Monday, October 20, 2014

Crocker Range accorded Biosphere reserve status


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has officially declared 350,584 hectares of Sabah's Crocker Range Park comprising its core and buffer zones and an expanded transition zone as a Man And Biosphere (MAB) reserve aimed at improving man's relationship with his ecosystems through education and science.

This historic declaration for Sabah marks the second of such honour for Malaysia, after Pahang's Lake Chini on December 8, 2009, out of a total of 620 in the world.

So, it's a very rare breed in the country. Amidst fanfare and pomp of Unesco Day celebration at Dataran Merdeka last Saturday, Unesco Regional Director Professor Dr Hubert Gizjin presented Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin a certificate of recognition which officially declares the 75km long and 15km wide Crocker Range Park as a MAB reserve.

The event has enlarged the original protected core and buffer zones from 199,000 hectares (1,444.92 sq km) to 350,584 hectares by an inclusion of 1457.79 sq km of forest reserves encompassing eight districts - Kota Kinabalu, Penampang, Papar, Beaufort, Tenom, Keingau, Tambunan and Ranau. Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, later handed the designation certificate to Sabah's Assistant Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Nyuk Ming, who represented his Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, witnessed by Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap.

Effectively, this declaration makes Crocker Range Biosphere part of the Sweden's Jonkoping University, known for being the most international university with an extensive exchange partners of 350 universities worldwide, which may prove a good helping hand to share insights and skills on working out a roadmap to improve the protection of Sabah's stock of ecosystems that are under stress.

But unlike the Kinabalu Park which is a totally protected area, the Crocker Range Park hitherto featured Community Use Zones defined areas where traditional human activities may be continued under an innovative co-management system to manage part of the core zones and also the buffer zones, agreed between the protected area or Park Authority and the local communities, in recognition that they were there before the park was established.

What's new about the Crocker Range Biosphere reserve is that it will henceforth incorporate the eight districts afore-cited, into the decision making process where development is going to be based on verified scientific research and continual monitoring. But besides terrestrial ecosystems, biosphere reserves also include the coastal ecosystems.

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MASwings may shift operations to Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: MASwings is said to be contemplating shutting down its Kuala Lumpur office in an attempt to consolidate the airline's operations.

It is also understood that the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) subsidiary may also shift its present hub in Miri to Kota Kinabalu, while its present Kuala Lumpur workforce may be transferred, here.

However, efforts to obtain a confirmation of the plan were futile. The airline had last month indicated there would be a 30 per cent job cut to right-size its operations and speed up the process of transferring Maswings operations here.

Based on news reports, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns 70 per cent in MAS, would offer staff four options including accepting employment in a proposed new firm, accepting a voluntary separation scheme, or be re-deployed.

At a press briefing last month, Khazanah Nasional Bhd Managing Director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar announced that a new company would be set up to take over MAS' operations by July 1.

A new Chief Executive Officer would be appointed and the numbers of employees would be reduced to 14,000, while operations will focus on regional routes, before the new firm took over operations next year.

Although the whole exercise including initiating a recovery plan is estimated a whopping RM6 billion, both local Maswings and MAS staff believed the job cutting exercise had already begun.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Star Cruises returns to Sabah with new destination


KOTA KINABALU: Star Cruises will return to Sabah and homeport in Kota Kinabalu from Nov 8 till March 1 next year.

And this time around its 13-storey SuperStar Aquarius will introduce a new destination to Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan Island in the Philippines.

In the offing is a voyage of 4D/3N Kota Kinabalu/Puerto Princesa City, two-night high seas cruise (available alternate week) and the regular one night high seas cruise.

In conjunction with the deployment of SuperStar Aquarius, Star Cruises in collaboration with the Philippine Department of Tourism organised a familiarisation trip to Puerto Princesa on Oct 14-17 to sample some of the tourism attractions that could be promoted to visitors later.

Also in the entourage were local tour and travel agents as well as local and national media members to help sell and promote the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines, which is home to many beautiful sights and natural wonders.

Among the places that the entourage from Malaysia visited include the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven wonders of nature. It was endorsed on January 28, 2012.

Visitors will take a paddled boat ride inside the underground river to see the many fascinating rock formations, large bats and deep water hole in the river.

Those who like swimming, snorkelling, diving and enjoy the sandy beach, can take a ride on board the banca, a traditional boat for islands hopping at Honda Bay.

For a day trip, visitors can stopover to see the many type of fishes at Pambato Reef which is a floating platform before heading Pandan Island and Cowrie Island.

There are also many interesting sites within the city to explore and discover and one of such is the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, formerly known as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park.

Endangered species like the Philippine Crocodile, as well as other endemic wildlife to the island such as the bearcat, are also protected in the sanctuary.

Also, take a glimpse of the unconventional religious structures by visiting the Immaculate Conception Church, which is famous for its angular structure as well as visit the flea market to find its cultured freshwaters pearls and local crafts.

Activities in the evening beside dinner, the visitors can also go for a quiet paddled river cruise at the Mangrove Eco-Tourism & Wildlife Park for the Iwahig firefly watching.

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Cabbage Festival - It’s raining cabbage in Kundasang


KUNDASANG: Thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the three-day Cabbage Festival to celebrate some of the best and freshest locally-grown produce around.

Due to its cool mountain climate and fertile landscape, the Kundasang highlands is ideal for growing a wide array of temperate vegetables ranging from cabbages, lettuces, spinach, beets, tomatoes and broccoli all year round.

“While it’s a great way to promote local produce, such festival is a great opportunity to promote modern agriculture methods to help farmers grow quality produce more consistently,” said event organising officer, Ramlen Nordin.

Moreover, he added that there is a greater need to help local farmers adopt modern agriculture practices such as fertigation technology which are mainly being operated by companies operating in the area.

Every year, the townsfolk would hold the Cabbage Festival from 17-19 Oct, which provides an opportunity for the local farming community to showcase their wide range of locally-grown cabbage varieties.

“This is a great way to show that local farming communities are just as capable of producing fresh and quality temperate vegetables that meets market standards,” said Farmers Association official, Paimin Wasimin, adding that there were many local and international tourists seen visiting annual cabbage fair.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mount Kinabalu limited to 192 climbers daily


KOTA KINABALU: Policy makers have been urged to think of the future generations when they enact new policies.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun made the call yesterday during the Asia Pacific Ecotourism Conference 2014 (APECO 2014) at the Pacific Sutera Harbour near here yesterday.

He urged policy makers to stop merely thinking of the needs of the present and to also consider the needs of the future generation.

“The present thinking is to take everything now which is very selfish. We need to think of how our policies are going to impact on the future generation,” he said.

Masidi commended the current government, stating that it has already taken steps to create policies that were unpopular yet crucial for the State.

Among the policies that have benefited Sabah, particularly the eco-tourism sector is the State government’s policy of reducing its dependency on logging activities and to protect its forests. The State Government aims to protect 55 percent of its forests.

“It was not a popular policy but we need to differentiate between striving to become popular or striving to make the right decision…we need to work towards what brings bigger benefits to Sabah,” he said.

He also urged leaders, namely policy makers to have the common sense to leave a good legacy.

“It will not be easy but we have to plan beyond our lifetime,” he said.

During the event, Masidi said the government had decided to limit visitors to Sipadan and Mount Kinabalu to 120 divers and 192 climbers, respectively on a daily basis.

He said that the carrying capacity for both the tourism destination in Sabah was fixed so as to protect their pristine nature.

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