THE implementation of the cabotage policy should not be blamed as the sole factor for Malaysia’s exclusion from the Apricot subsea cable system project, especially since the policy has existed as far back as 1980, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
He said that Malaysia’s involvement or otherwise in Apricot or other projects was based on various factors, including the offer made and conditions set by a technology giant.
“The policy has been in effect since 1980. The current cancellation of the cabotage policy exemption is only for repair works (not installation) and does not prevent the entry of foreign investments in the digital industry.
“This can be observed through the implementation of new subsea cable projects such as the Malaysia, India, Singapore, Thailand (MIST) Cable System connecting Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand and India, as well as the India-Asia Xpress Cable System,” he explained.
Wee was replying to a request for explanation from Lim Guan Eng in the Dewan Rakyat on Sept 30, 2021 regarding the ‘loss’ in foreign investment from the Apricot project – in with Google and Facebook are taking part – after the current government revoked the cabotage exemption for high-tech companies.
The minister also pointed out that the MIST cable system would be connected to the Apricot system, which in turn would connect Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Indonesia.
“As announced by Arus Restu Sdn Bhd (ARSB), the local company responsible for building a cable landing station in Selangor for the MIST cable system, on Aug 23, 2021, the MIST cable system will be connected to the Apricot cable system to provide an alternative route to connect major cities in Asia-Pacific securely and to boost the region’s Internet capacity.
“The two interconnected systems will connect Malaysia directly to Guam, Japan and Taiwan as well,” Wee said.
Meanwhile, he said that the cabotage policy exemption given for subsea cable repair activities previously announced only referred to the exemption for foreign ships to confirm there was no local vessels available before applying for the Domestic Shipping Licence (DSL).
“When the exemption was given, DSL would only be requested after a foreign vessel entered Malaysian waters.
“The Transport Ministry is of the view that it is better and more orderly for DSL applications to be made before foreign vessels enter Malaysian waters. It is a question of sovereignty,” he said.