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SIMP package gets fishermen’s high participation rate, over RM14mil aid disbursed so far

SIMP package gets fishermen’s high participation rate, over RM14mil aid disbursed so far

A TOTAL of 709 out of 737 eligible fishermen have registered with the Pusat Perkhidmatan Setempat Nelayan (Fishermen’s Local Service Centre, or PPSN) for the Social Impact Management Plan (SIMP) package related to the ongoing reclamation of the Penang South Island (PSI) project.


This accounts for 96 per cent of the fishermen who registered for the SIMP package before the registration closed on March 31 this year. They were listed as active by the Fisheries Department.


Penang Infrastructure Corporation Sdn Bhd (PIC) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Farizan Darus said the state government had recently approved 137 additional fishermen for the SIMP package, out of 168 registered under the special cases category.

Farizan says the SIMP package is the most comprehensive that has ever been established in Malaysia.

“To date, a total of RM13 million has been spent on ex-gratia payments, the provision of new boats and engines, educational assistance, and the construction of new fishing sheds.


“In addition, RM1.14 million has been spent on the implementation of the Ecological Balance Master Plan (PEOM), focusing on research related to mangroves and marine ecosystems,” Farizan told Buletin Mutiara during an interview recently.

Faziran showing the progress of Penang Silicon Island project. With him is Azmi.


Also present during the interview were Azmi Mohamad, Director, Strategic Comms & Stakeholder Management, Silicon Island Development Sdn Bhd; Ann Tan, Head, Strategic Comms & Stakeholder Management; Saiful Azizi, Senior Executive, Strategic Comms & Stakeholder Management; and Chong Szee Cshieng, Executive, Strategic Comms & Stakeholder Management.


He said on 11 January, 2021, the state government announced one-off ex-gratia payments to fishermen and crew members as follows: Tier 1 tekongs (RM20,000 each), Tier 1 crew members (RM12,960 each), Tier 2 tekongs (RM13,200 each) and Tier 2 crew members (RM5,400 each).


Four fishing units classified as Tier 1 include Permatang Tepi Laut, Sungai Batu, Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul while five fishing units classified as Tier 2 include Teluk Tempoyak, Batu Maung, Seri Jerejak, Pulau Betong and Kuala Sungai Burung.


As of 23 April this year, a total of about RM6.7 million in ex-gratia assistance has been disbursed to 557 fishermen. Among them, 100 have received full payment while the remaining 457 individuals have received 75 per cent of their entitled payment. The state government will complete the full payment by the end of June this year.


Farizan added that a total of 318 Tier 1 tekongs were eligible for new boats and engines. So far, 66 of them have received new boats (27’ long) and engines, while the remaining 252 will receive theirs in stages.


Even before obtaining the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval, the state government provided 31 fishermen with new boats equipped with engines to replace their unsafe ones.  However, the state government only began reclamation work after securing all the necessary approvals.

Over 16 acres of land have been reclaimed so far since the Penang Silicon Island project commenced last September.


So far, 20 fishermen have also successfully passed the helmsman course to get a certificate of competence recognised by the Marine Department. With this certification, they are authorised to operate passenger boats legally. This opens up opportunities for them to offer water transport services in addition to their fishing activities.


Out of the 20 fishermen, five have been employed as helmsmen in the Silicon Island project.


Farizan added that the SIMP scheme offers many benefits to the fishermen involved and their family members, including the schoolgoing children of fishermen and those studying at Institutions of Higher Education (IPT).


“The SIMP scheme is the most comprehensive scheme that has ever been established in Malaysia. It not only prioritises the welfare of fishermen but also extends support to their families.


“The scheme is a prerequisite for the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Penang South Island project. In 2016, the state government established a Fishing Taskforce Committee to deliberate and implement the SIMP scheme.


“While ex-gratia payments are provided as one-off assistance, ongoing programmes focusing on economic empowerment and education are being implemented to enhance their livelihoods,” Farizan explained.

An artist’s impression of the Penang Silicon Island, located at the south end of Penang Island. Although it will take about eight years to reclaim a total of 2,300 acres of land, the first factory is expected to be set up on Silicon Island in 2026.


He said the fishermen’s children have the freedom to select tuition subjects, with the state government, through PIC, covering the fees under the Jaya Didik programme. This programme has benefitted 23 primary school pupils and 26 secondary school students.


In 2021, PIC, in collaboration with the state Education Department, organised special classes for primary pupils requiring assistance in improving their reading, writing and arithmetic (3M) skills. A total of 240 students benefitted from this programme, achieving a success rate of 95 per cent. After three years, this programme was discontinued following the resumption of physical classes.


On top of that, the state government is partnering with USAINS Holdings, a subsidiary of USM, to run the Hybrid Education Programme (PHP) for high school students in south Penang Island, including the children of fishermen.


A total of 259 PHP participants were taught effective study review techniques, exam preparation strategies, including for SPM, and were provided with guidance to enhance self-confidence and communication skills. Moreover, the parents of these students were offered the opportunity to attend a parenting workshop, focusing on topics such as time management, healthy eating habits and providing moral support to their schoolgoing children.


Furthermore, the fishermen’s children will receive an incentive of RM500 for successfully enrolling in higher education institutions in Peninsular Malaysia and RM800 for those entering local universities in Sabah and Sarawak. As of now, a total of 32 fishermen’s children have received these incentives.


Moreover, they will be eligible for additional incentives if they achieve First Class or Second Class Upper honours upon completion of their courses.

A fisherman out at sea drawing his catch.


Farizan said to encourage entrepreneurship and create business opportunities for the fishermen and the local community members, the state government set up a cooperative, named Koperasi Komuniti Pulau Pinang Selatan Bhd (KKPPSB).


Open to fishermen and residents of South Penang, the cooperative has seen significant growth, now boasting 1,165 members since its establishment about two years ago.


“A member who invests as little as RM100 is eligible to receive an additional 500 share units for free. Currently, KKPPSB has membership shares totalling RM340,000. The state government has allocated RM2 million to KKPPSB, with a commitment to contribute up to RM5 million in total,” Farizan said.


A total of 255 Malaysian workers have been hired for the PSI project, of which 144 (56%) are residents of Penang. As of the end of March 2024, a total of 100 contracts worth RM66.7 million have been awarded to local traders.


Farizan disclosed that more than 16 acres of land have been reclaimed thus far since work began last September. The state government anticipates 400 acres would be reclaimed by the end of next year, and the industries to be set up on the Penang Silicon Island, as it is called, by 2026.


“We faced aplenty challenges initially. We managed to get about 20 to 30 per cent of the fishermen affected by the project to register for the SIMP package. However, we have now achieved a registration rate of 96 per cent.


“This is a fantastic achievement, but it required a lot of hard work. When PPSN was set up, we conducted numerous engagements with the fishermen and residents.


“We anticipate the creation of 220,000 job opportunities upon the completion of the Silicon Island project,” Farizan said.


Story by K.H. Ong

Pix by Law Suun Ting

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