Need for Sipadan projects questioned

By Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: Stop planning more buildings at Pulau Sipadan as existing structures are sufficient to cater to divers, said a former senior official of the state tourism ministry.

Former State Tourism, Culture and Environment permanent secretary Datuk Wilfred Lingham said there were about a dozen structures, apart from public facilities like toilets, in Sipadan. Six dive operators, who were asked to move out from the island last year, had left these facilities behind.

Wilfred also questioned the need to build a restaurant and dive shop in Sipadan, adding that such facilities were available at Pulau Mabul, a 15-minute boat ride away, and in nearby Semporna town where many divers stayed.

Wilfred’s remarks came a day after Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman ordered a suspension of construction work on Sipadan following an incident on May 15 in which a barge destroyed a coral patch the size of two tennis courts at the island.

In Petaling Jaya, IZATUN SHARI reports Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Kamaruddin Siaraf as saying the damage to Sipadan’s coral reef would not affect the country’s tourism sector much. He said this was because of remedial actions taken by the relevant authorities. He said Sabah Parks and the Fisheries Department as well as the armed forces and police were monitoring the activities of vessels in the island’s vicinity.

“Previously, we allowed anybody to go there but now the Sabah government is controlling tourist arrivals,” he told reporters after launching the “Cuti-cuti Malaysia Travel Fair” at the One Utama shopping centre yesterday. He also said the ministry expected to receive responses from the international community on the matter.

Source: The Star Online, 21 May 2006

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