KOTA KINABALU, June 30 — Qhazanah Sabah Bhd (QSB) said it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with developer Berjaya Land Berhad to study the feasibility of relocating the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) to Kimanis, some 60km away.

In a statement addressing speculation that the state investment arm and the developer have agreed on the relocation, QSB group chief executive officer Ahmad Rizal Dahli insisted that the matter was still at a preliminary state.

Earlier today, rumours of the decision began spreading online, stemming from a partial photograph of an unannounced signing ceremony between QSB and Berjaya Land.

“The relocation of KKIA had been suggested in various discussions across the board for a decade. This MoU allows us to look at this in more detail, particularly in terms of economic viability and social impact assessment.

“We are looking forward to tapping on the expertise brought on board by the early partnership with Berjaya Land, particularly on infrastructure development,” he said.

He added that QSB was also tasked with looking into various other development initiatives to support the economic growth of Sabah, aside from the relocation of the airport.

Ahmad Rizal said that feedback from all stakeholders would be taken into consideration and consensus would be required before any decision is made on the proposed relocation.

“Any outcome as a result of the feasibility studies would be made in the best interest of the state. This has always been and will continue to be our focus in whatever we do,” he said.

The plan has been mooted for about two decades now under the Barisan Nasional government as projections say KKIA is unlikely to be able to expand its operational capacity to meet growing demands.

The current terminal building and runway as well as other facilities is said to be at maximum and restricted due to limited land area in its current location, which is surrounded by privately owned land and its proximity to Kota Kinabalu city centre.

“On top of that, the proximity can be one of the risk factors for delayed development of the city centre due to the regulations and restrictions set by having an airport nearby,” Ahmad Rizal said in the statement today.

“A relocation of KKIA to Kimanis, on the other hand, could result in the airport having more than one terminal building and runway. Sabah will then be able to leverage its geographically central location in Southeast Asia to explore becoming an air travel hub within the East Asian region. The possibilities are there.”

The statement did not reveal when the MoU was signed but leaked photos of an event suggested it was today.

The statement added that the MoU went beyond the relocation of the airport and included a possible new international airport in Kimanis as well as a sustainable development plan to be undertaken within Kimanis or on any other land deemed suitable.

“A special purpose vehicle will undertake the proposed project upon completion of a detailed technical and financial feasibility study, strategic business plan and financial modelling proposal to be agreed by both parties,” it said.

At the MoU signing, QSB was represented by Ahmad Rizal and witnessed by its group company secretary, Rudy Jaglul.

Signing on behalf of Berjaya Land was its deputy chairman and Berjaya Corporation Berhad joint group chief executive officer, Syed Ali Shahul Hameed, with Berjaya Corporation Berhad chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan acting as witness.

Also present at the event were QSB chairman Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak and QSB director Datuk Johnson Tee.