Monday, December 9, 2013

Malaysia-Brunei bridge opens

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah opening the friendship bridge in Limbang yesterday. Bernama pic

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: THE opening of the friendship bridge linking Temburong, Brunei, and Limbang, Sarawak, will contribute towards increasing cross-order trade while enhancing the socio-economic status of residents in both areas, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday.

He said the bridge, costing RM21.9 million and shared by both governments, would help promote tourism between the countries as it was an important component of the Pan Borneo trunk road in line with the Asean Community objectives to be realised by 2015.

The trunk road runs from Kuching, Sarawak, to Tawau, Sabah.

Najib said more than 100,000 tourists from Brunei visited Sabah and Sarawak last year.

"This figure is expected to grow with the opening of this friendship bridge," he said at the launch of the bridge in conjunction with the 17th Malaysia-Brunei Annual Leaders' Consultation here.

Najib said he was happy with the launch as it demonstrated the close relationship enjoyed by both countries.

He said the project, which started in May last year, was completed in October. The 200m-long bridge across Sungai Pandaruan had eased travelling time, he added.

For years, travellers, especially motorists, have had to wait for hours to use ferries to cross the 60m-wide river, which took less than five minutes.

Najib said the ferry service would cease to operate with the opening of the bridge.

Earlier, Najib arrived at the bridge in a four-wheel-drive driven by Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, in a symbolic gesture to mark the historic occasion.

Both leaders later signed a plaque before cutting ribbons to mark the official opening of the friendship bridge. This was followed by vehicles from both sides of the border crossing the bridge. Present were Brunei Crown Prince Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and senior officials from both countries.

Fadillah said the bridge was the vital missing link of the Pan Borneo Highway linking Sematan in the western part of Sarawak and Tawau. "This bridge will end the hassle of long queues, especially during the holiday seasons. This will surely foster closer relations between people from both sides of the border." Limbang resident Chua Eng Hin, 70, said people had been wishing for a bridge to cross the river for more than 50 years.

"The ferry crossing is just 20m, but travellers have to wait a long time to cross the river, especially during holiday seasons. "Crossing is not a hassle on normal days, but during festivities and school holidays, the queues can stretch 2km to 3km on both sides of the border. This is because the ferry can only accommodate 10 vehicles and takes less if the vehicles are bigger.

Limbang member of parliament Hasbi Habibollah said he would propose setting up higher learning institutions in the area.

"With more learning institutions and colleges, we can attract students from Brunei.

Such a mechanism will spur more joint ventures with the Brunei people. On the annual consultation between Brunei and Malaysia, Najib said it was forging ahead in a positive direction in all aspects of cooperation following the signing of the exchange of letters agreement in 2009.

*Taken from NST Online

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