Govt approves RM80.9m for Sandakan airport

The investment will have a direct positive impact to the economy of the Sandakan people and its local tourism, says finance minister


THE federal government approved RM80.9 million worth of investments to improve the condition of Sandakan airport in efforts to enhance Sabah’s economy and tourism sector.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said this investment will have a direct positive impact to the economy of the Sandakan people and its local tourism.

“As stated by Transport Minister Anthony Loke, this RM80.9 million investment (is to) extend the runway of the airport from 2,133m to 2,500m. When it is ready by 2021, more aircraft with greater capacity will be able to land here easily,” he said in his speech during a groundbreaking ceremony in Sandakan last Friday.

“Other than Kota Kinabalu, I am sure and believe that Sandakan could be the gateway to East Malaysia,” he added.

“Expanding Sandakan airport will help increase the competitiveness of the country’s tourism sector compared to our regional neighbours. On behalf of my ministry, I hope that this project can be completed within the time and cost set,” said Lim.

He said the lack of air transport access to Malaysia and low-cost flights are among the challenges which negatively affect the tourism industry in the country.

“A recent data show that there are only 68 companies with flights by route to Malaysia. It is low compared to Thailand with 129 companies and Singapore as many as 79 companies,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal as saying that the upgrading of the airports’ capacity in the state will enable it to export its products such as sea produce to foreign countries.

“We are still facing constraints to export fresh sea products by air as facilities, such as cold storage warehouse, are insufficient.

“These improvements will not only stimulate the tourism sector in the state, but also enhance the economic growth in terms of sea products exports,” Shafie was quoted as saying.

Loke said the federal government through the Finance Ministry would assist in the upgrading of customs facilities at airports such as Tawau and Sandakan to enable the exports of fresh sea products.

“I have also discussed with logistic companies for them to invest in such facilities so that seafood products that are favourite among the people and have high demand in countries such as Hong Kong and China can be exported directly to ensure their freshness,” said Loke.

According to the transport minister, currently the direct export service of sea products in Sabah is only through Kota Kinabalu.