BRUNEI-MUARA – South Korea has touted “infrastructure diplomacy” as a way to deepen ties with Brunei, with Korean firms involved in two of the largest construction projects in the sultanate.

President Moon Jae-in, who just concluded his three-day visit to Brunei, paid a visit to the Temburong Bridge construction site in Kota Batu on Monday, meeting with Korean engineers and staff from Daelim Industrial, one of two international firms engaged to build the 30-kilometre bridge.

“Through your work you are connecting the eastern and western parts of Brunei, as well as its present and future. In preparing for the post-oil era, Brunei is making efforts to diversify its industrial structure,” Moon told Daelim officials at the site.

“This bridge also connects Brunei and Korea, through relentless pursuit of technological advancement and sheer passion. It symbolises the long-standing relations and deep trust with Brunei,” he said.

President Moon Jae-In (C) visits the Temburong Bridge construction site in Kota Batu on March 11, 2019, accompanied by Brunei’s Minister of Development Dato Hj Suhaimi (3L). Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Slated for November 2019 completion, the $1.4 billion bridge spans 26.3 kilometres, linking Jalan Utama Mentiri in the Brunei-Muara district with Jalan Labu Estate in Temburong, crossing the width of the Brunei Bay.

The mammoth project is aimed at reducing travel time between the two districts, allowing commuters to bypass Limbang, Sarawak and the four immigration checkpoints along the overland route.

Brunei’s Minister of Development YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar said the bridge will bring much-needed economic stimulus to Temburong — so long cut off from the rest of Brunei — and connect the district to international airports and ports.

“I am proud to say that this project is the largest infrastructure development project ever undertaken by the Brunei government… Once completed, this will be another landmark for our country.”

He added that Daelim’s presence had also created economic spinoff for Bruneian suppliers and contractors, and has created employment for a number of local professionals and staff.

President Moon Jae-in (C) in a group photo with Daelim staff during his visit to the Temburong Bridge construction site in Kota Batu on March 11, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

The Korean firm was also the main contractor for the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha Bridge, a joint venture with local company Swee Sdn Bhd, which opened to the public in October 2017.

South Korea’s assistant minister for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Cho Hyun, said overseas construction orders received by Korean companies reached US$32 billion in 2018, with 40 percent from ASEAN countries.

“More and more Korean companies are moving away from the low-bidding strategy of the past and being awarded contracts for their technical excellence,” he said during the event.

President Moon Jae-In visited the Temburong Bridge construction site at Jln Kota Batu on March 11, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Construction of the Temburong Bridge began in 2015 and is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. The project is divided into four construction packages — two of which were awarded to Daelim, while the other two were awarded to China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

The segments of the project under Daelim include the 14.5km oversea bridge spanning the Brunei Bay, the marine viaduct and two large cable-stayed navigational bridges.