Posted on 20 Jul 2023
Source of News: The Borneo Post

KUCHING (July 20): The federal government will continue to subsidise around RM210 million a year for Rural Air Service (RAS) in East Malaysia even after the Sarawak government takes over MASwings, assured Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

He said this commitment is to ensure that the RAS will continue to be enjoyed by the people of Sarawak and Sabah.

“As far as we are concerned, the most important thing here is that RAS will not be disrupted, the service must continue and the passengers will not be affected.

“The service must go on and there is not even a one day lapse. That is our main objective and condition,” he told reporters when met after witnessing the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Sarawak and federal governments for the acquisition of the RAS here today.

Also present were Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, Deputy Premiers Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan and Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Sarawak Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin, Minister in the Premier of Sarawak’s Department Datuk John Sikie Tayai, Sarawak Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, and Deputy State Secretary Datu Dr Muhammad Abdullah Zaidel.

The MoU was signed by Sarawak Ministry of Transport permanent secretary Dato Alice Jawan Empaling and federal Ministry of Transport secretary general Dato Jana Santhiran Muniayan.

Loke assured that even when the current agreement for the subsidy ends in December 2024, the federal Ministry of Transport will come up with a new agreement that is expected to continue from 2025 onwards.

“Once Sarawak takes over MASwings, a fresh agreement will be negotiated and we will proceed with a new agreement for 2025 and beyond,” he said.

On the MoU, Loke said it is an assurance of the federal government’s continuous support for the RAS in Sarawak.

“This MoU is important to give commitment to Sarawak that even when they take over MASwings, this subsidy will continue and this agreement will continue with that.

“That is the understanding that we have reached. There are no other parties we will talk to in terms of RAS. It’s only Sarawak.

“It is government-to-government and I think that it is very important for us to display our commitment and show our sincerity,” he said.

He added that as far as the federal government is concerned, it wants to work closely with the Sarawak government for the benefit of the people in both Sarawak and Sabah.

Previously, the federal Ministry of Transport signed an RAS agreement with MASwings Sdn Bhd on July 3, 2008 for a period of 10 years.

This was followed by a new RAS agreement which was signed on Jan 4, 2019 for a period of six years starting from Jan 1, 2019 to Dec 31, 2024.

Based on the criteria set under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015, the federal government currently has designated 40 routes as RAS routes operated by MASwings using ATR72 and Twin Otter aircraft.

Between 2019 and 2022, MASwings has recorded a total of 2,407,954 passengers, most of whom are residents from rural Sarawak and Sabah.

The Borneo Post

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