Locals to fully run proposed island resort in Semporna

KOTA KINABALU: A booming tourism industry is nothing if locals do not benefit from it, said Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming.

Speaking at the Maritime Environmental Security Workshop 2017 yesterday, Pang said the local community must be involved in the development of tourism in the State, in order to generate income and improve their standard of living.

In line with the government’s plan to gazette 10 per cent of Sabah’s ocean as protected areas, Pang said management of the areas should include locals.

“To gazette the areas is easy, but we need a holistic approach on how to manage them. We, in the Anti-Fish Bombing Committee have been working in overdrive to present to the government a holistic approach that’s not only to stop fish bombing, but also on how to manage all the gazetted areas and the proper way to manage them.

“The direction we’re going to go in from now onwards is community-based management.

“The Malaysian government has set aside quite a good amount of financial assistance for cooperatives, and I have approached a community in Larapan, which is a small island off the north of Semporna.

“I think they (the community) know what is happening, and they, too, know that they cannot continue with the way they live and their practices. The problem is they do not have an option.

“Even though tourism is so prosperous, the ones making money are all the big guys and the impact of the tourism industry is not felt by the local communities. When that happens, there’s no way to change their (locals’) livelihood,” he said.

To ensure locals also enjoy the fruits of Sabah’s lucrative industry, Pang said the government was in talks to build a resort on the island of Larapan.

The proposed resort will be fully run by locals with about 50 rooms, which can accommodate a projected maximum of 150 patrons.

“Running at 100 per cent capacity with a maximum of 150 pax, we are looking at RM150,000.

“Even if the resort runs at 60 per cent capacity, which is much lower than what Semporna is now doing, it translates into approximately RM10,000 a day, or RM300,000 a month that will go to this community,” he said.

However, Pang said the initiative to improve locals’ lives would not stop there. Guidance will be given in order for the community to manage their resources sustainably.

Other than paying salaries, Pang said the money from the proposed island resort would also be channelled towards education to ensure a better future for the next generation.

He further said measures would be taken to entice locals into looking after the environment, through inspections conducted on houses around the island to check on the cleanliness of its surroundings.

“Incentives will be given to locals who manage to maintain a certain standard of cleanliness. The higher the level, the better the incentives.

“This is how I believe we should go forward and if this idea works, it’s going to be repeated on other islands because I want locals to benefit from tourism,” he said.

Meanwhile, Benny Chung of Borneo Spatial Planning in his presentation said locals have been given the opportunity to improve their livelihood through aquaculture.

“We provide them with training of farming techniques and we teach them how to breed fish fries to maturity.

“We also have other marine products like scallops and seaweed that we can introduce to supplement their income,” he said during his Alternative Livelihoods in the Semporna Priority Conservation Area presentation.

Together with Janet Goh and Khoo Mum Huah, Benny said the key to eradicating or reducing poverty of poor fishermen was by identifying villages that were willing to join the programme.

“Once we provide them with the equipment and materials, we will guide them on how to breed the fish.

“After these fishermen are willing to come and buy the fries and breed them, our cooperative will undertake the duty of buying back the fish so we can then export them to the Hong Kong market.

“We will then assess the farmers on a case-to-case basis and see how they can adapt. After one or two cycles, I think they can grow from small operators to medium operators and if they are keen with our training, they can even grow to a commercial scale,” he said.

Source : Borneo Post