Malaysia and Brunei signed Letters of Exchange on 17 March 2009 to conclude a successful series of negotiations on the final delimitation of maritime boundaries between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia, the establishment of Commercial Agreement Area (CAA) on oil and gas, the modalities for the final demarcation of the land boundary between Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia and unsuspendable rights of maritime access for nationals and residents of Malaysia across Brunei's maritime zones en route to and from their destination in Sarawak, Malaysia provided that Brunei's laws and regulations are observed.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi held a meeting at the Istana Nurul Iman on Monday and signed the Letters of Exchange.
Among other issues, the agreement means that oil exploration on Borneo island, halted for six years amidst a maritime border dispute, will resume as a collaboration between the two countries. Both countries have agreed to collaborate in the exploration and exploitation of contested oil blocks.
The maritime row, which stopped deepwater exploration in the area, erupted in 2003 when Malaysia and Brunei awarded production-sharing contracts to four overlapping deepwater exploration blocks in the South China Sea.
The four blocks are close to where a 440 million-barrel discovery had been made the year before.
The agreement seems to have sparked a new disagreement over territory. On 18 March 2009, the Malaysian newspapers quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah saying that Limbang was no longer contested by Brunei. It was immediately denied by Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Lim Jock Seng, who said that claims on Limbang were never discussed during the deliberations.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim then replied on Thursday that while Limbang had not been explicitly discussed, the issue of Limbang would be regarded as resolved once the exchange of border agreements signed by both countries was finalised.
Brunei has a longstanding claim over Limbang which it ceded to Sarawak in 1890, and denies having ceded the Limbang question.
Bernama, Border Redemarcation To Resolve Malaysia-Brunei Border Issues – Rais, 19 March 2009, http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=397460
Reuters, RPT-Malaysia, Brunei to sign deal on sea-border, 13 March 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssEnergyNews/idUSKLR43735020090313
My SinChew, Brunei Denies Limbang Story, 19 March 2009, http://www.mysinchew.com/node/22340?tid=14