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‘Make Visitors Have A Happy Experience’

KUCHING: Local tourism industry players must band together and show tourists that Sarawak is a destination they won’t regret visiting.

With new flight routes added at end of last year and tourism infrastructure such as hotels coming up ‘we must now make sure that visitors leave here satisfied with their experience’, said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youths and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

We have seen new hotel expansions and development, and even new hospitals. Health tourism here has been quite an achievement. Even when Kuching is considered to be quite small, there are six private hospitals, he said, adding that health tourism is developing very fast, with the Pontianak sector being an important factor.

Abdul Karim added that apart from health tourism, there is also education tourism and sports tourism to explore and cultivate in order to bring more tourists into Sarawak.

He was speaking during the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) Appreciation Night on Monday.

On sports tourism, we have managed to secure a lot of big events for the next two years. When the athletes, crew and fans come over, they will have to stay at hotels, they will have to visit restaurants and places of interest.

However, STB and local stakeholders still have to be pro-active in enticing visitors and going up against competition from around South East Asia, he added.

The tourism industry is very much affected by the slowdown of world economy, but very resilient. We can rise up to the occasion when the environment is right.

Abdul Karim said that they would continue to enhance the product experience and focus in the marketplace, together with Tourism Malaysia and tourism industry players.

In the same event, STB honoured four of their staff for excellent service and one for long service.

STB also presented former ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik with a memento and wished him well in his new posting at the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development.

Also present at the event were Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin; Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan; the ministry’s new permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee; STB chairman Abdul Wahab Aziz and deputy CEO Mary Wan Mering.

Source: The Borneo Post

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ASEAN, China Plan First Joint Naval Training in 2018

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plan to hold maritime drills later this year in a move security analysts said could be Beijing's way of consolidating power as it moves forward with militarization efforts in the South China Sea.

The two sides announced the agreement earlier this week in Singapore, which hosted defense ministers from the region and Chinese Gen. Chang Wanquan.

A joint statement said while all parties agreed terrorism remained the key challenge in the region, participants reaffirmed the importance of coming up with a code to prevent unplanned encounters on the sea and air.

In particular, the ministers discussed ways to improve practical cooperation and welcomed the conduct of an inaugural ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise at the end of this year, the statement said without announcing a date for the drills.

Sources said tabletop exercises could take place sometimes in October followed by naval exercises involving one of the 10 ASEAN nations later in the year.

The Philippines, which hosted ASEAN meetings last year and appears to have improving ties with Beijing, could be tapped for the inaugural drills, according to a foreign department source who requested anonymity.

Beijing proposed drills three years ago, but some ASEAN members had expressed apprehension because of rising tensions in the South China Sea.

China claims much of the region while rival Taiwan and ASEAN countries Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippine and Vietnam have their own stakes in the South China. In 2016, the Hague-Based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines in its challenge to China's efforts in the region.

China has rejected the ruling and continues to expand structures including landing strips on islands it has claimed.

One of President Rodrigo Duterte's first official acts after taking office in June 2016 was a state visit to Beijing in what was seen as a gesture to improve relations with the regional giant.

Hegemony

On Friday, Richard Javad Heydarian, a political analyst at Manila's De La Salle University, said China is moving toward appeasing the South China Sea claimants even as it continues with its vast expansion.

Clearly the Chinese strategy is to seek and secure acquiescence of ASEAN through confidence-building measures and non-ending talks on the Code of Conduct � with most Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines � embracing strategic fatalism amid China's emerging hegemony, he told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

China, Heydarian said, is banking on its overwhelming military supremacy over smaller Southeast Asian states who can gain massive economic benefits if they dropped their antagonistic stance.

Clearly, it's working wonders in Duterte's Philippines, he said, referring to millions of dollars in pledges and contracts from the Chinese side.

In China's view, domination of that area is key to keeping America's naval prowess and footprint in adjacent waters in check, he said.

Benham Rise

Duterte recently demanded a stop to all foreign explorations in the Benham Rise, a mineral-rich undersea region in the Pacific Ocean after learning a Chinese research vessel was granted access.

The Philippines recently laid claim to the region, where it has been carrying out research studies to map out its resources.

Heydarian said that apart from area having major aquatic and mineral resources, gaining access and control there could be key for China to monitor American submarine movement.

They want to protect their burgeoning submarine capacity, which is still vulnerable to western and Japanese technology, he said.

Roilo Golez, the country's ex-national security adviser, urged the government to closely guard the Benham Rise, noting that Beijing was scouting for new sources of energy to power its economy forward.

He warned Chinese submarines could travel to the area undetected constituting a threat to the security of the Philippines and our allies in the western Pacific.

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