GEORGE TOWN: The expansion of the Penang International Airport will be done once Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is ready to fund it, while issues surrounding the land needed for it is sorted out, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
At a press conference here yesterday, the caretaker Transport Minister said the Federal Government did not cancel the expansion project, contrary to the claims by certain quarters.
“My office has been in discussion with the state government to resolve the land issue. I discussed this with the Chief Minister of Penang in August 2020. There were problems, such as land matters, that needed to be sorted out.
“Once the land issue is resolved, and MAHB is ready to pump in the funds, then the project will start,” he said, adding that his office is discussing with the state government now on relocating a vernacular school next to the airport.
Recently, Penang infrastructure and transport committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said Penang would continue to be sidelined by the governments under Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional.
“In 2018, the Pakatan Harapan Federal Government had the funds to expand the airport.
“But Lim Guan Eng, who was then the Finance Minister, preferred to expand the airport through the private initiative method.
“If he had taken the funds, the expansion would have been implemented,” Dr Wee said after visiting the Penang Sewing Skills Education Workshop in Batu Maung, accompanied by state MCA chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng and MCA candidate for Bayan Baru, Saw Yee Fung.
According to Dr Wee, when he became the Transport Minister, the movement control order came into effect.
“How is it my fault? At that time, MAHB had no income as it could not collect passengers’ service charges as no one could travel during this period.
“During the pandemic, MAHB had to spend RM140mil per month for two years,” he said.
Dr Wee said now that the border is opened, the Penang International Airport expansion would receive priority when the time is right.
According to him, many national projects were cancelled during the Pakatan Harapan era.
“Pakatan cancelled the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project and the East Coast Rail Link,” he said.
On whether Barisan would implement infrastructure projects in Penang, Dr Wee said the environment is a sensitive matter and of concern to the people.
“You cannot simply bulldoze projects through merely because you have the people’s mandate.
“If you want land reclamation projects, you must have the necessary approvals.
“Federal authorities must also impose conditions for compliance. If Saw is elected, she can voice the people’s concern,” he added.