Mount Kinabalu was gazetted as Sabah’s first World Heritage site four years ago and this would eventually make Sabah unique in Malaysia as having three tourism sites enjoying such rare global recognition.
It would complement Sabah’s image as the place to go to for the best of the mountain, sea and forest.
The Mulu caves in Sarawak is the other World Heritage Site in East Malaysia. While Sipadan is famed for its diving, Maliau Basin, referred to as the “Lost World” is one of the last frontiers of Borneo’s untouched tropical rainforest.
“These are the areas we are working on to place under the World Heritage list,” Chong, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said after launching a Handicrafts Exotic Fiesta in conjunction with World Museum Day and Sabah Fest held at the State Museum Cultural Village here.
Chong added that the Government is aware of the requirements needed to make the two destinations as the worldwide-protected natural environment areas.
On Monday, Parti Keadilan Nasional’s Sabah Deputy Chairman Christina Liew, urged the State Government to secure the gazetteing of Sipadan as a World Heritage Site if the Government was really sincere in preserving the island as a State natural heritage.
Meanwhile, Chong said ample time had been given to the five dive operators on the island to relocate their man-made structures by the end of this year.
He is confident that all the operators would comply with the order. By next year, the island will be run by the Sabah Parks, he said.
He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman had stated clearly that “we are doing this to preserve the environment, thus ensuring Sipadan remains the Number One diving spot in the world.
“We will be very surprised if any of them objects to the decision. They should acknowledge that at the end of the day, it will be in their interest for the survival of the State’s diving industry and in the interest of Sabah.”
According to him, the five dive operators in the island - Borneo Divers, Sipadan Dive, Abdillah Dive Centre, Pulau Sipadan Resort and Borneo Sea - have been operating there for more than 10 years.
He said the diving business would go on as usual as divers could still go to the island but on a regulated basis.
Meanwhile, Chong said the State Government was also going all out to instil awareness and interest in the younger generation to acknowledge the traditional handicrafts of indigenous people.
“There is a need to put more effort in educating and instilling interest in the youths to be more aware of the traditional handicrafts.
“The interest is there but not very encouraging. In fact, we are combining our heads to further discuss ways to improve the interest and awareness not only among the younger generation but everybody who comes visiting Sabah,” he said.
Chong urged visitors to the museum to grab the opportunity to learn the art of making handcrafts as such skills were rarely passed on these days.
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