KOTA KINABALU, July 20 — Sabah appointed Berjaya Land Bhd to conduct feasibility studies on the relocation of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) based on “confidence” and not its perceived experience on similar projects, said chief minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor.
Acknowledging that the subsidiary of the Berjaya conglomerate likely does not have experience with developing airports, Hajiji said that he believed they would be engaging relevant consultants for the project.
“Maybe some say that Berjaya has no experience in this matter — I am not really sure about their experience. However, I am confident they will engage with local and foreign consultants who have the experience for the construction of an airport,” he said at the state assembly here today.
Hajiji told the house that the Berjaya Land study would not cost the state any fees, likewise Qhazanah Sabah Bhd who are jointly involved in the study.
Hajiji said Qhazaah, a state company, may not have experience in the field but needed to be involved on behalf of the state government.
“Qhazanah Sabah and the state government are not paying a single sen for the study on the Kota Kinabalu International Airport relocation plan,” he said.
He was responding to a question by opposition leader and Senallang assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal who asked whether the two parties had relevant experience in conducting feasibility studies for KKIA and how much it cost the state.
The news of the study first came to light at the end of last month, taking Sabahans by surprise as people speculated that the relocation was definite.
The MoU signing was not publicly announced but Qhazanah later issued a statement of the deal after a photo of the event was leaked.
However, plans to relocate the airport to accommodate increasing demands have been in the offing for about two decades.
Earlier, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Datuk Abidin Madingkir said Qhazanah and Berjaya were appointed to conduct the studies as the current KKIA had reached its capacity in 2019 pre-Covid.
“Previously we had 9.4 million passenger come in per annum in 2019. The number dropped during the last two years during the pandemic to 2.3 million and 2.1 million respectively. We estimate it will take three years to return to pre-Covid numbers,” he said.
He said Sabah’s tourism potential was huge and numbers were expected to balloon by 2035, going up to 36 million, and the state needed to be prepared to deal with such numbers.
Madingkir said complaints about the distance, to Kimanis, was normal as the public had initially resisted the relocation of Kuala Lumpur International Airport from the Subang airport but had now accepted it.
He also said that the previous state administration in 2018, under Warisan, had also sought a consultant company to conduct a feasibility study, but findings had not been determined then.
“We hope that the study will consider ‘evidence-based planning’ in their planning and transportation development to cater to the demand,” said Abidin.
The new proposed airport location is about an hours’ drive from KKIA.