KUCHING, March 21 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg today asked national oil company Petronas to collaborate with the Sarawak government in the oil and gas industry.

“From my past experience in dealing with Petronas, I believe that there is room for expansion on the collaboration between Petronas and the state government,” he said at the signing of contract agreements between Sarawak-based Serba Dinamik Sdn Bhd and Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd.

“Within the framework of our Constitution on our rights on land, we believe that we can work to undertake and explore more areas of collaboration between Petronas, being the agency of the federal government, and Sarawak.

“For that reason, I have formed Sarawak Petroleum Berhad (Petros), an agency of the state government, that can collaborate with Petronas.”

The chief minister said he is sure that the collaboration will be able to explore new areas, particularly in oil and gas resources which are found in Sarawak, both onshore and offshore.

“I am also sure that Sarawak companies have the capabilities to collaborate with Petronas, and this means that we can expand our participation in oil and gas that will benefit all parties,” he said.

Abang Johari said negotiations are ongoing between Sarawak and the federal government, particularly between Petros and Petronas, to find ways and means to solve problems affecting both parties.

“I must assure here that we are not so obsessively trying to control oil and gas. What we want is to play our role in the development of oil and gas as we don’t want to be bystanders looking at others,” he said, adding that Sarawak can play its role and it needs some funds for road and infrastructure development.

“The rural people want to have more roads and other infrastructure, and that is why I have to impose the 5 per cent sales tax on petroleum and petroleum products,” he said.

He dismissed claims that the imposition of the 5 per cent sales tax would lead to an increased cost of investment in the country.

“The imposition does not mean that it will increase the cost of investment in Malaysia, but if it really increases the costs, I think the federal government can reduce its petroleum income tax from 38 to 33 per cent while we retain the 5 per cent. After all, the resources are from Sarawak,” he said.

He said although the state government has the constitutional right to issue permission and licences for the exploration of oil and gas resources found in Sarawak, it definitely wants to work together with those who are involved in the oil and gas industry.

“In this instance, I assure you that we are not going to negate investment in Sarawak, but rather to work together for the benefit of the players and stakeholders in the industry,” he said.

On the question of reserves of oil and gas within Sarawak’s territorial boundary, the chief minister believes that Petronas has the data, but he is not sure if the oil giant wants to share it with him.

“But definitely, I will find the alternative to get the right data on our hydrocarbon reserves,” he said.