Finance, transport ministries say never informed of new airport plans

The transport ministry says it was never invited to any discussion on the proposals on the two airports.

PETALING JAYA: The finance and transport ministries today said they were never informed of any proposal to build a new airport in Penang, following a report that two companies had proposed the construction of two airports in the northern states to serve as an integrated facility in the northern region of the peninsula.

The ministries said they were “completely in the dark” over any proposal for a new airport in Penang.

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

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

The report claimed the two proposals were presented to federal government officials, although it did not provide specific details.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng described the report as “baseless speculation” and “grossly unfair”.

In a statement, he said the report gave the negative impression that the federal government was riding roughshod over the state governments or the rakyat by considering such a massive project involving thousands of hectares of padi land or 5,000ha of reclaimed land from the sea.

Lim said Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook and Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir had told him they knew nothing about the proposals.

He also said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had denied any knowledge of the matter.

“Let me state that the federal government’s position, as stated in the 2019 Budget, is to expand the existing PIA to a capacity of 16 million passengers yearly from the present 6.5 million passengers.

“As for the Kulim International Airport, the federal government is awaiting proposals on its construction through PFI (private finance initiative), without requiring any expenditure from the federal government,” he said.

In a separate statement earlier, the transport ministry said it was never invited to any discussion on the proposals and never received any proposal papers on the two airports.

“The power to build or operate an aerodrome or to allow any licensed company to build, maintain and operate an aerodrome is vested in the transport minister under Act 3 of the Civil Aviation Act,” it said.

The Penang government also said it was unaware of such plans, although the chief minister said there was no issue with having another airport in the state or region as long as it does not adversely affect PIA or the economy.