Deputy Chief Minister cum State Infrastructure Development Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan has dismissed claims that work on the Sabah Pan Borneo Highway Phase 1 is behind schedule.
He said that the state government is following strict procedures to ensure that certain orders are fulfilled and that contractors are appointed for all 35 packages by year's end.
Responding to Chan Foong Hin's (DAP-Sri Tanjong) additional question during the state assembly sitting here, Pairin said: "I think YB is trying to confuse the (issue).
"We must stick to stringent procedures. Even appointing (contractors) takes time. We do not have a magic wand to flick and make everything happen at once.
"What we want to see is the tendering and determining of contractors for all packages done by this year... so then, we can focus on work," he said.
Chan raised concerns of "latenessâ€ in the construction of the highway, saying that only five packages out of the total are in the midst of execution; and that 6/7th of Phase 1 would need to be rushed in the next four years to meet the deadline.
In his original answer to Datuk Au Kam Wah (BN-Elopura) on the highway's progress, Pairin stated that they are in the midst of securing three packages, and the remaining 27 are in the design stage.
The five packages currently in the construction stage are Sindumin-Kampung Melalia and Kg Lot M-Sandakan Mile 32, which started in May this year; Lahad Datu Bypass, which started at the end of last year; and Papar-Donggongon and Balung-Semporna, which started in the middle of last year. All packages were awarded to local contractors.
Phase 1, which has a RM12.86 billion allocation, is expected to be completed by Dec 31, 2021.
On a separate question, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, responding to Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing (Parti Cinta Sabah-Tamparuli), said that 72 communal grants, involving 48,191 hectares and 213 villages with 10,462 beneficiaries statewide, have been issued by the state government via the Lands and Surveys Department since the programme's inception in 2010.
Out of the figure, 13 grants, involving 24,415 hectares, have been developed through joint ventures with government agencies or corporations. The projects encompass 90 villages and 3,993 beneficiaries for commodities like palm oil and rubber.