TEMBURONG – Plans are underway to transform Brunei’s “Green Jewel” from a sleepy rural outpost to a thriving precinct with more business and employment opportunities for the community.

The opening of the $1.4 billion Sultan Hj Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Bridge in March last year marked a turning point in Temburong’s history, finally connecting the district to the capital via a 26km link across the Brunei Bay.

The Temburong District Development Authority (TDDA) has since lined up several projects to transform the district, including major renovations in Bangar Town and turning the Labu Casting Yard into a “transit zone” with shops, restaurants and recreational facilities.

Aqilah Bahar, corporate manager for TDDA, said the body is responsible for increasing economic activity and providing business opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises.

In an interview with The Scoop on Tuesday, she said Bangar will be maintained as the district’s commercial and administrative zone.

The town is already in the middle of a major facelift – renovations at the waterfront are overhauling Bangar’s decades-old facade in the hopes of boosting visitor traffic and economic activity.

Street murals are also planned at four locations around the town with painting expected to begin later this year.

This file photo dated June 23, 2020 shows renovations underway on Bangar’s waterfront. Photo: Yusri Adanan/The Scoop

Several commercial locations in Bangar have been earmarked for further development, including the Waterfront, Bumiputera Complex, Utama Bumiputera Complex, Ruang Legar, Kedai Rakyat Jati, and Tamu Aneka.

Hj Azeez Hj Azahari, a project manager for TDDA, said Darussalam Enterprise, the statutory body for SMEs, will take over asset management of these buildings and choose a mix of tenants for each location.

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam was chosen as the anchor tenant at the Bumiputera Complex — Temburong’s largest commercial building — and remains the only bank servicing the district.

Proposal to turn Labu into transit zone

TDDA is also studying the feasibility of turning Labu Casting Yard, located near the Labu Estate roundabout, into a “transit zone”.

The Labu roundabout is a strategic location with roads that lead to Bangar and to the border with Malaysia.

Although the border is closed to travellers at the moment due to COVID-19, a large volume of goods from Sabah and Sarawak still pass through the route.

The ”transit zone” will offer mixed-use development with recreational and shopping facilities, allowing travellers to make a pit stop before continuing their journey.

The project, dubbed “Labu Square”, will be carried out in two phases to gauge market response, said Hj Azeez.

“This was planned as a nice tourist attraction pre-COVID, but since the borders are closed, it would be a good idea to do it in phases.”

“Economically, this is a nice location for a transit zone. Once the SHOAS bridge contractors move out, we will start improving the infrastructure,” he added.

A monument will also be erected in the middle of the roundabout as a landmark, with construction expected to begin later this year.

Mutong River is pictured amid pristine primary rainforest in Temburong. Photo: Ain Bandial/The Scoop

Hj Azeez said any new development will prioritise the preservation of Temburong’s unique biodiversity, which has earned the district the nickname “Green Jewel of Brunei”.

He shared that Ulu Temburong National Park and Batang Duri will be developed into an eco-tourism zone.

“The Forestry Department is strict on any infrastructure and improvements, so we don’t want to build anything that can threaten the flora and fauna,” he said. 

A $4.5 million eco-resort is also set to open this October in Kg Perdayan.