GEORGE TOWN, Feb 27 — Fishermen in the southern part of Penang island affected by the Silicon Island reclamation works must register for the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) to be eligible for ex-gratia payment under the scheme, said Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Mohamad Abdul Hamid.

He also said the deadline to register for the payments and other assistance under the SIMP was March 31.

“So far, a total 678 fishermen have registered under the scheme,” he said in a statement he issued today.

He said this included 256 skippers from level one who had received aid in the form of boats and engines.

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He said the state exco made the decision to set March 31 for the registration deadline as the state needed time to prepare the ex-gratia payments, boats, and equipment.

Registration may be performed at the Sungai Batu and Gertak Sanggul fishermen service centres, he said.

Eligible fishermen are divided into two categories, level one and level two.

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Level one are those in four areas that are directly impacted by the reclamation works, also known as Penang South Island (PSI), that are Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul.

Level two fishermen are those who are five areas that indirectly affected by the project, which are Teluk Tempoyak, Batu Maung, Seri Jerejak, Pulau Betong and Kuala Sungai Burung.

Mohamad said the SIMP scheme offers ex-gratia payment of RM20,000 for skippers and RM12,960 for crew for fishermen under Level One.

Level two fishermen gets ex-gratia payment of RM13,200 for skippers and RM5,400 for the crew.

Level one fishermen will also receive 27-feet boats complete with 90/100-horsepower engines and other benefits including training and educational programmes, job opportunities, and more.

“SIMP is the state government’s commitment to assist the fishermen and local communities,” he said.

Reclamation works for PSI started on September 1 last year after the environmental management plan for the project was approved by the Department of Environment in July last year.

Initially, PSI was a mega project to reclaim three islands covering 1,821 ha but it was reduced to one island, Silicon Island, covering 930ha.

Fishermen in the area and environmental groups have staged numerous protests and demonstrations against the project but to no avail.