Wee: No construction, modernization of airports until the aviation industry recovers
Reports by MARTIN CARVALHO, RAHIMY RAHIM and TARRENCE TAN
ANY proposal to build and upgrade existing airports will be on hold until the aviation sector recovers under Malaysia’s 12th Five Year Plan (12MP), said Dr Wee Ka Siong, Datuk Seri.
During the 12MP period from 2021 to 2025, the transport minister said they would only address land ownership issues in several areas of existing airports for future development plans.
However, Dr Wee said proposals to build airports in rural areas would be considered if there were urgent needs from residents of the interior.
“We will forward the request to the Economic Planning Unit to modernize or build any airport on the basis of the National Airports Strategic Plan (NASP) report,” he said during his ministry’s closing speech on the 12MP.
Dr Wee said as part of Malaysia’s 11th plan between 2016 and 2020, no new international airport has been built or upgraded.
However, he added that there are currently three projects underway, including two upgrades at Sandakan Airport in Sabah and Sultan Ismail Petra Airport in Kelantan, as well as the new Mukah Airport. in Sarawak, which began operations on June 17.
Dr Wee also said that upgrading Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh was unnecessary as passenger arrivals saw a drastic drop to 199,665 in 2020.
“This is a decrease of 78% compared to 2019.
“In addition, the terminal and runway at Sultan Azlan Shah Airport are still in good condition and sufficient to meet current operations,” he said.
Dr Wee also said the modernization work at Penang International Airport, which was being carried out by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), will be postponed until the aviation industry recovers.
“Currently, several issues are under consideration, including the acquisition of land in several areas near the airport to ensure that modernization works can be carried out once the aviation sector recovers,” said he declared.
Dr Wee said that to ensure airports across the country have a long-term development plan that takes into account the effects of the pandemic, the NASP study will be carried out at the end of the year.
“This will determine the direction of airport development in Malaysia in terms of physical infrastructure development, airspace needs, economic and strategic studies so that an airport can be developed according to current needs,” a- he declared.
Sim Tze Tzin (PH-Bayan Baru) intervened and asked if MAHB was financially able to finance the construction and modernization of airports.
To this, Dr Wee replied that since the start of the pandemic last year, the MAHB has spent RM 140 million each month to maintain 39 airports across the country.
“When there are fewer passenger service charges collected, it translates into lower income,” he noted.
“In 2019, there were 109 million passengers but the figure fell to 26 million passengers last year.
“It’s a drastic drop. MAHB has no choice but to restructure the cash flow, ”he said.
Dr Wee added that studies by the International Air Transport Association estimated that the aviation industry would not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.
Sim then asked if Penang International Airport would be a priority for upgrades, as the state is a place of domestic tourism.
Dr Wee said it would be ideal to upgrade Penang International Airport given its large passenger volume.
“But the current situation is that the economy is stagnating.
“Due to the lack of funds, we have to change our strategy.
“I also hope that the aviation industry will recover before 2025,” he added.