Apas Balung palm oil estate in the Tawau District is one of the earliest, and largest re-settlement schemes in Sabah. For the people in Tawau, the Apas Balung Estate or area is known for its palm oil re-settlement schemes, especially for areas like Ranggu, Serudung, Gading, Cocos Islander and Tidong where re-settlements took place after Sabah’s independence in 1963. From the beginning of the 1960s, the social structure in Tawau District included diverse ethnic communities which have shaped the Apas Balung Estate most of whom originated from the neighbouring countries mainly Indonesia and the Philippines. The settlement schemes in Apas can be categorized into four main areas:
i. TASS (Tawau Assisted Settlement Scheme)
TASS was first introduced by the former state government (USNO) in 1962 which involved 36 settlers. The majority of the people relocated at that time were from the Kadazan ethnic group as well as Chinese. Rubber was the first tree crop cultivated in TASS. In 1969, the SLDB took over the management of the TASS estate and started the commercial palm oil cultivation, in November 2002 after 33 years six of the original settlers are still with the programme.
ii. Serudung Baru
Serudung Baru scheme was developed after 1963, and was originally inhabited by the people from Ulu Serudung village in Kalabakan, Tawau. Due to a security threat from the Indonesian confrontation after 1963, the affected villagers were transferred to the Serudung Baru Scheme by helicopter due to dense forest cover and lack of roads at the time. The settlers were mostly of the Murut, Iban and the Suluk ethnic groups. After the re-settlement, subsistence farming continued in Serudung Baru with hilly rice and local fruit brought in by the settlers. In 1968, the SLDB took over the management from the Department of Agriculture and introduced palm oil cultivation in Serudung Baru. In November 2002, the SLDB introduced the leasing system and received a positive feedback from the populace.
Blok-31 was initiated in 1966 with the participation of 137 settlers with the majority of settlers were from the Tidong ethnic group, with a few Suluk and Chinese. Rubber trees was was first introduced as the main tree crop in Blok-31 until in 1969, when the Board changed to the cultivation of palm oil on a total of 740 hectares. In November 2002, the SLDB introduced the leasing system, and the populace responded with 75% participation (or 89 of the settlers).
iv. Apas I & II
In November 2002, the SLDB introduced the leasing system in Apas 1, and II which has attracted 50% of the populace (166 of the settlers).