Oleh Chris Maskilone
KOTA KINABALU: Transport Minister Anthony Loke has clarified that the government is studying the impact of Cabotage Policy suspension but not reconsidering its implementation.
DAP Sabah chief, Datuk Stephen Wong said Loke clarified that the issue of reinstating the cabotage policy does not arise.
Nonetheless, he said Loke pointed out that the policy has little to do with lower prices of goods.
However, Wong who is Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing said that maintaining the current status quo would at least stop the prices from rising any further.
“If the cabotage policy is restored, the price of goods in Sabah will see another wave of price hike, which will undoubtedly a major blow to the already burdened people of Sabah. This is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Wong who is also MP for Sandakan said he was taken aback by the recent recommendation made by National Shipping and Port Council to the Federal government to reinstate the cabotage policy.
Upon hearing about it, Wong immediately sought confirmation from Loke.
Wong said he has all along opposed the cabotage policy as it restricted the development of the local shipping industry and was one of the main causes of the high prices of goods and lack of industrialisation in Sabah.
“DAP has always been standing in opposition to the implementation of the cabotage policy, until its suspension last year as announced by the former Prime Minister,” he said.
Wong also conveyed to Loke that the high cost of shipping to Sabah was due to the monopoly market created by the implementation of cabotage policy over the years.
“This has caused the price of goods in Sabah to be higher than our peninsular counterparts for many years.
“This is why the people of Sabah have always hoped that once the cabotage policy has been abolished, the government will develop the port facilities and shipping industry in Sabah concurrent with that of peninsular, instead of returning to the old ways of allowing a handful of companies to monopolise the industry and in turn, exploit Sabah,” he said.
He also gave a “stern warning” to the government not to implement policies that are unfavorable to the people of Sabah as such.
On the contrary, the government should review and revamp many similar policies that were unfair to the people of Sabah for instance, the disproportionate maximum weight limit for lorries in Sabah compared to the peninsula, which have caused the transportation and logistic costs in Sabah to hike.
Towards this end, Wong hoped that the government would continue to be open-minded to develop Sabah ports and shipping industry in a fair and equitable manner.
He said the Federal government should also
assist in the industralisation of the state, and give Sabah an opportunity to compete with Asia Pacific countries given its strategic geographical position in the region.
He also noted that the State government already has several plans underway to develop the port of Sabah.
He hoped to see the Federal government will work together with the State government in promoting the economic development of the state, instead of sacrificing the interests of all Sabahans to protect the vested interests of the handful of shipping companies.-SabahNewsToday