The long-debated bridge linking the island to Menumbok via Pulau Daat may become a reality after all - it is included in the new economic development blueprint for Labuan to be launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak later this month.
However, the island's residents may have to wait till 2020 for the first phase of work on the bridge to begin, according to Chairman of Labuan Corporation-cum-MP Datuk Rozman Isli.
Its completion would complement the billion-ringgit Pan Borneo Highway currently under construction which would link all parts of Malaysian Borneo by road.
Rozman said the bridge is a mega project, capital intensive with high market risk and would need approval from Sabah as well.
"We have to be patient. It is unlike buying a ship," he said and gave no indication of the project cost.
Despite the challenges he is confident the bridge would become a reality "as it is the answer to Labuan's uncertain future and hope of many".
He said the bridge would be a game-changer for the economy of the Federal Territory which had come under heavy criticism, including former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh.
Harris had complained that the Federal Government did not live up to its promise to elevate Labuan following its federalisation in 1984 and said incumbent Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman would do a better job of administering it if federal decides to return it to Sabah.
"It (bridge) will not just be a physical link between Labuan and Menumbok. The infrastructure will help the good fortune of many sectors. For a start, it will increase the transit population of Labuan and boost the local economy and encourage development as an education hub," said Rozman.
He said the blueprint's other mission is to try to sustain or strengthen Labuan's position as the regional logistic and gas hub.
"We cannot stop other hubs developing in the region but we have our own strengths such as a deep harbour and duty free status. With the right approach and if we put the assets to greater use we could adjust Labuan's role in complementing other hubs.
"Hence, the question of Labuan's oil and gas hub status disappearing does not arise." He said the blueprint also suggests the elevation of Labuan complements Putrajaya as an administrative centre.
Rozman said tourism has also not been left out of the blueprint. It calls for a greater push for the industry. Limited connectivity meant the flow of goods and services to and from the island is now mostly from Sabah.
In the area of education, Labuan's strategic location should see branch campuses of the various public national universities to serve the East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region and Asean as a whole.
The island also provides the only oil and gas supply base in Sabah and Sarawak. There are currently 200 oil and gas services companies operating on the island.
According to the soon-to-be-announced blueprint, there will be 22 key projects with 52 subcomponents - five quick wins (within one year) projects, 23 short-term (within three years) projects and 24 medium- to long -term projects.
Labuan was declared a federal territory in 1984. In 1990, it was declared an international offshore financial centre