New airports okay but PIA cannot close, says Penang CM

The Penang International Airport, which Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says is integral to the Free Industrial Zone in Bayan Lepas. (File pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today said he is open to having another airport in the northern region but that the Penang International Airport (PIA) must remain in operation so that the state’s economy will not be adversely affected.

His comments come after The Star reported that two companies had proposed the construction of an airport on a reclaimed island off Parit Buntar, Perak, and another near Bandar Baharu town on the borders of Penang, Kedah and Perak, as an integrated facility for the northern part of the peninsula.

According to the report, if either option is taken up, the land on which PIA sits, estimated to be worth RM7.2 billion, will have to be surrendered to the winning proposer. This would also require the closure of PIA.

In a statement today, Chow said he was unaware of such plans but that he welcomes any proposal to develop a new airport in Penang or the region.

“We will be going ahead with our plan to commission a study on the future needs of an airport in the state and surrounding region,” he said.

He added however that any construction of a new airport must not jeopardise the role and function of PIA and the development of the state.

Chow had previously objected to the construction of an international airport in Kulim, saying this would affect both PIA and Penang’s economy.

The RM1.6 billion Kulim airport, to be fully funded by private investors, has received the green light from Putrajaya for construction near Sungai Petani.

Chow also previously said the PIA was integral to the Free Industrial Zone in Bayan Lepas, where many multinational and blue-chip companies are located.

“The economy of Penang and its people must benefit from any such proposals,” he said.

The Star, quoting a source, had said the first proposal concerns the reclamation of a 5,000ha island for a “Northern Region International Airport”.

The second proposal involves acquiring 650ha of land on the borders of Perak, Kedah and Penang at the south of Seberang Perai for a “North Malaysia International Airport” (NMIA).

According to the report, a 57km monorail would link Penang island to the NMIA in 45 minutes with an interchange with Keretapi Tanah Melayu’s Electric Train Service line.

Both proposals will be financed in kind through the transfer of PIA land to the winning proposal. The PIA land is reported to be highly sought after for development.