A Central Government decision on the extension of service hours in Macao's three border ports, which came into effect Thursday, is expected to greatly facilitate exchanges and cooperation between Macao and the mainland.
Under the new arrangement, approved by the State Council, the Lotus port connected to Hengqin in the southern China coastal city of Zhuhai extends its service time to 24 hours. Previously it operated between 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The new entry and exit arrangement highlighted the Central Government's support for the SAR's stable development, improvement of Macao people's livelihood and cooperation with the mainland, Chief Executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Chui Sai On said during an inspection tour on Wednesday of the three ports.
Between 00:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Thursday, a total of 1,293 border-crossings were recorded at the Lotus port, according to Ku Keng Hin, a senior officer with the immigration department of the SAR's Public Security Police.
Two other ports also extended their services by hours. At the Border-gate port, which has added two more hours of service under the new arrangement, a total of 5,814 border-crossings were recorded in the newly-extended period Thursday, according to police data.
"The dream of the SAR government and Macao people has come true with the new arrangement, which also manifests the fruitful cooperation between Macao and Guangdong Province," Chui said.
The extension to 24-hour service at the Lotus port would greatly benefit the cooperation between Macao and Guangdong on the development of Hengqin, an island separated from Macao by the Pearl River Estuary, said Lao Ngai Leong, a Macao delegate to the National People's Congress.
The Central Government has pledged to support Macao in using the development of Hengqin as a pivot to diversify its economy.
In 2009, the State Council approved the General Development Plan of Hengqin New Area, making it the country's third state-level strategic new zone following Shanghai's Pudong district and Tianjin's Binhai area.
The service extension at the three ports would largely expand the living space of Macao people in the long term, enabling them to reside in Hengqin while working in Macao, a region with high population density and limited urban space, said analysts.
Lao Chi Ngai, research manager of Center for Macao Studies at the University of Macao, said more non-resident workers would be able to live outside Macao. Many workers previously had to rent houses in Macao due to limited time to travel back to the inland.
Kan Man Neng, a member of Macao's Tourism Development Committee, said the adjustment would also offer more choices of trip plans for visitors, as they can choose freely between Macao and Zhuhai for accommodation due to easier travelling between the two cities.
Therefore, Macao's tourism and hotel industry would have to make adjustments to attract visitors to stay in the city, which would have positive influences for the gambling-dependent industry, he said.
Macao is closely connected with the Chinese mainland via land, sea and air routes. In 2013, Macao recorded a total of 16 million tourist arrivals via land routes, while 11 million tourist arrivals were made through sea routes. In the same period, the Macao International Airport handled more than 5 million passenger trips.
Macao is to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its return to the motherland on Saturday.
(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2014)