The plan to make Tanjung Merah in Bitung a special economic zone must be stepped up."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The construction of Manado-Bitung toll road in North Sulawesi province cannot be postponed because it is closely related to the interests of the local people and development.

Besides, such a mega project in the province will play an important role in helping support the planned Bitung Port and Bitung Economic Zone in the future.

North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo H Sarundajang stated in Manado on Monday that the ground-breaking of Manado-Bitung toll road was expected to start in January 2014.

"We hope that the land acquisition process will soon be completed in order to expedite the commencement of Manado-Bitung toll road development," Sarundajang stated.

The governor made the statement during a meeting to discuss the project with North Minahasa district administration and Bitung municipal administration officials in Manado on Monday.

On the occasion, he pointed out that land acquisition at some sections in North Minahasa district still had some obstacles owing to land ownership status problems.

However, the governor assured that the problem will be solved soon through coordination with relevant parties.

"To ensure that work goes on well, I will personally monitor the process of land acquisition compensation payments to the land owners," Governor Sarudajang stated.

The presidential candidate from the Democrat Party asserted that the land acquisition process must be completed immediately in order not to affect the opening of the Manado-Bitung toll road mega project.

"Land acquisition process should have been completed by the end of 2013. Therefore, all relevant parties are requested to help speed up the process to ensure welfare of local community," the governor added.

Public Works Minister Joko Kirmanto stated in Manado in November last year that he will instruct related institutions to initiate the tender drawing process for the Manado-Bitung toll road in the beginning of 2014 fiscal year.

The minister highly appreciated the initiative by the North Sulawesi provincial administration and the seriousness in constructing the toll road, and assured to task relevant institutions to implement the tender for the Rp4 trillion-worth project, once the land acquisition process had achieved 75 percent completion.

The project has been included in the list of the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI).

Manado-Bitung toll road will be divided into two sections, namely Section I of Manado-Airmadidi route along 12.5km and Section II of Airmadidi-Bitung route along 25.5 km.

North Sulawesi Provincial Government is responsible for the land acquisition of the 38km-long toll road construction.

Joko Kirmanto stated that he had initially got some mis-information about land acquisition process. However, when Governor Sarundajang assured that North Sulawesi was indeed ready to construct the toll road, Joko was convinced that there should be further delays on it.

Meanwhile, the North Minahasa District Head Sompie Singal urged his people to be proactive in supporting the construction of the toll road that will connect the district.

"We strongly expect the participation of the community in the construction of the toll road to improve the pace of economic development in North Sulawesi, particularly in North Minahasa district," Sompie Singal stated.

He noted that the North Minahasa District Administration will not stay silent in the matter of land acquisition process for the construction of the toll road.

Manado-Bitung toll road will provide infrastructure support for the special economic zone (KEK) in North Sulawesi and will serve as access to the Port of Bitung, which soon will become an international hub port.

Governor Sarudajang had also stated that Tanjung Merah Special Economic Zone in Bitung will become Indonesias new hub for business activity in the Pacific.

"We hope that the special economic zone in Bitung will become a new gateway because of its strategic position in the Pacific region," Sarudajang pointed out.

The North Sulawesi governor emphasized on this several years ago during a coordination meeting to discuss the special economic zone development plan in the framework of the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Growth (MP3EI) and the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cooperation.

Sarundajang added that since the Dutch colonial era there have been no new gateway in Indonesia and therefore, the opportunity to make Bitung a special economic zone must not be ignored.

"The plan to make Tanjung Merah in Bitung a special economic zone must be stepped up," the governor stated, adding that the Special Economic Zone National Board will offer the Tanjung Merah area for investors to develop.

According to him, Tanjung Merah was getting more attractive among investors because its development plan was included in MP3EI.

Sarudajang expressed optimism about North Sulawesi becoming Indonesias economic gateway as soon as Tanjung Merah develops into a business hub with its supporting facility of Manado-Bitung toll road.

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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