KUALA KEDAH • A RM3 billion (S$1 billion) fishing base being built in Kedah with Chinese investment will turn the state into an international fish centre in 10 years, according to China's ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Huang Hui-kang.
During a visit to the site in Kuala Kedah fishing town, he said the project would bring world-class "aquaculture and fishery technology" to the industry in Malaysia.
The Kedah Integrated Fishery Terminal (Kift) is being planned by China's Lu Haifeng and the Kedah state government, with the area to be a base for China's tuna fishing boats operating in the Indian Ocean.
The site at Kuala Kedah is located just outside the Kedah state capital of Alor Setar.
The development will involve an area of 2,340ha, of which 1,864ha will be used for the navigation of vessels.
Dr Huang said he noticed that Malaysian fishermen were still using traditional equipment and methods. "The high-tech equipment used in Kift can help modernise the industry," he added.
"World-class aquaculture and fishery technology brought in for the project will encourage the growth of the industry," he told reporters after being briefed on the project by Lu Haifeng executive director Li Bin.
The project adds to a slew of Chinese-funded developments in Malaysia that have sometimes drawn criticism.
Prime Minister Najib Razak returned from a week-long trip to Beijing last November with RM144 billion in new deals, raising alarm over the sudden expansion of China's already sizeable influence in Malaysia's economy.
The projects being planned, with Chinese funds and in joint venture with Malaysian companies, include a RM55 billion railway line from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia, the huge Bandar Malaysia township development and at least two new ports.
China's companies have also bought power plants and property assets held by debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
As for the Kedah fishery terminal development, previous media reports said tuna fish caught in the Indian Ocean could be processed in Kedah and exported to China.
Lu Haifeng had obtained a Malaysian licence in mid-2015 to operate 20 tuna vessels, with each said to cost RM100 million.
Malaysian environmental groups oppose the giant project, saying reclamation works in the area would affect the livelihood of 2,000 coastal fishermen and kill fish-breeding grounds.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK