The transport cluster meeting of the 7th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area in Davao this week will discuss the Palawan-Kudat roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) ferry service, one of the co-operation initiatives that are yet to prosper.

In a report by Malaysian news website Daily Express published on September 23, BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC) Malaysia chairman Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamed was quoted in saying that although there is no certainty that the issue can be ironed out immediately, “bringing our tedious matters for deliberation by the four governments of BIMP is already good enough for the transport industry.”

The meeting in Davao will be from September 24-26.

Roselan said the proposed Kudat-Palawan RoRo ferry link is high on their list because commitments and assurances have been made and yet, its operation is not happening.

“Promises have been made and assurances doubled, but the ferry is nowhere in sight. When the economic situation is on the low side, we should resort to whatever mode we have to boost the trading activities. After all, the bulk of the traders themselves are from the low-income group,” Roselan said.

He said the government of Malaysia must decide “between economic prosperity for the people and political security and sovereignty enhancement for Sabah”.

Roselan said if the federal government decides to choose the latter, it will leave people, particularly the business sector, in distress as they would not know “where and what else to trade.”

“We feel our learned Minister is empowered to exercise his exemption ruling to allow the ferry to operate within six to 12 months pending upgrading of the relevant certificates to cater for international routes. Otherwise, we can only assume that there is another Minister somewhere who is more powerful to decide otherwise,” Roselan said.

He said the Kudat-Palawan ferry is relatively new and needs a half-a-year grace period to assess if the route will work successfully.

Roselan added in the Daily Express that if there is no profit, the sea link can still ply their domestic routes, saving the money required to improve certificates and vessel structures.

He said they are hoping that the Transport Ministry of Malaysia will take their plea into consideration for the sake of solidarity in the BIMP-EAGA.