Cabotage policy not sole factor for Malaysia’s exclusion from Apricot

Minister says there are other new subsea cable projects that were done despite the policy


THE cabotage policy is not the sole factor for Malaysia’s exclusion from the Apricot subsea cable system project, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The country’s involvement or non-involvement in the Apricot project were decided on other factors as well, including the requirement made by the tech giants, Wee said, adding that the cabotage policy has existed since 1980.

“The policy has been enforced since 1980. The current cancellation of the cabotage policy exemption is only for repair works (not installation) and does not prevent the entry of foreign investments in the digital industry,” he said.

There are other new subsea cable projects such as the MIST (Malaysia, India, Singapore, Thailand) cable system connecting Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand and India, as well as the India-Asia Xpress cable system,which were done despite the policy, he said. Wee said this in response to Bagan MP (PH-DAP) Lim Guan Eng’s queries on the foreign investment losses due to Malaysia’s non-participation in the Apricot project, which tech companies such as Google LLC and Facebook Inc are a part of.

The minister said the Apricot subsea project took place after a trade war between the US and China in 2015.

Malaysia had earlier missed out on two subsea cable system investments under the purview of tech giants Facebook and Google, namely Echo and Bifrost, and is now set to add the Apricot subsea cable system to the list.

MIDF Research Institute Sdn Bhd estimated that Malaysia’s exclusion from the Facebook and Google-backed Apricot subsea cable will result in a loss of high-capacity connectivity and investment worth US$300 million-US$400 million (RM1.68 billion).

Both Wee and Lim were engaged in heated arguments during the session, where Lim said he agrees to debate with the MCA president over the matter.

On the MIST cable system, Wee said that it would be connected to the Apricot system, which in turn would link Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

“As announced by Arus Restu Sdn Bhd (ARSB), the local company responsible for building a cable landing station in Selangor for the MIST cable system, on Aug 23, 2021, the MIST cable system will be connected to the Apricot cable system to provide an alternative route to connect major cities in Asia Pacific securely and to boost the region’s Internet capacity.

“The two interconnected systems will connect Malaysia directly to Guam, Japan and Taiwan as well,” he said.

Last week, Wee said that the government will make a decision on the cabotage policy when it is tabled in early October.

In his wind-up speech, Wee said the matter will be deliberated in detail in order to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, as well as ensuring foreign investments will remain.


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