GEORGE TOWN, May 2 — Penang will be so negatively impacted by the proposed Kulim International Airport that the island state’s own international airport could “close down”, Chow Kon Yeow said today.
The Penang chief minister said in the state legislative assembly sitting today that he feared his state will be edged out as the Kulim International Airport will be newer, larger and more sophisticated.
“So when the Kulim International Airport opens, the Penang Airport could possibly close down,” Chow said in reply to a question from PKR’s Batu Uban assemblyman A. Kumaresan.
The Padang Kota assemblyman said Penang’s Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone relied on its comprehensive transportation framework that included the convenience of the Penang International Airport (PIA), and that without the airport, it would seriously impact the state’s economy.
He said Penang is waiting for the Kedah and federal governments to prove that the Kulim airport would not affect Penang.
“Despite Lim telling us not to worry the other day... it would affect Penang. You tell me whether I should be worried or not,” he said referring to his predecessor, Lim Guan Eng, who is now finance minister.
During his debate on Tuesday, Lim, who is Air Putih assemblyman, told the Penang government not to object to the Kulim airport as it would be privately financed.
Lim assured the state that the federal government will continue with plans to expand the PIA next year.
Chow had listed four options that the state can look at to counter the negative impact of the Kulim airport.
Closure of the PIA was the last option listed.
The first option he mentioned was to fully optimise the PIA, which would include expanding it to cover its surrounding lands, including Island A which will be created under the state’s proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR).
“Maybe we can further expand and optimise it to accommodate between 20 million to 30 million passengers per year,” he said.
The second option was to build another airport in Penang, either on one of the reclaimed islands under PSR, in Batu Maung or in Seberang Perai.
The third option was to create a “Kulim plus Penang“ synergy by turning the Kulim airport into a shared infrastructure between both states on the mainland.
The Kulim airport may end up as a white elephant if it does not get sufficient traffic for it to be financially viable in the long term, he said.
He suggested that a synergy be worked out between Penang and Kedah for a shared airport option to equally share passenger and cargo traffic.
He said this shared airport option may still negatively impact PIA as passenger and cargo traffic may still go to Kulim.
In his reply to Kumaresan’s question about the long-term economic impact of the Kulim airport on Penang, Chow said reports by consultants, KPMG Corporate Advisory and KLIA Consultancy Services Sdn Bhd hired by the federal and Kedah governments respectively, showed negative impacts on Penang and PIA.
“Penang stands to lose its foreign direct investments as investors could move to Kulim and possibly to other countries,” he said.
He said the reports showed that the Kulim airport will be in direct competition with PIA.
He said the state government is now taking action to appoint a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on the construction of a “Northern Corridor International Airport”.
“We will be appointing the consultant on the last quarter of this year,” he said.