The eastern Sabah city may be badly hit if the lifeline ferry services with Zamboanga are suspended.
PRESS STATEMENT I would like to call for armed guards to be placed aboard ferries plying the waters in Sabah rather than moving to suspend their services. The Sandakan-Zamboanga ferry service, for example, is an economic lifeline for Sandakan and its suspension would virtually turn it into a “ghost town”. Sandakan, not so long ago, was known as the “little Hong Kong” of Sabah.
It has since lost its logging hub status and the number of tourists is decreasing because of curfews and other security measures taken. Although Sandakan has lost its economic position over the years, the ferry service has made it a transit point with hotels, eateries and various other businesses. The ferry service cannot be likened to the barter trade.
The ferry service, which has been operating for more than a decade, brings small traders from the southern Philippines to Sandakan. They purchase Malaysian products for sale in the southern Philippines.
In short, the ferry service is seen as a breather that helps boost the local economy. If the ferry service is shut down, Sandakan would lose out once again. The Sandakan Chamber of Commerce could verify this. The authorities concerned should hold discussions with the Chamber before embarking on security measures.
We should not feel ashamed to say that Sandakan benefits from the business brought by the ferries from the southern Philippines.
There are reports that the Sandakan-Zamboanga ferry service would be suspended following the suspension of ferry services between Kudat and Palawan from next month. Tugboats and pump boats are also on the list. It was a painful decision for traders in Kudat especially since they recently clinched several deals with their counterparts in Palawan.
The stationing of armed forces personnel on board ferries should be considered. They can react immediately to any incident. The armed guards can work together with the six US-made helicopters which will be stationed in Sabah.
The arrangement to have armed guards aboard ferries would not be difficult to make under the Bimp-Eaga economic and social co-operation pacts, he argued. The presence of armed forces would serve as a deterrent against any hostile attempts.
Several years ago, when hijackings threatened airlines, air marshals were stationed for a time on board flights.
Fung Ket Wing
Former Sandakan MP