Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 21.6.2014.
The Penang state government regrets the irresponsible and continued misrepresentation made by opposition BN in blaming the Pakatan Rakyat state government for not having any proper or long-term planning for the Penang international airport that resulted in the Kedah state government asking for a new international airport to be built in Kulim. 5 facts must be stated here.
One, it is the Federal government and not the Penang state government that owns, operates and regulates the Penang International Airport. The Penang state government has no choice but to comply with the Transport Ministry on any expansion plans which are solely decided by them. During the last RM 250 million Penang International airport expansion project, contractors were appointed by the Transport Ministry and the state government has no say and was never consulted. And yet, BN continues to blame the Penang state government for the shameful flooding at the Penang International Airport. Is BN also going to blame the Penang state government for the airport roof leaking every time it rains or the dirty toilets?
Two, Penang BN Chair Teng Chang Yeow opposes the building of a new international airport in Kulim that is supported by Penang UMNO. This conflicting position between Teng and UMNO Penang is confusing. Can Teng and UMNO get its act together, meet and decide what is the actual and consistent position of BN Penang? Does Penang UMNO’s or Teng’s position represents BN Penang’s position?
Three, priority should be given to expanding the Penang International Airport to two runways, an integrated air cargo hub and a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul(MRO) facility. This is not only cheaper at RM600 million compared to building a new international airport in Kulim costing at least RM2 billion. It is also more productive and economically feasible to leverage on Penang’s position as a world-class electrical and electronic cluster, manufacturing hub, tourism destination and services sector.
Four, economic figures show that Penang International Airport has been annually the second or the third busiest passenger airport in Malaysia for the last 6 years due to Penang’s strong tourist arrivals and health tourism. The Penang air cargo facility is also the top two most profitable in Malaysia. Penang is also No.1 in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) from 2010 to August 2013 with RM 19.7 billion or nearly 20% of Malaysia’s total FDI. As FDIs focus on exports, there is huge potential for future increasing volumes in air cargo. Further the growing services industry in Penang promises exciting possibilities and opportunities which can benefit the establishment of an integrated air cargo hub and a MRO facility, since there is none in the northern region. It is untrue for Teng to claim that the services industry alone with the existing companies of Wilmar, HIS and Citigroup which was set up after 2010 justifies the need for two runways. The strong growth in the 3 sectors of manufacturing FDI, services and tourism justify the need for an expansion airport upgrade.
Finally, it is not true that the state government has not followed up with the Federal government or has no more available land. Around 60 acres of land was first acquired near the airport after 2008 and with sea reclamation, there is between 300-500 acres for any future expansion needs of the Penang International Airport. Bear in mind that the RM250 million airport expansion project commenced after PR took power in 2008. After that, the state government has numerous discussions with the Federal government, especially Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Idris Jala, without any conclusive action.
The growing congestion at the Penang International Airport has resulted in public complaints that the domestic departure lounge looks at times look like a “pasar malam”. Last year there were 5.5 million passengers and is expected to reach the enforced maximum capacity of 6.5 million passengers by next year. An expansion is urgently needed.
It is regrettable that Teng opposes the Penang state government’s request for expansion of the Penang International Airport to 2 runways, an integrated air cargo facility and a MRO hub. If Teng is opposed to the Penang International Airport’s expansion, then he should explain how is the interests of Penang best served by no airport expansion?
LIM GUAN ENG