Ending confusion, Penang CM confirms no federal nod yet for PSR project

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press during a press conference in Komtar on April 19, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to the press during a press conference in Komtar on April 19, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, April 19 — The National Physical Planning Council’s (NPPC) guideline for Penang to fulfill before implementing its Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project was not an actual approval, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow clarified today.

Chow agreed with Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad’s statement that the NPPC did not give any approval for the project but had advised the state government instead.

Stressing that his statement yesterday had used the word bersetuju which meant ”agreed” with an 18-point advisory to the state, the Penang lawmaker said the state will need to comply with these 18 points first before implementing the project.

”We agree that the NPPC did not issue an approval, it only issued advice because under Section 2A(2)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, it states that the functions of the NPPC was to advise the state government on matters relating to town and country planning required under this act,” he said.

He explained that this meant the responsibility of the NPPC was to advise the state government on matters related to the project.

“In essence, what we submitted for the PSR have been considered and advice was given before it is implemented so the question of approval does not arise, it is presented for advice, but in layman’s term, it is actually an approval,” he said during a press conference at his office in Komtar today.

Fumbling over the semantics of whether NPPC’s 18-point guideline amounted to an approval, Chow said in layman’s terms, it can be considered as a “go ahead” for the state and the project delivery partner, SRS Consortium, to take the next steps for the project.

“This is not approval to start the project, we have to follow the advice given and comply with all of them first,” he said.

Chow had earlier listed the 18-point guideline set by the NPPC, reading out each point and pointing out that most of them were in alignment with the state’s own vision and guidelines.

He stressed that the state government will comply with all points before they proceed.

The 18-point advisory contained points such as developing the three islands with a Smart City concept complete with high technology, including an integrated public transportation system to reach a 70:30 public transport to private vehicles ratio, reducing the carbon footprint of the islands by 40 per cent with a low carbon city action plan, implementation of a disaster risk management plan, relocation of affected fishermen and their families with new job opportunities, preparing a dedicated affordable housing zone, preparing an alternative water source and adhering to a freeze on developing shopping malls, commercial lots and condominiums priced above RM1 million.

Chow said the state will also have to comply with other regulations such as applying for approval for its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA), Social Impact Assessment (SIA), Fisheries Impact Assessment (FIA), Road Safety Audit (RSA) and preparing an Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

“We will obtain all these reports to submit to the authorities for approval and as I’ve said before, we will not start work before obtaining approvals for the project,” he said.

The PSR is a proposed reclamation project to create three islands covering 4,500 acres off Permatang Damar Laut on the southern coast of Penang island.

It is expected to increase the state’s land bank, with lots on the islands sold to raise money to fund the state’s ambitious RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

It was revealed earlier this year that Island A will be zoned as a new industrial park due to its proximity to the airport while Island B will be specifically for high-end support services for the industrial park, such as financial services, business services and tourism.

Finally, island C will be for the creation of newer tourism products for Penang.

SRS Consortium, as the project delivery partner, will be reclaiming the sea off the coast for PSR.

PSR is the funding module of the RM46 billion PTMP which will include a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the building of Pan Island Link 1 (PIL1).

Just a few days ago, Chow announced that the Department of Environment (DOE) had approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for PIL1.

Civil societies including Penang Forum, Penang Consumers Association and fishermen’s groups have objected against both PSR and PIL1.

Over the last few days, the groups had issued statements criticising the approval for PIL1.

The groups cited reasons such as environmental damage and loss of livelihoods for the fishermen along the coast in their objections against PSR.