MIRI: The more than one million people living in more than 5,000 longhouses and hard-to-reach remote settlements in the state have been advised to start stockpiling fuel and food supplies to last throughout the landas season.
This pre-emptive measure, however, is allowed only in the nearly 500 approved rural point of sales throughout Sarawak.
This is following a decision by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to allow flexibility in the quotas of fuel for these remote settlements.
The supply of fuel is tightly controlled, with specific quotas imposed on the amount that can be supplied, but in view of the escalating bad weather in the interior, the ministry would waive the quota system temporarily and approve additional supplies to be stockpiled, the ministry’s state director Wan Ahmad Uzir Wan Sulaiman told The Star yesterday.
“I have heard that in some places in the deep interior, the oil tankers cannot reach them anymore due to the bad road conditions caused by the bad weather.
“For safety reasons, these big tankers cannot take the risks of travelling along these bad roads. The rural folk, on the other hand, are not allowed to bring fuel in huge amount on their own, also for safety reasons.
“Therefore, the only way to ensure enough fuel and also food stock during the coming wet months is to allow the ministry-approved rural points of sales to start stockpiling these vital items starting from now,” he added.
“Before the full-scale onslaught of the rain, these essential goods should be stocked to last through the coming wet months.
“This will enable the rural folks who are in need of the fuel and food to buy from the rural points of sales (usually located in longhouses, near rural clinics or schools),” he said.
Wan Ahmad said the ministry had imposed a strict quota system for the supply of fuel to every point of sales whereby each was allowed to source only a specific volume every month.
“However, we will waive the quota system for the rural points of sales for this coming months and allow flexibility based on the estimated demand.
“Those suppliers who are licenced by the ministry to send fuel into these rural places under our community-drumming programme can start applying for the extra stock from our ministry’s office now,” he said when asked to comment on claims that in some parts of ulu Baram, the rural roads were getting very muddy and difficult for heavy vehicles to ply.
Some longhouse folk in central and upper Baram are worried that they may soon face shortage of diesel, petrol and cooking gas, as well as essential foodstuffs like flour, sugar and cooking oil once these rural roads get flooded.
Asked if his ministry would allow more people to stockpile fuel, and not just those operating the point of sales approved by the ministry, he said that was not allowed for safety reasons.
“We cannot allow anyone to stockpile huge amount of fuel. Anyone who wants to buy big volume of fuel or transport them on their own must apply for a permit from our ministry.
“We only allow those with licence to handle this sort of risky task,” he stressed.
Asked how much extra fuel each point of sales could stockpile, he said there was no limit to the extra volume as it would depend on the anticipated needs of the specific area.
The food and fuel sold by these sellers at the rural point of sales are priced at the same rate as those sold in cities and towns because the Federal Government foot the transportation costs of sending these goods from the cities and towns to these destinations.
The transportation subsidy was implemented starting 2008.
Before that, the prices of fuel and food in rural regions in Sarawak could cost up to three or four times the prices in the urban centres because the sellers passed on the transportation costs to the buyers.