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Speeches for the year 2000
Venue:

Renaissance Sandakan Hotel

Date:

19 June 2000, 8:30 am

Occasion:

The Seminar On Twin City - Sandakan and Zamboanga


I would like to start off by extending a very warm welcome to all the delegates from the Philippines, friends from overseas and my fellow friends from Sabah.   I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the organising committee for inviting me to address you this morning. I consider this as an excellent opportunity to further enhance the existing bond between Sandakan and Zamboanga.

As most of you are fully aware, the strong relationship between Sandakan and Zamboanga has existed for many generations.  As immediate neighbours, these two regions have a long history of interactions not only through trade relations but also through culture and social interactions.   BIMP-EAGA which was formed in 1994 merely served to further strengthen the existing economic and social ties between these two regions formally. 

I would like to mention here that it is extremely unfortunate that the Sipadan hostage incident had occurred.  The incident had caused much grief in many of our hearts and heartfelt sorrow is extended to the families of the hostages.  The Government will provide whatever assistance necessary to lighten the difficulties and sufferings experienced by the families of the hostages.  At the same time, the Government of Malaysia and the Government of the Philippines would do whatever they can at the best of their abilities to ensure the safe release of the hostages.

I would like to stress here  that  the  hostage  incident  is  an  isolated case.  Sipadan Island has always been a safe place for tourists and it is still attracting many tourists even now.  With the beefing up of securities on the island and its surrounding areas, it is perhaps an even safer place to visit now as testified by many foreign tourists who went there after the incident.   The incident had no widespread effect. In contrary, more tourists are expected to visit Sabah this year and next year with additional chartered flights confirmed entering into the State from Japan, Europe, Canton (China) and Australia.

What I would like to point out is that the Sipadan incident is an unusual occurrence. It does not affect the strong and entrenched relationship which had been long established between Sabah and the Philippines or Sandakan and Zamboanga in particular. Existing trade ties between the two sister states will remain in-tact and trade between the two sister states will continue to be encouraged. Both Governments will continue its efforts to boost trade between the sister states in the spirit of BIMP-EAGA.

As far as we can remember, Sandakan and Zamboanga seen as ‘sisters’ states or ‘twin city’ have always managed to work well together. Trade relations between Sandakan and Zamboanga have been strong and as a result trade particularly barter trade continues to flourish between the two ‘sisters’.  When BIMP-EAGA was launched in 1994, the value of exports from Sandakan to Zamboanga through barter trade amounted to RM14 million that year according to figures provided by the Customs and Excise Department. Over the years, especially after the peace treaty signed by MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) by Mr. Nur Misuari, the present Governor of the semi-autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao in 1996, barter trading activities had shot up significantly. Mr. Nur Misuari has highlighted in many BIMP-EAGA missions that economic development would be the key focus of his Government. His Government would emphasized on strengthening economic cooperation among the BIMP-EAGA members. With such assurance given, the value of exports from Sandakan to Zamboanga had risen markedly from RM14 million in 1994 to RM57 million in 1997 and RM43 million in 1998. This trend is expected to increase with the larger capacities carried by ferries plying between the twin cities. As anticipated, the number of kumpits arriving at Sandakan barter trade centre has been reducing since  the ferries came into operation. In 1999, the volume of cargo transported to Zamboanga by the ferries has shot up by 32.1% as compared to 1998. And for the first four months of this year, the volume of ferry cargo has risen by 41% as compared to the same period last year. Likewise, the volume of ferry cargo entering into Sandakan from Zamboanga has also risen by 21% in 1999. And for first four months of 2000, the ferry cargo from Zamboanga has risen by 43.6%. Such development reflects the tremendous trade opportunities available between these twin cities. From Sandakan, the main goods demanded by Zamboanga are consumer goods ranging from cigarettes, sugar, Maggi noodles, big onions, biscuits and soaps to used clothing, ammonium nitrate and used vehicle parts.  Similarly, imports from Zamboanga to Sandakan consists mainly of consumer goods such as various types of lotions, perfumes, nescafe, epoxy mastic and pandan mats. These goods are mostly demanded by the Filipino community in Sandakan. Imports to Sandakan from Zamboanga amounts to an average of RM100,000 to RM300,000 a year. The barter trade statistics collected from the barter trade centre show that Sandakan gains positively with trade surplus of about RM14 million in 1994, RM57 million in 1997 and RM43 million in 1998. The cargo statistics collected from the ferries  showed an increasing balance of outbound cargo minus inbound cargo in metric tonnes of 14,510 metric tonnes and 20,892 metric tonnes in 1998 and 1999 respectively. For the first four months of this year, outbound ferry cargo was 7,345 metric tonnes as compared to inward cargo of 1,116 metric tonnes. This represents an increase in both outbound cargo and inbound cargo by 41%  and 43% respectively as compared to the first four months of 1999.

Apart from barter trade, another area with great potentials for regional cooperation is in the palm oil industry. Sandakan is set to become a centre of excellence in the processing of palm oil products in BIMP-EAGA and its surrounding region. An area of 162 hectares has been earmarked to be developed into a Palm Oil Cluster in Sandakan. Sandakan is aptly chosen for locating the Palm Oil Cluster as it is the largest division planted with oil palm; accounting for about 60% of the total oil palm planted area in the whole of Sabah. Establishing a palm oil cluster in Sandakan is strategic simply because of its close proximity to raw materials and the advancement in palm oil R & D. Malaysia’s   palm oil industry is regarded as the most advance in the world. Such valuable  knowledge of  the industry can benefit its neighbouring regions.

