16 Nov Clarification on Penang South Islands (PSI)
15 NOVEMBER 2022
Clarification on Penang South Islands (PSI)
On behalf of the Penang State Government, which has been working to implement the Penang South Islands project, we would like to address issues raised by certain quarters in the media in conjunction with the 15th General Election.
While we acknowledge that some fishermen, who work near the proposed reclamation site, are still concerned about how the development would affect them, we think the recent statements made about PSI is only one side of the story by emphasising the views of certain quarters – politicians, non-governmental organisations, activists and other anti-project individuals – who have habitually criticised the project to serve their own agendas.
There are also many other fishermen who support the project after understanding its socioeconomic importance to south Penang Island and in general, the state. These fishermen are confident that they will still be able to fish and make a living during the reclamation.
We will not repeat the project’s long-term economic benefits here. We will instead set the record straight by addressing the following issues our detractors have been harping on.
1) Concern over fishermen’s welfare and income
The project will not end fishermen’s profession and livelihood, unlike what certain quarters have been claiming. The proposed reclamation work will not stop fishermen from going to sea. Their passage to sea will be facilitated by a new navigation channel that allows 24-hour access to the sea regardless of the tide. It will be an improvement for the fishermen, considering how they must wait for high tide to go to sea now.
Under PSI’s Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP), fishermen from Tier 1 areas – Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Gertak Sanggul and Teluk Kumbar – and Tier 2 areas – Seri Jerjak, Batu Maung, Kuala Sungai Burung, Teluk Tempoyak and Pulau Betong – will benefit from various socioeconomic uplifting initiatives.
These benefits include new jetties for Tier 1 fishermen units, and new boats and engines for 315 Tier 1 boat owners. Other benefits open to all Tier 1 and 2 fishermen are financial aid (ex-gratia), job and business opportunities, skills training programmes, home ownership schemes, and education support for their children who are still in school.
So far, the State Government has given an RM500 advance for the ex-gratia programme. The balance will be channelled to the fishermen in two payments of 75% and 25% respectively after the project has been approved, namely the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the environmental management plan (EMP).
The approval of EIA and EMP by the Department of Environment (DOE) will enable the project to kick start and payment of ex gratia to eligible fishermen to be processed. The Penang State Government has been consistent on this matter since SIMP announcement on 5 February 2021.
Under the skills training programme, nine fishermen completed their seafarer training earlier this year and are now certified seafarers, which means they can transport passengers by boat. Another batch will soon take the same course provided by the Marine Department at the State Government’s expense.
To help fishermen who desperately needed new vessels, the State Government sets aside RM2 million to procure boats and engines for the first group of 20 fishermen. The boats were specially designed for the fishermen by marine consultants, with their input taken into account. Apart from being larger in size and equipped with safety features, sonar, GPS and net haulers, the boats are also powered by engines of 90- 100HP (horsepower) to enable the fishermen to travel further, faster and safer to catch fish.
To date, 16 fishermen have received their new boats and equipment, and they are happy to be able to travel further to catch more fish and earn more income. Tomorrow (16 November 2022), the remaining four fishermen will receive theirs. This proves that the State Government is moving in the right direction to help fishermen. The other 295 boat owners will start getting their new boats and engines in stages after the project is approved.
The State Government is also sponsoring learning recovery classes, tuition fees and an SPM-intensive programme for fishermen’s children. Preparations are also ongoing to build a temporary jetty in Permatang Tepi Laut for the local fishermen. Work is expected to begin early next year.
While quarters like the individual fishermen unit chiefs and several representatives of Penang Fishermen Association (Pen Mutiara) attack the PSI with various allegations, the SIMP has started to benefit fishermen even before the project takes off. The fishermen are hardly being treated as second-class citizens. Other Penangites need to wait for the project to develop to enjoy its economic spillovers.
We urge fishermen in Tier 1 and 2 areas, who are registered with the Fisheries Department, to think wisely for themselves, not to be influenced by naysayers and register for the SIMP if they have not done so. Our officers at Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan Permatang Damar Laut, Sungai Batu and Gertak Sanggul are ready to offer assistance.
