Security check: Shahidan taking a tour of Pulau Berhala in waters off Sandakan.
SANDAKAN: Tourism in Sabah’s east coast is beginning to pick up again with the high level of security in place, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said.
He said about 600 to 700 tourists were heading daily to the various island resorts in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), proving that tourist confidence had been restored.
He said the number of tourists heading to the various resorts would eventually hit about 1,000 daily, which was the figure before the area was hit by a spate of kidnappings.
Shahidan, who is on a two-day visit to the Esszone islands off Sandakan, said the returning confidence was due to the increased presence of Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) forces.
“Our forces are placed in areas where there are resorts, and this has resulted in increasing tourist arrivals,’’ he said after visiting Turtle Island (Pulau Selingan) and other islands here.
Shahidan, who was accompanied by Esscom commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, said every effort was being made by the Government to keep eastern Sabah safe but said there was still room for improvement.
“We will take immediate steps to further boost and improve security,” he said.
Between April and July, Filipino gunmen linked to Abu Sayyaf militants grabbed a total of six hostages in four separate raids in Semporna, Lahad Datu and Kunak.
Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed while Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, was taken hostage by Filipino gunmen when they struck at Mabul Water Bungalows in Semporna on July 12.
Malaysian fish farmer Chan Sai Chuin, 32, who was grabbed from Kunak on June 16, is still being held by militants in the southern Philippines island of Jolo.
On the sea curfew implemented at six districts in the east coast until Aug 17, Shahidan said that it was a necessary move to ensure overall security.
The minister said there were also plans to increase the capacity of the three temporary immigration detention centres in Sabah that could now hold some 6,000 persons at any one time.