BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - The final "missing link" along the 2,000km Pan Borneo Highway has been fitted in with the opening of a bridge spanning the border of Malaysia and Brunei.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah declared open the 60m-long Friendship Bridge across Sungai Pandaruan that separates Brunei's Temburong district and Sarawak's Limbang district.
The completion of the RM21.9mil bridge constructed by the two countries on a joint-venture basis means that vehicles can travel uninterrupted from Kuching to Miri, before crossing Brunei and re-entering Sarawak at Limbang before going onwards to Lawas and on to Tawau in Sabah.
Both Najib and Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the completion of the bridge would lead to a new era of social and economic development between the northern Sarawak and southern Sabah regions, as well as Brunei.
"With the completion of this bridge, we move closer to realise the ASEAN Community by the year 2015 because this is the last point along the Pan Borneo Highway that had to be linked (by a bridge).
"Last time, we had to use a ferry to cross (Sungai Pandaruan) and the journey can take hours," Najib told reporters here after the bridge's opening ceremony at Kampung Ujong Jalan Temburong.
"There will certainly be a surge (of cross-border trade), that is for sure," said Taib, who was at the press conference together with Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
Najib said the bridge reflected the excellent relationship between the two countries.
"Construction started in May 2012 after both countries agreed during my consultation with the Sultan. It reflects the relationship between both countries that is very good and very positive," he said.
He also pointed out that in October this year, both countries agreed that travellers crossing the Sarawak-Brunei region repeatedly, such as on travels from Kuching to Tawau, Sabah, would only need to have one stamp on the passport.
Before this, up to eight stamps were needed because the northern part of Sarawak is sandwiched between two Brunei districts.