For The Sake Of Security

KUCHING: The state government is willing to provide financial assistance to Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Sarawak region to acquire two landing crafts as a step towards beefing up security in the region.

It is understood that MMEA Sarawak region has submitted a formal request for the two landing crafts to the state and federal governments in order to effectively curb the rising number of foreign fishing boats encroaching into the state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

MMEA Sarawak region needs more assets and the state government is ready to assist them through our Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS),

said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg during the launching of the New Generation Patrol Craft (NGPC) KM Sri Aman at the Tun Salahuddin Maritime Complex here yesterday.

He said although providing assets to MMEA Sarawak region is the prerogative of the federal government, the state government is willing to come up with its money first to provide MMEA Sarawak region a boost in the state’s EEZ.

He added that foreign boats had been encroaching into and disrupting the local fishing industry within the state’s EEZ which spans 239,605 kilometres square � about 39 per cent of the Malaysian territorial waters.

The landing craft will be a flagship asset of the MMEA to coordinate and monitor illegal activities at sea and provides a new approach for us to monitor the sea, said Abang Johari.

Besides the rich marine resources and active economic activities, he added, the South China Sea is also rich with hydrocarbon reserves which have attracted the interest of many countries.

Touching on the KM Sri Aman which costs about RM70 million, he said the craft is equipped with the latest technologies to conduct surveillance and defend the nation’s sovereignty.

Among the technologies used on KM Sri Aman is the Fulmar’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV drone) which has a flight time of six hours and is able to travel a distance of 800km.

On another note, Abang Johari said the state government would sift through applications for fishing licence to ensure that the applicants are genuine fishermen.

We know who is genuine, who is not, who has the money to buy or lease their fishing vessels as well as having the money to train their fishing crew.

We filter all the applicants to ensure that they are genuine, he stressed.

He also said fishing ports in Tanjung Manis and Tanjung Bako that costs hundreds of millions of ringgit are currently under utilised, raising suspicions that fishing licences had been abused by the local holders.

Speaking at a press conference, MMEA Sarawak chief First Admiral Ismaili Bujang Pit said it is important for them to tackle the rising number of encroachment cases in the state’s EEZ before it is too late.

According to him, Sarawak has a vast area of water and not many islands, making it vital for them to be equipped with at least two landing crafts.

We do not actually need something sophisticated; we need a berth for our boats and to supply fuel, he added.

He regarded Sarawak as the ‘last frontier’ as most encroachment cases took place in Sarawak waters.

If we do not do something drastic now, it will be too late.

By the time we realise it, all our marine resources will already be gone, cautioned Ismaili, adding that it is MMEA’s responsibility to highlight the matter.

He further said that MMEA had also proposed to equip the Sarawak region with an ‘Offshore Patrol Vessel (OVS)’, which costs about RM200 million, in the next two to three years.

He said the vessel’s length is about 70 metres and would be a flagship of the nation’s integrity and image.

Among those present at the event were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, MMEA director-general Maritime Admiral Dato Indera Zulkifli Abu Bakar and Demak Laut assemblyman Hazland Hipni.

Source: The Borneo Post