GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has said that the federal government has yet to approve a plan to raise three new islands in the south, saying the media might be to blame for the confusion.
He said on Saturday (April 20) that the state government must follow the 18 points of advice set by the federal government for the project to go ahead, a major backtracking from his claims last week.
"I did not say that the National Physical Planning Council (NPCC) has approved the project. What I stated was that the council had agreed to its implementation, provided that we adhere to the 18 points of advice," he told reporters.
Mr Chow said this after Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad denied that the NPCC which is chaired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had approved the project.
"The council advised the Penang government and gave 18 recommendations, as well as comments and additional recommendations from various ministries," Mr Khalid said on Friday (April 19).
Mr Chow said the confusion could have stemmed from media reports which used the word "approved", resulting in Mr Khalid's denial.
The three new islands in the south of the main Penang island will together be more than three times the size of Sentosa.
The land bank is expected to bring in more than RM70 billion (S$22.9 billion) for the state, of which RM46 billion were to be used to fund the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
The PTMP envisages new monorail and LRT lines, and highways for the main island to resolve its traffic problems.
The reclamation, dubbed Penang South Reclamation, is a project to reclaim three islands - 930ha, 445ha and 323ha in size.
The three-island project has been panned by environmentalists and civil society groupsas project developers are seen profiting at the expense of environmental degradation as green hills are cut to make way for the roads. There is also a concern that the project will add to the financial burden of the Penang government.
Mr Chow now said that for the project to go ahead, he must first resolve issues such as the Environmental Impact Assessment and a Traffic Impact Assessment, and a ban against the construction of condominiums priced above RM1 million (S$330,000) on the three new islands.
"All of us want the project to move ahead but it will take time and we are looking at least two years down the road before starting the physical implementation," he said.