The government is considering a proposal to introduce a special security zone in Sarawak, similar to that of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom).

This is safeguard oil and gas platforms operating in the state’s waters.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the proposal to set up the special security area would involve the collaboration of oil and gas companies operating in the state.

“The proposal will also involve oil and gas companies like Petronas, Shell and Esso, which have their platforms in the sea.

“They are now spending billions of ringgit to ensure the safety of their staff and assets,” he said after attending the “One Morning Together with the Defence Minister” programme at the Mahkota camp here on Saturday.

Hishammuddin, who is also Semberong Member of Parliament, said the government and the oil and gas companies operating in Sarawak waters could work together to ensure their assets were not threatened.

He, however, denied that the proposal was not only to safeguard the operations of the oil and gas companies in Sarawak waters, but was also closely related to the James Shoal ownership dispute.

“It is not directly related because the (James Shoal) dispute does not affect regional security,” he said on the ownership dispute over James Shoal or Beting Serupai, located between Malaysia and China.

In March last year, Beijing deployed a naval fleet to James Shoal, located only 80km from Bintulu and 1,800km from mainland China.

The Chinese media had alleged that three naval ships were present in the vicinity of James Shoal in January, which was later denied by Navy chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

On ESSCom, established following the terrorist intrusion in Lahad Datu last year, Hishammuddin said the Malaysian Armed Forces had obtained the mandate from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to build the camp at Felda Sahabat in Sahabat.

It was understood that Najib had agreed to the proposal to build the camp, at the cost not exceeding RM400 million.

The camp is to house the brigade and battalion headquarters, supporting units and logistic teams.

He said the ESSCom brigade would be equipped with surveillance systems, such as radar and night vision equipment.

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