waves for this part of the world.

[c] Very significantly, Yong Teck Lee has started the ball rolling by gaining the support/participation of China Construction Bank Corporation Labuan (CCBL) in Kuala Lumpur on April 8 for the development of POIC. This collaboration with CCBL will open many doors in China if Sabah can produce an attractive win-win package for the POIC expansion. This is a major breakthrough.

[d] Overriding importance is Hajiji”s open approach and investor friendly policies which have already attracted RM20 billion in the first quarter of 2022 alone! More can be expected.

A combination of FREE TRADE ZONE, deep-water port, 5,000 acres of industrial park is rare asset. Exploit its potentials.


Think “BIG” for POIC.

Thanks to Yong Teck Lee”s proactiveness, CCBL”s support for POIC is a clear message which Sabah must read, ponder and act.

Yes. Sabah must think big on POIC. A few investors have already signed MoUs to invest big bucks in Sabah. Why Not? Like I have said, all the stars are shining for POIC. The critical missing jigsaw puzzle piece is the FREE TRADE ZONE from the federal government which Sabah is more than entitled. With this in place Sabah can do big things with POIC”s 5,000 acres because:

[a] Indonesia is developing Kalimantan in a big way. Its new capital called Nasantara is being relocated to Kalimantan. 

[b] Besides the new capital, Indonesia is pushing major developments in Kalimantan like pan Kalimantan highway, oil palm and down-stream, exploitation of minerals, food production, tourism.

[c] Indonesia is fast becoming an economic power house. Its economy will surpass Germany and UK by 2030. Much of this expansion will happen in Kalimantan because it has the natural resources and space to fuel Indonesian economic expansion. 


[d] A major Chinese company has already signed MoU to convert CPO into aviation fuel and green energy. POIC, being in close proximity to Sabah”s centre in oil palm and Kalimantan”s 13 million hectares and FREE TRADE ZONE status, will be a very attractive and natural destination for more such investments.

[e] CPO and its derivatives can be used for the manufacture of hundreds of products, spawning numerous business opportunities. 

[f] As a FREE TRADE ZONE, POIC can become a major entrepôt covering Kalimantan and, Southern Philippines and beyond.

[g] Sabah should leverage her geopolitical location in the South China Sea and proximity to China, Kalimantan and Southern Philippines.

[h] UN has alerted the world to a looming major food crisis. Sabah can certainly grow more food to feed ourselves and for export. POIC with its deep-water port can be a regional food processing and export centre.

A well thought out POIC development model can be the growth engine for the all of Sabah”s East Coast.


While big $ are being splashed like no tomorrow in W Malaysia, the federal government has rejected Sabah”s request for funds to construct a CIQ complex in Serudong, Tawau, citing lack of money. Sabah”s request has been flushed out of the window just like that. This would have helped Sabah to develop a flourishing border commercial town. What a led down. Let”s not depend on the federal government. Sabah can transform POIC into a major development cluster. All that is needed from the federal government is fairness. In all fairness, the federal government should and must grant FREE TRADE ZONE status to POIC. Sabah is entitled to at least one. After all, it has already given many in W Malaysia. [a] The Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone for high-tech firms, [b] The Pasir Gudang Free Industrial Zone for shipbuilding and heavy industry activities. [c] The Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) Free Zone. [d] The Port Klang Free Zone for port and shipping activities. [e] The Digital FREE TRADE ZONE.

The federal government must justify, Sabah cannot accept a brush off, if it refuses to give Sabah a FREE TRADE ZONE. The federal government, if it cannot afford funds for Sabah for a simple CIQ, should give POIC the FREE TRADE ZONE for Sabah to self-develop. Rejecting Sabah the FREE TRADE ZONE is bad intention, wanting to restraint, to deprive Sabah of our rights to development, to prosper.


Of course, it can be done!

Only the pessimists think otherwise. Sabah can”t afford to give in to such pessimists for they will leave us mired in poverty forever. The world belongs to those with faith in themselves. We can overcome these challenges.

Challenge No. 1. 

FREE TRADE ZONE from the Federal Government.

Other states have got it. No reason for Sabah not to get it. Why discriminate against Sabah. After all, the federal government will get more economic benefits than Sabah from a FREE TRADE ZONE. The tipping point is for ALL Sabah political leaders to unite, fight for the FREE TRADE ZONE status. If Sabah leaders can”t unite to get it while other states can, something is seriously wrong with them. Political unity is key.

Challenge No. 2. Funding. 

Fear of lack of fund is a myth for those who seek excuse for not doing anything. Yong Teck Lee has made the initial all-important connection with the China Construction Bank which is one of the 4 largest state-owned banks of China. Though not a walk in the park, CCBL can help in sourcing funding for the development of POIC provided Sabah can produce a sensible/logical plan in the context of Hajiji”s policies frame work.

Challenge No. 3. Investors.

POIC will need a major partner investor to develop POIC into a full fledge industrial destination. Good example is the successful MCKIP [Malaysia China Kuantan Industrial Park] which was launched in 2013 and MC Kuantan Port which has only 11m draught compared to POIC”s 20m. 

POIC has better attributes than Kuantan in term of infrastructure and raw material supply beside being nearer to China.


Challenge No. 4. With many requisites to attract investments already in place, especially Hajiji”s investor-friendly policies, POIC should be able to get a developer/partner for the development of POIC”s remaining 5000 acres, albeit developing it in sensible phases. All that it needs is for POIC to produce a conducive business model that is beneficial for all stakeholders on the basis of strategic partnerships. This Yong Teck Lee and his team can do in the context of Hajiji”s investor friendly policy which has already attracted so much success.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk John Lo and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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