Penang uneasy with proposed Kulim airport

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow says a new airport is needed for the island. (File pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today raised several questions about the proposed international airport to be built in Kulim, following reports that the Kedah government has been given the go-ahead by the federal government.

He said Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir had come to meet him last year to discuss the Kulim airport, telling him that it would be a cargo-only airport.

Chow said after the meeting, he had requested for a feasibility report of the airport from Kedah. He said in that report, the proposed airport included a passenger terminal, not just a cargo terminal.

“The MB had sought our support on the proposed Kulim airport, we never said we would support or reject the idea… I was told by (Transport Minister) Anthony Loke that they have not approved any airport.

“I believe Kedah earlier did its feasibility study without factoring the Penang International Airport or to involve the state government.

“Anyway, after the study a change of government took place and the MB saw fit to engage with us to seek our understanding,” he said on the sidelines of a Chinese New Year function at the Penang Development Corporation here today.

Asked about the economic impact on Penang if the Kulim airport was built, Chow said there would be “some impact”. He said the idea of having a second northern region airport had been mooted over the past “two to three decades” but the latest Kulim plan “sounded serious”.

He said the question that needed to be asked was whether a second airport in the northern region was “feasible or not” and what kind of cargo the new Kulim airport would handle.

Chow Kon Yeow.

“If it is primary products, then a seaport would be better. If it is electronic products, I believe our airport in Bayan Lepas is already serving the industry very well. These are the questions that need to be asked,” Chow said.

Mukhriz had recently announced a special purpose vehicle company, KXP Airport City Holding Sdn Bhd, to look into developing the airport. The company will begin operations on March 4, Astro Awani reported yesterday.

Last December, Mukhriz had said the Kulim airport would take off through a private funding initiative, as recommended by the federal government.

He told NST Online that it would be an “air cargo hub” and that many parties from China and Europe had shown interest to build it to support the Kulim and Penang industrial parks.

Mukhriz also said the cost of building the new airport would be about RM1.6 billion.

Meanwhile, Chow said the state government would commission a feasibility study to build a second international airport on the island on reclaimed land.

He said the study would likely be undertaken by the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority if funding was approved by the federal government.

Chow said if there was no funding from Putrajaya, it would proceed to conduct its own study on the proposed airport.

It was previously reported that the proposed airport would be built on reclaimed land off Batu Maung, a town at the southeastern tip of Penang island. It is about 3.5km eastward as the crow flies from the existing Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas.

Chow said while the existing airport would be upgraded, it would only last another 20 to 30 years, hence a newer airport was needed for the island.

Bukit Kukus landslide report

On another matter, Chow said the state government would await a report by the Department of Safety and Health on the Bukit Kukus incident before deciding whether to proffer charges against the contractors, the project owners, and the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

He said MBPP was fully aware that it was unable to monitor the Bukit Kukus road project on its own, and hence it had hired consultant engineers and resident engineers to monitor it on the council’s behalf.

Chow said his government had not stopped just at revealing the investigation report into the incident and that it would decide what to do with the parties involved.

He was responding to a call by the Consumers Association of Penang to penalise MBPP and the contractors.

Yesterday, an investigation committee set up by the state government had said MBPP had failed to hire a professional engineer for temporary works, to design and supervise a proper temporary work site.

The temporary worksite was created to allow heavy vehicles to lift beams onto the elevated road.

The team had also revealed that MBPP had given the responsibility to monitor the project to a consultant engineering company, which was also found to have failed to do its job.

On Oct 19, nine people died in the landslide at the construction site of the 5km bypass road connecting Bandar Baru Air Itam and Relau. The project is owned by the MBPP and two private developers but is mostly being built by the council.