GEORGE TOWN, May 6 — The federal government may enlarge the Penang International Airport (PIA) to accommodate a maximum of 20 million passengers instead of the initial 12 million proposed.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the original proposal was to increase the capacity from 6.5 million to 12 million passengers, but added that this was too small.
“We feel 12 million is too small so we increased it to 16 million and if possible, 16 million plus four million so that the airport can cope until 2035,” he said in a press conference this morning.
He said his ministry will see how it can carry out this expansion plan for the PIA.
“Based on technical specifications, we can increase the capacity to 20 million with the existing land available, using certain land on the edges,” he said.
He said technical issues on the expansion will be looked at and resolved.
He stressed that the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was the one to approve the proposed airport expansion for Penang.
“The previous government did not approve the expansion Penang had applied for, did not even allocate funds for it,” he said.
The PIA has exceeded the maximum capacity of 6.5 million passengers and the state government had asked the federal government to enlarge it.
The airport recorded 7.79 million passengers last year.
Lim also assured the Penang government that Putrajaya’s plan to build an international airport in neighbouring Kulim, Kedah will not negatively affect the island state.
“The state doesn’t have to worry that the PIA will close down; once it is expanded, we will not allow it to close so it is impossible,” he said.
He said the federal government fully understood the concerns raised by Penang over the impact of the Kulim airport on the PIA.
“There is no possibility that it will cause the PIA to be closed down. Don’t dwell on it,” he reiterated.
He said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Kedah government felt that the Kulim airport is crucial to attracting foreign direct investments.
“This is a decision for Kedah that we have to respect,” he said.
He hoped that both the Kulim airport and the PIA will complement each other.
“Most logistics and the supply chain are centred in the PIA so they will likely continue to use the PIA while the Kulim airport will cater to Kedah,” he said.
He said the Finance Ministry does not have any objections against the Kulim airport proposal as the ministry does not have to come up with funding for it.
He said the prime minister’s decision on the Kulim airport has to be respected and that since it doesn’t involve public funds, the Finance Ministry did not object against it.
The proposed RM1.6 billion Kulim airport will be a private finance initiative so the federal government need not fund its construction.