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Authorities: Sipadan Island Being Closely Monitored; Future Construction Plans Unclear

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KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia -- Diving haven Sipadan Island, which made the news across the globe following the destruction of some of its pristine corals, is being closely monitored by the authorities.

According to Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Karim Bujang, a team of senior officials from the Ministry had gone to the island in the wake of a controversy stemming from the damage to the corals at its Drop-Off Point.

But he said he could not tell offhand whether the proposed construction of amenities on the island, which was suspended, has been reviewed yet. "But I think the Ministry, through our senior officers, is monitoring the situation closely," said Karim, who has just returned from a working visit to Japan.

Last month, a barge found beached at Sipadan off-loading gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh and bulldozer using a giant crane scraped off the corals at the famous Drop-Off Point.

The incident, which was posted in the Internet by bloggers, drew reactions from people concerned that the environment at the world-famous diving site would be destroyed.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, in an immediate reaction, ordered the suspension of all construction activities on Pulau Sipadan until further notice.

He also ordered a full probe on the destruction of corals there by the barge. Meanwhile, Karim said tourist arrivals in Sabah have remained positive despite the Fifa World Cup 2006.

"I see the hospitality industry in Sabah has been playing a very proactive role like having counters for guests to watch live telecasts of World Cup matches feel that with this, there will be no changes in the present trend," he said.

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