M'sia proposes joint oil exploration with Brunei
By Azlan Othman

Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam could embark on joint oil ventures in the territorial waters of both countries as Malaysia has proposed to Brunei on the possibility of a joint exploration.

Prime Minister Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak, who spoke to Brunei and Malaysian media yesterday, said both countries are working things out within the framework of the Malaysia-Brunei Letters of Exchange (LoEs) pertaining to the demarcation of land and maritime borders agreed upon by both sides and added that the Malaysian side was also looking at various aspects, including the role of national oil corporation, Petronas, although that role had yet to be worked out.

"I don't want to go into specifics but the Brunei side is aware of some of the things that we would like them to take into account," he said at the conclusion of his three-day official visit to Brunei to attend the 13th Annual Leaders' Consultation between the two countries.

He said the proposal was among the consequential matters following the signing of the LoEs on March 16 in which he and His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam reaffirmed their commitment to work together towards the expeditious implementation of elements agreed upon in the document.

The Malaysian premier said Malaysians are looking into projects in Brunei consistent with what His Majesty has said that it should be both ways.

"We are open to it and looking for opportunities. Malaysian companies are strong in construction and we are good builders. In certain niche areas we have expertise like in ICT and services sector and we certainly are looking at the possibilities."

Both countries can work together to explore markets in other countries like marketing Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak tourism as a package, which is attractive to tourists from Australia, for better prospects.

Dato' Sri Najib also said that the 13th Annual Consultation between Brunei and Malaysia was very satisfactory. The agreement on the maritime and land border issues was a major milestone in bilateral ties. With such agreement, the ties have reached new heights. This matter was touched by His Majesty in the four-eye meeting and during the State Banquet Wednesday, he added.

"Several consequential matters from the border agreement need to be discussed and implemented including the land demarcation topographically. Follow-up actions would be taken to find a concrete settlement that can be used as a final agreement. This also goes to other aspects like the role of Petronas and so on, which have been forwarded to the Brunei government for consideration.

"I am convinced that based on the warm and cordial ties during my visit, we could enhance them further for the benefit of both countries," said the premier.

He added that there is no time frame on the land border settlement as it relies on the survey, which would take a long time.

"Any action involving land demarcation normally takes a long period. But what is more important is that the agreement, in principle, has been achieved," he added.

On the progress, the Malaysian premier said there is still a large stretch that needs to be demarcated on the ground that might take some time. "But the important thing is that there is a principle agreement on both maritime and land. So we can now move forward and not allow that to get in the way of improving our bilateral ties," the Malaysian PM said.

Dato' Sri Najib said that among the strategic fields stressed during his meeting with His Majesty, both discussed on how the economic integration between the two economies could be further strengthened. Among the areas identified were the Sabah Corridor, Score Corridor in Sarawak and Iskandar development area.

Among the specific areas and projects that would be considered for investment by Brunei include energy, hydro, Halal hub, Islamic banking, tourism, palm oil cluster and other areas that benefited both countries.

Both countries have also agreed to facilitate people-to-people movement via land, air and sea that could foster ties and attract more Bruneians to go to Malaysia as Brunei is the third most tourism-generating market for Malaysia.

The four-eye meeting also touched on regional and global and developments in both Brunei and Malaysia.

In the next annual consultation in Malaysia next year, Dato' Sri Najib wants to see new areas covered. "We want to see rapid progress in the areas of cooperation touched and various Malaysian ministers have been tasked to discuss with their counterparts, which will be coordinated by Malaysian Wisma Putra. I hope there will be speedy developments that would be tangible," concluded the premier. - Borneo Bulletin (7th August 2009)