PETALING JAYA: Transport minister Loke Siew Fook has again thrown his support behind establishing an international ferry route connecting Kudat in Sabah to Palawan in the Philippines.
Loke said the ferry route was a good idea as it would boost the socioeconomic prospects and the tourism sector of not just Kudat but Sabah as a whole.
According to Bernama, the minister said “discussions on how to realise this” proposal were held after Kudat MP Verdon Bahanda floated the idea in the Dewan Rakyat last year.
“There are many matters for us to consider, including the aspects of security, economy and sea routes.
“I think all these are positive factors for us to jointly develop Kudat as an important gateway to Sabah and Malaysia.
“So, I support what has been mooted and will play my part to help realise this potential,” he was quoted as saying.
Verdon’s proposal is not new. A roll-on, roll-off Kudat-Palawan ferry service was slated to commence operations in February 2018 but the project did not take off.
In May 2019, during his first tenure as transport minister, Loke said the service would be operational in “just a matter of a few weeks or a month”.
However, border security concerns and failure to comply with legal requirements were reportedly behind the delays in commencing the service.
In November, Verdon asked about Putrajaya’s plans for the ferry route. Loke said the government was still waiting for the Philippine authorities to suggest a suitable vessel as it must abide by international maritime safety standards.
Palawan is a tourist haven known in the Philippines for its diving activities, among others.
Its Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a Unesco heritage site known for its biodiversity, white sandy beaches and coral reefs.