GEORGE TOWN, July 3 — Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today welcomed Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd’s (MAHB) readiness to expand the Penang International Airport (PIA), even if the capacity was smaller than hoped for.
Chow said his administration would take “whatever we can get” as the current airport is being overloaded beyond its current capacity of 6.5 million passengers.
“As a state, even if it’s for 12 million capacity, we will take it, we want to get whatever we can for Penang first since the airport is now bursting beyond capacity,” he told a press conference after attending the Art For Peace Forum at the E&O Hotel here.
Passenger arrivals at PIA crossed 7.8 million last year.
In a statement yesterday, MAHB confirmed that it is ready to proceed with the expansion plan after obtaining approval from the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
MAHB Group chief executive officer Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin said the company has been working out details of the PIA expansion project for the past two years and will submit its plans to the government by the end of this month for approval.
Chow noted MAHB did not state the projected capacity of the expansion project, but believes it will be to cater to 12 million passengers instead of the 16 million the state wanted, based on past discussions.
He is optimistic that MAHB may increase the expansion capacity for PIA in phases after construction begins.
Chow played down any need for his state government to be involved when asked why Penang was left out of the expansion discussions with MAHB, MOF and the Transport Ministry.
“We don’t want to get in the thick of negotiations for the agreement. We are not a party to it but once they have reached an agreement, I think they will announce it,” he said.
He added that it is best to leave it to the federal ministries and MAHB to resolve the funding and concession regulations for the expansion project.
”How they will structure the concession, I am not privy to this information, but I hope they will come to an agreement on how to finance the expansion,” he said.
He added that it was common for some things to happen at a federal level without the state being in the know.
“It will be good if they engage us so that at the local council level, we can expedite approvals,” he said.
He said MAHB has engaged the state government on the matter and had even presented it to the state exco.