Zamboanga, located near Sandakan can take advantage of Sandakan’s expertise and technology in palm oil processing. Zamboanga can position itself by developing its oil palm plantation in large scale and exporting to Sandakan for processing. Such integrated approach and synergy which create a ‘win-win’ situation for both regions is another potential area for economic cooperation between the twin cities.  

Another area worth exploring is to encourage different types of ships for transporting different types of goods to ply between the twin cities. Currently, the sea-linkage between the two sisters cities is limited to the ferry services only. The ferries will not be able to transport large volume of commercial goods such as crude palm oil, rattans or timber products. There is a need to develop an established shipping facilities and sea-linkage between  these  two  cities  to  allow for greater trade flows among the two regions.

Tourist flows can be also be improved with greater sea and air links. Both Sandakan and Zamboanga have much to offer in terms of tourism. Sandakan is endowed with a well renowned Orang Utan Sanctuary, Kinabatangan wildlife, Guamantong cave, turtle island and also a crocodile farm while Zambaonga is rich with intra-cultural diversity, and its famous beaches and islands. Joint tourism packages offering a blend of nature rich and culture rich tourism experiences will be the perfect combination to capture the world tourism market. Such a combination has a strong niche in the world tourism market particularly in the Western countries. As the Western countries make up a large share of our target tourist  markets, it is important that good relations with the Western countries be maintained to ensure that our tourism industry will continue to flourish.

Based on the ferry passenger statistics in Sandakan, the number of outbound ferry passengers rose by 6% from 48,689 in 1998 to 51,678 in 1999 while the number of inbound ferry passengers declined by 3.3% in the same period. For the first four months of this year, both inbound and outbound ferry passengers rose by 23% (to an average of 4,000 passengers per month).  It is important to note that the statistics does not categorize the passengers as tourists, traders or others. Nevertheless, the figures are sufficient to show that people mobility between the two cities is quite high.

Sandakan and Zamboanga are also well  known  for  their rich marine resources. Strategically situated in the Asia-Pacific Rim, these twin cities together can be turned into a major exporter of fresh and processed marine products in the Asia-Pacific region. With the development of proper infrastructure and facilities for transportation, packaging, storage and processing, Sandakan and Zamboanga will be able to achieve a milestone in the world’s fishery markets.    

One very significant link between the Philippines and Sabah is the human resource sector. According to the regularisation programme carried out by the Federal Special Task Force in 1997, it was indicated that foreign workers including the Filipino workers are employed in most sectors of the State’s economy. The highest employment of foreign workers is registered in the plantation sector representing about 52% of the total foreign workers in the State, followed by the manufacturing or industry sector (19%) and the services sector (11%). The presence of foreign workers has definitely contributed positively to the State’s economy. And it is because of their large contribution to the various sectors in the State’s economy, that the Government puts as top priority the agenda to regularise the foreign workers. The Government’s regularisation exercise carried out in 1997 has been successful and as a result the foreign workers are well protected and their well-being are looked after. Education and health facilities are also extended to them.  

It is pertinent that the foreign workers  in  the  State  are documented, regularised and controlled to ensure efficient human resource development in the country. Having a proper regularised foreign labour will also discourage backdoor entry of foreign workers.  In the light of this, we strongly seek the continuance support of the Philippines Government to support the State’s regularisation programme.

As Sandakan’s economy prospers, Zamboanga’s  economy  will  also prosper as the economic and social linkages between the twin cities are well connected and established. A stable and prosperous Sandakan means a stable and prosperous Zamboanga.  At the same time, we would also like to see our other neighbours in Mindanao achieving high economic growths. The spillover effects of rich and stable neighbours to its surrounding regions have been proven worldwide. Thus, we strongly believe in the concept of “Enriching Thy Neighbours”.

Towards this end, the State Government has shown its sincerity and commitment by undertaking various projects in Sandakan to further strengthen the trade ties and flourishing trade flows between Zamboanga and Sandakan. For instance, the State Government has relocated and constructed a new barter trade jetty to cater for the expanding barter trade between the two cities. Sandakan Port has also been upgraded and expanded to meet the rising number ferry passengers and volume of ferry cargo. Steps have also been taken to ensure the safety of the ferry passengers at the landing and departure points at the Port. Much efforts have also been taken by the State Government to improve its delivery system through more efficient and effective administrative procedures and regulations.

Finally, before I officially launch this seminar, I would again like to point out that the sisterhood relationship between Sandakan and Zamboanga must be treasured and cherished. I would like to propose that a Joint Business Council between Sandakan and Zamboanga be formed. The objective of this Council is to serve as a platform to create “economic synergy” that would bring mutual benefits to the business community in both Sandakan and Zamboanga.  The Council will also serve as an important vehicle to promote greater trade, investment and cultural interactions. A five-year business plan could be formulated by the Council to spearhead its business activities. Activities of the Council could include trade missions, trade exhibitions, business-matching sessions, business consultations and so forth.  With the setting up of such a Council, I am confident that we can look forward towards an even  brighter economic future of the twin cities.  

With this remarks, in now officially declare this seminar open and I wish you all a fruitful seminar.

Thank you.

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