BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and Malaysia have agreed in principle to establish a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) to help restart cross-border movement, although no start date has been decided.

The VTL will see four flights per week between Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Seri Begawan, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said following his meeting with Brunei’s monarch on Tuesday.

“A VTL to allow movement over our land borders is also being considered by both countries,” he told a media conference at the end of his two-day visit to the sultanate.

The PM provided no start date for the VTL, saying the details were still being studied by the respective ministries, but that it should be “expedited”.

Both governments have also agreed to recognise each other’s COVID-19 contact-tracing apps — BruHealth and MySejahtera — so that they can be used in both countries.

The prime minister met with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah at Istana Nurul Iman, the first time the Malaysian leader has visited Brunei since his appointment in August 2021.

During an official luncheon at the palace, the Sultan welcomed further discussions on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccination certificates and establishment of the VTL to boost the economies of both countries.

His Majesty said he hoped to see an expansion of BIMP-EAGA cooperation through Sabah and Sarawak that would increase trade connectivity between Brunei and Malaysia.

Brunei’s borders have been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, and plans to restart travel in January 2022 were scrapped due to Omicron fears.

HM the Sultan of Brunei (R) and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob (L) speak during a luncheon at Istana Nurul Iman, Feb 15, 2022. Photo: Information Department

Negotiations ongoing for Trans-Borneo highway

According to a Bernama report, both governments also agreed to continue consultations on the proposed Trans-Borneo Highway, a major road network connecting the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak with Brunei and the Indonesian province of Kalimantan.

The proposed project covers two phases, with the second phase cutting through Brunei — it would involve rebuilding a route from Kuala Baram in Miri to the Sungai Tujoh immigration control post in Kuala Belait, and upgrading a 74km stretch between Limbang and Lawas.

“The implementation of these two projects will improve connectivity between Malaysia and Brunei. His Majesty the Sultan and I have agreed to continue negotiations and consultations to study and finalise these proposed projects,” the prime minister said.

The two leaders also discussed expediting land demarcation on the Brunei-Malaysia border, with little progress made over the past 11 years.

Datuk Ismail Sabri said that only 87km of the 528km land boundary (17 percent) had been compiled and marked, and of that, only 34km had been finalised.

He added that both leaders agreed to expedite the first meeting of the Joint Land Boundary Committee, a body that was set up in 2011.

“Both countries have agreed to sign an MoU for those areas that have been finalised. The Land Boundary Committee will next meet to finalise the remaining areas as soon as possible,” he said.