Do you want Penang to be backwater, lagging behind the rest of the world
Responding to an article titled; “Destroying The Seafood Industry ‘Critical’ For Penang Future?” (The Malaysian Insight, 25 November 2020), I would like to begin my article by stating that all the allegations made by the author regarding Penang South Reclamation project (PSR) is baseless and misleading.
First and foremost, the area earmarked for PSR (where Island A, B & C are purported to be reclaimed) are not abundant fishing grounds. In fact, based on the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study which was conducted in 2016, it was clearly shown that monthly catch from the southern shores of Penang Island has been declining steadily for the last 10 years. The study also revealed that there are less than 20% active fishing boats at the affected area.1
In contrary to what the author implied, most of the fishermen would travel beyond Pulau Rimau and / or Pulau Kendi (which is approximately 12 – 18 km from the earmarked area) for their catch. Hence, it is misleading for the author to portray that the earmarked areas are ‘rich fishing grounds’ where in reality they are not!
In addition to that, as highlighted by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow during his speech at the World Seafood Congress 2019, there has been a stark decline of marine capture, specifically on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia for the last decade. This was due to the over exploitation of marine lives where one of the reasons being the excessive / unregulated use of ‘Pukat Harimau’.
Hence, as a measure to curb this burgeoning issue, the Penang State Government has been actively shifting its traditional seafood industry into a more sustainable approach. This is being done via the expansion of aquaculture fisheries as well as implementation of modern farming (including urban farming). Statistics show that aquaculture fisheries in Penang have grown significantly at an average annual growth rate of 4.6% and 15.9% in production and value respectively for the past two (2) decades. The exponential growth of aquaculture production in Penang is further illustrated when it reached its peak in 2017.2
To further justify the necessity of PSR, Penang’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution to Malaysia has been nothing short of being significant as Penang’s manufacturing sector accounted for about 13% of the sector’s national GDP. 96.7% of Penang’s economy comprised of manufacturing, construction and services sectors.3 The purpose of PSR itself is to cope with the influx of the said categories of economy. Moreover, the earmarked area for PSR is strategically located near the Bayan Lepas Industrial Zone (FIZ), the Penang International Airport as well as the Second Penang Bridge.
As a Penangite, these are the industries that our livelihood and prosperity depends on. Besides, the development of PSR will act as a catalyst to uplift the poverty-stricken community in south Penang Island by creating new job opportunities, opening of new industries, developing smart city and tapping into new local, regional and global markets.
It is therefore questionable and rather confusing when the author insists on ‘burying’ the PSR project with baseless arguments. I therefore would like to pose a question to him; ‘Do you want Penang to be backwater, lagging behind the rest of the world?’.
Vijay Pillay Ravichandran Chong
DAP Cawangan Taman Seri Setia, Pulau Pinang