Worried Pangkor folks say island not ready for duty-free status

With barely six months to go before Pangkor is declared duty free, the island’s residents are worried about the apparent lack of preparation. — Picture by Sylvia Looi
With barely six months to go before Pangkor is declared duty free, the island’s residents are worried about the apparent lack of preparation. — Picture by Sylvia Looi

LUMUT, June 2 — With six months to go before Pangkor island gets its duty-free status on January 1, the island’s residents are worried about the apparent lack of preparation.

Hotelier Tan Ming Shing told Malay Mail that if the island is to be declared duty-free, the port area needs to be upgraded urgently.

“The current waiting area is too small. During long weekends, visitors need to queue by the road just to wait for the ferry,” said the 46-year-old.

Tan said if Pangkor were to be declared duty-free, the authorities should also consider upgrading the passenger ferries that connect the island with the mainland.

“We are expecting more international visitors but the condition of the boats currently with their torn seats is not desirable,” he added.

Mini market operator Beh Seng Aik, 53, said that people are still in the dark about the matter.

“We are unsure whether it’s the entire island that will be declared duty-free or if there will be a specific complex selling duty-free items,” he said when met here recently.

Beh said based on earlier announcements, his understanding is that tobacco and alcohol will not be tax free.

Mini market operator Beh Seng Aik, 53, said people are still in the dark over the matter. — Picture by Sylvia Looi
Mini market operator Beh Seng Aik, 53, said people are still in the dark over the matter. — Picture by Sylvia Looi

“We are curious as to how the authorities plan to conduct checks on this,” he said, adding that traders are also unsure about the duty-free licence application process.

Choon Lee Yau said with six months to go, it’s not clear what the status will mean for frontliners like her.

“We have not been briefed on what to expect. At least brief us so we can help explain it to tourists if they ask,” said the 40-year-old accounts executive with Pan Silver Ferry Sdn Bhd.

She concurred with Tan that the port area was in urgent need of upgrades.

“The current port will not be large enough to cater to the crowd expected when the island becomes duty-free,” she said.

Choon said currently there are 16 boats from three companies connecting the mainland with the island.

Choon Lee Yau (right) said with six months to go, frontliners like her have not been briefed about the island’s impending duty-free status. — Picture by Sylvia Looi
Choon Lee Yau (right) said with six months to go, frontliners like her have not been briefed about the island’s impending duty-free status. — Picture by Sylvia Looi

Meanwhile, liquor salesman Jansen Tiong, 29, expressed his concerns that the duty-free status may affect the sale of liquor in the Manjung district.

Tiong said while initial announcements said liquor would not be categorised as tax-free, to date, the list of duty-free items had yet to be finalised.

“From Pangkor to the mainland is a mere 10-minute boat ride. If liquor is included as duty-free, it may lead to smuggling activities,” he said.

Malay Mail had reported that the tax-free status for Pangkor was first announced by the previous Barisan Nasional administration, during the tabling of Budget 2018 in Parliament.

Then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was also finance minister at that time, said the west coast island would be declared tax-free, with the exception of tobacco, alcohol and vehicles.

Local tourism players had previously said that the duty-free status was a good idea if the authorities used the tax-free status to bring in stores that sold branded goods like chocolates, perfumes and clothing.

The reopening of Pangkor Airport on October 1 is also expected to boost tourism and business on the resort island.

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