CITY.....View of the Balikpapan city from Gunung Dupp.
By : OLIVER MAJAHAM
The East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA ) comprises Brunei Darussalam, the 14 provinces of the Indonesia islands of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan in Malaysia and the islands of Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippine.
Together they cover 1.6 million square kilometres (160,000,000 hectares) with a total population of 57.5 million people. As such the BIMP-EAGA region offers vast potential in terms of investment, business, trade, and tourism.
Sabah and Sarawak are both strategically located to interact forcefully with the dynamic and rapidly growing North East Asian Economies.
And MASwings is poised to play a central role to connect countries in this region. It will soon introduce direct flights between Kota Kinabalu and Balikpapan and between Kuching and Balikpapan in its flight schedule.
The direct link between Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Kalimantan and the Philippines will offer exciting commercial and tourism possibilities.
BARU......A new township called Balikpapan Baru.
Balikpapan, which is located on the east coast of the island of Borneo in Kalimantan Timur (Kaltim for short), is the gateway and the economic hub to Indonesia's richest province of East Kalimantan.
Because of its proximity to the Straits of Makassar, this seaport city, the second largest in East Kalimantan after Samarindah, became the principal regional oil refinery and transportation centre since the discovery of large oil and gas deposits at the end of the 19th Century.
Endowed with rich natural resources, its main exports are oil and gas products, minerals and timber.
Balikpapan's rapid economic growth is reflected in the expansion of the city. Dubbed Kalimantan's mini Metropolis, the city boasts 7 modern shopping malls, 27 (3 stars and above) hotels and other modern infrastructure.
Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah, Minister of Industrial DevelopmentThe importance of Balikpapan as an economic gateway to resource- rich East Kalimantan can be seen when Sabah's Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah led a trade delegation for a 2 day (Nov 8-9) visit to Balikpapan in November to explore the possibility of forging closer business and industrial cooperation between East Kalimantan and Sabah.
Datuk Raymond Tan said there are many avenues for industrial joint ventures and collaboration between Sabah and East Kalimantan, particularly in the field of oil and gas industry. Hence, he called on industrialists from East Kalimantan and Balikpapan in particular to seriously consider the investment prospects in Sabah.
He considered the the introduction of the upcoming direct flight to Balikpapan via Kota Kinabalu in Sabah by MASwing as an opportune time to look into such regional cooperation.
According to MASwings' Vice President (Corporate Services and Communications), Yazid Mohamed, the upcoming flights to Balikpapan via Kota Kinabalu and Kuching is in response to the need to bring BIMP-EAGA countries closer together.
"We are the first airline that has shown determination to connect BIMP-EAGA towns,' Yazid told a press conference at Tawau airport.
Yazid pointed that the upcoming flights are intended to connect people among the BIMP-EAGA member countries.
MASwing is confident there will be demand for the flight in view of the population size of 700,000 people in Balikpapan and another 1.2 million people in Samarindah, the capital of Kaltim, which is located about 3 hours drive from Balikpapan.
The flight to Balikpapan will be via Kota Kinabalu and Kuching and the flying time is approximately 1 hour 55 minutes.
Currently MASwing provides flights to 3 BIMP-EAGA destinations, i.e.Brunei, Tarakan and Pontianak via Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Kuching.
Yazid said that in spreading its wings further afield MASwing will not neglect its duties as a provider of rural air transport in Sabah and Sarawak.
Chairman of BIMP-EAGA Malaysia Business Council Datuk Roselan Johar MohamedAccording to Chairman of BIMP-EAGA Malaysia Business Council , Datuk Roselan Johar Mohamed, the introduction of the direct flight from Kota Kinabalu to Balikpapan is timely and in line with the government's call to provide better transportation services within BIMP-EAGA region through air, sea and land.
Roselan added that with better air connectivity, tourist arrivals from both countries will improve, and there will also be more trade and investment opportunities between Sabah and East Kalimantan.
Roselan informed Insight Sabah that besides oil and gas, palm oil and the timber industry, the other potential sector that can be explored in Balikpapan and Kaltim are the furniture, textile, handicraft and natural herbs medicine industries.
As to what Sabah can offer to the people of Balikpapan and Kalimantan as a whole, Roselan said there appears to be demand for private healthcare services and private education such as is offered by international schools and private colleges and universities. "These are areas we can look into," he said.
In its bid to become an active regional player in the airline industry, MASwings is also planning to launch a new route to Puerto Princesa in the Philippines in the first quarter of 2013, subject to regulatory approval.
The Balikpapan flight via Kota Kinabalu and Kuching is expected to be launched on 18 January 2013, if the airline can secure the government green light to proceed. (Insight Sabah)