2) Concern over food security
Based on Fisheries Department data, the contribution of coastal fishermen, who work in Zone A (up to 8NM or 14.8km from the coastline) is about less than 10% of the total fish landing in the PSI area.
Zone B and C fishermen, which have larger operations, contribute 90% to the fish landing because they fish much further in the deeper sea from 15NM and beyond. These areas are far from the project site and will be less affected. Based on this, the fish landing will not be much impacted during and after the reclamation.
As stated, fishing activities by Zone A fishermen will still continue. We have also obtained hundreds of satellite images that show most fishing activities taking place beyond the earmarked PSI site. Many fishermen, including those who have received boats under the SIMP, have confirmed that most of them fish much further from the coastline such as the vicinities of Pulau Kendi and the two Penang bridges, where they can catch more fish and prawns.
3) Concern over marine biodiversity and mudflats
All projects come with impact, which can be minimised through various measures. As required by the approving agency, the State Government will conduct noise impact and prawn migration studies and implement the PSR Ecology Offset Master Plan (PEOM) to minimise project impact on the marine environment.
The PEOM initiatives include planting mangroves, deploying artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices, building eco-friendly shorelines, releasing fish and prawn fry, and setting aside funds for marine-related research. These are measures that will also help create new habitats for marine life, contributing to the fisheries sector and encouraging biodiversity.
The State Government through its various agencies especially State Forestry Department and the Penang Infrastructure Corporation, has been planting mangrove saplings at various suitable locations. Hundreds of thousands more will be planted as part of PSI’s development.
The loss of mudflats due to the proposed reclamation is also an issue we have addressed before. We explain again that the affected intertidal zone (mudflat) is only 4% of Penang’s entire intertidal zone. There are still plenty of intertidal areas along the west and east coasts of Penang Island, and the coastal areas of Seberang Perai.
We also stress again that the mudflats near PSI are not breeding grounds for both prawn and pomfret.\
4) Concern over marine pollution
The reclamation and development of PSI will be governed by strict regulations. For example, environmental control measures, as per the Environmental Management Plan (EMP), and best practices must be complied with to minimise impact and to ensure project sustainability.
Among the pollution controls under the Environmental Department’s approval conditions to ensure environmental protection are water quality, real-time TTS (total suspended solids) and turbidity, air quality, noise and vibration monitoring programmes; waste, materials and pollutant management; and proper disposal of dredged materials.
Dredged materials will be disposed of properly at a site north of Muka Head, which has been approved by the Marine Department. Illegal dumping will be prevented by tracking barges carrying dredged materials with a Dredging and Disposal Management System (DDMS).
The State Government is committed to following these requirements. Failure to comply will impact the environment and earn us a stop work order, which is not what we want.
5) Claims of people’s rejection of the project
It would be an exaggeration to suggest or even imply that everyone in Penang is against the project. There are many Penangites who understand the State Government’s rationale for developing PSI to create more land for industrial, commercial and residential use, which will be crucial for our future economic growth.
According to PSI’s Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Report, the people’s perception of PSI is not as bad as painted by detractors. Almost 80% of the 764 local residents surveyed agreed with the project. Among them were fishermen, and those who agreed accounted for 74.8%. Fishermen surveyed for their opinion on the SIMP were also largely supportive of it, with 93.9% agreeing with the package offered. In 2019 when the previous SIA Report was prepared, only 51.1% of the local residents supported the project.
Public perception of PSI has much improved since 2015 when the project was first mooted. More local residents see PSI as a development that will bring economic growth; create jobs, business opportunities and new tourist attractions, and spur development in the surrounding areas. Locals also look forward to new infrastructure and facilities.
Many local residents are now more able to see the big picture. They know PSI will be important for Penang and its future generations.
We hope this statement clarifies and addresses the misinformation and misconceptions of PSI.
– Penang Infrastructure Corporation
15 November 2022