MIRI: There is a need to drastically improve rural air services in remote Sarawak, says Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) deputy president Datuk Nelson Balang Rining.
He said while the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Transport, had renewed its contract with MASWings for another seven years, it must relook the present ground situation regarding airstrips and flight sche- dules.
“The Federal Government is aware that we have to rely on low-cost travels and that air links are important as roads to rural settlements are either in very bad condition or non-existent at all,” he said yesterday.
“The Federal Government understands the needs of the rural people in east Malaysia. I thank the Government for continuing to subsidise rural air services in Sarawak and Sabah.”
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had said a total subsidy worth RM190mil would be provided to MASWings, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, to cater to the needs of the rural people of Sarawak and Sabah.
MASWings flies to about 50 destinations in Sarawak and Sabah now.
“While we in Sarawak are happy to see the extension of contract with MASWings, we also call on the Government to again look at the situation of rural airports and improve the rural flight services,” he said.
Balang said the SPDP Bakelalan constituency needed more airstrips and flights on a daily basis.
He said, for example, the Long Semadoh area and surrounding villages had a population of more than 2,000 but the Long Semadoh airstrip is no longer operating.
“Flights to Long Semadoh had stopped for several years already,” he said.
“In the Bakelalan village itself, MASWings operates three flights per week from Miri. This is not enough to cater to the increasing needs as more people there have to travel to Miri and other urban centres for important tasks.”
Balang urged the Government to reopen the Long Semadoh airstrip and reactivate flights to Miri, and Miri to Bakelalan, on a daily basis.
“We are thankful for the Government’s attention but there are still plenty of areas that must be given air connectivity,” he stressed.