SINGAPORE – Malaysia’s foreign minister has welcomed Brunei’s decision to reopen its land and sea borders, saying it would be a boost to economic activity for both countries.

“We’ve been telling Brunei, ‘we are ready when you are’. So if you say August, then it’s August, and if you say earlier then much better,” Saifuddin Abdullah told The Scoop on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

“It’s very important [for the economy] … Anyone who knows Miri knows that it is flooded with Bruneians who come for shopping.

“So Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei — there’s a lot of trade going on in the three regions. And we are very happy that Brunei is finally opening its borders.”

Last Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that it would reopen land and sea crossings to essential travellers (such as commuters and transport operators) starting June 15, and lift all remaining restrictions for leisure travellers on August 1.

Business leaders in Malaysian border towns such as Lawas and Limbang have also welcomed the move, saying they were looking forward to trading without restrictions once the land border reopens.

The Brunei government will also begin levying a $3 entry and exit fee for all travellers crossing immigration checkpoints.

Cross-border travel between Brunei and Malaysia has been suspended since the first wave of COVID infections over two years ago, but most air travel restrictions were relaxed last May.

Malaysia has always been the top travel destination for locals, with Bruneians spending $1.16 billion there in 2019.