The finance minister who is also the Air Putih state representative, said each airport, including the PIA, has its own strength to compete with other surrounding airports.NSTP/RAMDZAN MASIAM

GEORGE TOWN: There is no reason for the Penang International Airport (PIA) to fear competition from the proposed Kulim International Airport (KXP) or any other airports for the matter, Lim Guan Eng told the Penang State Assembly today.

The finance minister who is also the Air Putih state representative, said each airport, including the PIA, has its own strength to compete with other surrounding airports.

Lim said PIA, for example, was facing competition in terms of tourist figures from the Langkawi International Airport and possible competition in terms of cargo movements from the proposed KXP.

“So, why is there the fear to compete? Each airport is able to compete with one another.

“The competition is there (for PIA)...not only from KXP but other neighbouring airports,” he said in debating the Supply Bill at the ongoing state legislative assembly sitting, here, today.

The Penang government, during the state assembly sitting in May, had sought assurance that the KXP would not affect the running of the PIA.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow had said that as far as the state government was concerned, the KXP would not complement the PIA but instead would end-up as a competitor.

Meanwhile, Lim reiterated the need to expand the PIA soon as it had breached its capacity of 6.5 million tourist arrivals annually as the state rigorously attracts tourists.

“Now, we record about 8 million tourist arrivals annually. This makes the PIA very crowded, like a ‘pasar malam’ (night market).

“So, it is highly necessary for us to expand the airport soon,” he added.

It was reported that the PIA expansion project, estimated at a cost of RM1.2 billion, would be carried out via a private finance initiative (PFI).

The expansion project would raise the airport’s capacity to 16 million passengers annually.

Asked by Lee Khai Loon (PKR - Machang Bubuk) on the proposed new airport for the state, and if anyone can just build an airport using the PFI model just because they have the means to do so, Lim said: “Anyone can make any suggestions, but it will depend on technical issues. Also, if such a plan is feasible and reasonable”.

To another question by Mohd Yusni Mat Piah (Pas - Penaga) if there was a need for a new airport since the country was embarking on the “kereta terbang” (flying car), Lim said it was not under his jurisdiction.

In June, it was reported that two new airports were proposed for the state.

A private company had proposed plans for a new Penang airport to the Federal government; while another corporation was poised to do the same.

The former, which is planning to undertake construction of the proposed North Malaysia International Airport (NMIA), plans to build the proposed airport near the border shared by Kedah, Penang and Perak, which is currently a vast track of paddy fields.

The second proposal, the Northern Region International Airport (Noria), is expected to be proposed to the Federal government soon.