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Malaysia

Tioman villagers protest proposal for new airport

PULAU TIOMAN (ROMPIN): The proposal to build a second airport in Pulau Tioman has met with protests from islanders here.

Some 80 people, comprising resort operators, divers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and villagers, led by Kampung Genting chief Azman Awang Mohd, staged a protest on Sunday (Oct 21), following reports stating that Berjaya Group was planning to build a new airport at an estimated cost of RM1.2bil.

Azman said Kampung Genting was the gateway to the island, with all tourists and passenger boats from Mersing and the Tanjung Gemuk jetty arriving here first.

He said the proposed airport sounded good, as if it would bring in more tourists and boost the local economy, but asked about possible negative impact.

"Has the government thought about the side effects to the island and the locals, mainly in Kampung Genting and Kampung Paya here. Have they done any studies on the impact to the environment and the future generations of this island?

"To us, the development can be done, but it will not necessarily be an advantage to us.

"There are many more development projects that can and should be done on the island, such as concrete or tarred road from Kampung Genting to Kampung Paya, Kampung Nipah, Kampung Mukut, and also from here to Kampung Tekek, which is the centre of administration for the islanders," Azman said.

He said jetty-upgrading projects would be better and more efficient for passenger arrivals than building a new airport.

"We still have problems like clean water and electricity supply and Internet problems that have not been solved entirely, and yet we are given the headache of a proposed new airport," Azman said.

There were previous plans to extend the airport runway in Kampung Tekek but due to environmental concerns, it was scrapped by then transport minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

Azman said the proposed airport was not a necessity and there was no suitable area to land planes unless the runway was extended all the way out to sea.

"That would need reclamation, which would in turn damage the environment," he said.

Reef Check Malaysia representative Alvin Chelliah, 32, said there were many other ways to boost tourist arrivals, but not through sacrificing the environment of Kampung Genting and Kampung Paya.

Alvin said the authorities could allow more flights daily to bring in tourists and their arrivals could also come from other airports such as from Senai and Pengkalan Chepa.

Another protester, Mohammed Firdaus Abdullah, 66, said the project could not be called development if it was harmful to the environment.

"Development cannot stand alone because it has to be associated with its impact. If the proposed airport is to be carried out, will the government bear all other costs if the environment is disturbed and affected?" he said.

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