State takes control with passing of amendments

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KUCHING: Amendments to the Land Code were passed on Wednesday, empowering the State government to regulate and control the use of land for carbon storage and the use of spectrum in the airspace above the land.

Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department (Law, MA63 and State-Federal Relations) Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali who had earlier tabled the Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2022 said afterwards that current laws need to be amended to comply with new practices and strategies for promoting environmental sustainability.

Also to secure opportunities for new sources of revenues for the state, she said.

Sharifah said it was also to safeguard the state’s constitutional and legislative authority over land use in the state including land which is part of the Continental Shelf within the boundary of the state.

“In line with the Post COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030) on environmental sustainability, there is a need to ensure sustainable economic activities through the adoption of new technologies and innovations, continuation of environmentally sound practices and strategies such as greening efforts and improve enforcement of regulatory frameworks,” she said.

“Therefore, to achieve the above objectives, it is necessary to amend our current laws,” she said.

A total of 17 members of the House had earlier debated the amendments to the Land Code, including two from the opposition bench.

To queries raised by Chong Chieng Jen (DAP – Padungan) on the two intentions of the state government in relation to carbon storage namely whether it is for monetising revenue or reducing emission of carbon, Sharifah said that the amendment is intended to regulate land use for carbon storage which would result in reduction of carbon dioxide emission by oil and gas companies.

“In the process the carbon dioxide captured would be either stored in areas approved by the State Planning Authority (SPA) or to be used  for industries like the production of blue hydrogen, blue ammonia and biofuel.

“Consequentially, carbon storage brings additional sources of revenue to the State and enables the generation of carbon credit units,” she said.

As for the issue of the spectrum, she said the amendment seeks to enable the state to exercise its regulatory rights over the use of spectrum in the airspace above land in Sarawak.

It is not in any way in conflict with the federal constitution.

“I wish to reiterate the state government’s intention is to ensure that the service providers extend telecommunication services to the rural areas so that the rural population is not left behind when the state proceeds with its plan for digital economy,” she said.

She also gave her assurance that suggestions which have been made during the debate will be taken into consideration in the formulation of the rules in relation to the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2022. 

“The state government would also give proper attention to the safety, security and environmental integrity issues which may arise in the process of regulating carbon storage.  We will also conform with international standards and practices in implementing carbon storage projects,” she said.

Also in response to the Baru Bian (PSB-Ba’Kelalan) who sought clarification whether the Alteration Boundaries (Sarawak) Order in Council 1954 has been affected by the Territorial Sea Act 2012 which limits the territorial water of Sarawak to three nautical miles, she said that the 1954 order in council extended the boundaries of Sarawak to include that part of the continental shelf being the seabed and its subsoil which lies beneath the high seas contiguous to the territorial waters of the state and does not affect the character of the high seas or any waters above the area of the continental shelf.

“Therefore the boundaries of Sarawak as extended in 1954 which included the continental shelf remain the boundaries of the State after Malaysia Day by reason of Article 1(3) of the Federal Constitution.

“For this reason, the Territorial Sea Act does not affect the state’s sovereign rights over the continental shelf, which is 200 nautical miles from our coast. As previously mentioned by the Premier during the MA63 negotiations, the boundaries of Sarawak as extended by the 1954 order in council are non-negotiable,” she said.

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