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Showing posts with label Penang. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penang. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cracked drain causes road cave-in, house nearby on brink of callapse

Danger zone: A JKR personel inspecting the cave-in in Jalan Lembah Permai. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star
Dangert zone: A JKR personel inspecting the cave-in in Jalan Lembah Permai and (inset) the abandon squarter house. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star
The abandon squatter house.

 GEORGE TOWN: A cracked underground drain caused rainwater to flood the earth beneath a road in Tanjung Bungah, causing a retaining wall to burst open and creating a 10m-wide “cavern” beneath the road.

Residents along Lembah Permai woke up last Friday and found part of their street had caved in.

An abandoned house on lower grounds next to the street is teetering on the brink of collapse after water washed away the earth beneath the house’s foundation.

Where the opening of the 40cm-in-diameter underground drain used to be is now a maw around 10m across, with chunks of the wall lying down the slope.

The minor landslide brought back fearful memories for residents because it is less than 1km from the Tanjung Bungah landslide that happened in October 2017, which killed 11 construction workers.

“It was raining so much last week. The water from this drain comes from most of the roadside drains in hillside and it was gushing almost all day and night.

“Luckily, no one lives in that house now. It was abandoned many years ago,” said neighbour Teh Choon Pin.

When the southwest monsoon began on May 6, it was raining almost continuously for five days in Penang and this retaining wall burst open on the fifth day.

Resident Zuhaimi Che Mat, who lives just about 30m from the wall, said it was the first time this has happened in the 50 years she lived there.

R“The water from the drain flows into the stream heading out to sea. When it rains heavily, water from the hills comes gushing down the stream and out of the drain,” she said.

State Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari, who is also Tanjung Bungah assemblyman, said the state approved an emergency fund of RM220,000 and a contractor has been appointed to start repair works.

“The underground drain had cracked and water was seeping into the soil and weakening the road foundation.

“We knew there were problems and the Public Works Department was in the process of calling for a tender before the wall burst open,” he said.

He said the hassle was that there were many utility cables and pipes running under the road that went down too.

“There is an 11kV electricity cable, water pipes, telephone cables and others. So many agencies will be involved in the repairs,” Zairil added.

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Drainage and construction damaged nearby houses since 2014 must complete its mitigation quickly!

Underground Pipe Culverts from IJM Trehaus site on the left and nearby pond on the right

Friday, May 3, 2019

Check on coming monsoon floods in Penang !

Wake-up call: The floods that hit Penang in 2017 exposed its lack of flood mitigation and disaster preparedness.

GEORGE TOWN: The south-west monsoon season is expected to start sometime this month, prompting fears of flooding and falling trees here.

As dark clouds hang over Penang almost every morning now to herald the coming monsoon, talk of flooding in the state assembly sitting on Tuesday led to several lawmakers and the Speaker himself wanting to have a say.

“I am aware that some government agencies belittle the efforts of assemblymen who highlight flooding and other problems.

“As legislators who face the rakyat, they are carrying out their duties and I hope that the relevant agencies will take them seriously and not make fun of them,” said Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang during the day’s proceedings.

Lim Siew Khim (PH-Sungai Pinang) told the assembly how she and Ong Ah Teong (PH-Batu Lanchang) suffered verbal insults when visiting flood victims in Kampung Bukit Dumbar, where homes were flooded seven times, including a few days before the recent Chinese New Year.

This led to Dr Norlela Ariffin (PH-Penanti), Ong and Teh Lai Heng (PH-Komtar) to also stand up and voice their grouses.

Outside the hall, Ong said government officers handling flood problems tend to ignore the pleas of assemblymen.

“We are all in the same WhatsApp groups. When we highlight floods, they never respond,” he said.

Teh told the assembly that government officers don’t face the residents but the assemblymen bear all the insults from flood victims in their constituencies.

Dr Norlela said when she attended the monthly district meetings and called for strict enforcement to end the source of floodings such as deforestation, her pleas were often met with silence.

While the Sungai Pinang Flood Mitigation Plan – delayed for 20 years – has begun again with renewed federal funding, many are worried that the south-west monsoon will still bring back the floods this year.

Scientists Sheeba Nettukandy Chenoli and Chai Heng Lim, in a research paper published last November in the “Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics”, found that the onset of the mid-year monsoon will be on May 19 with a standard deviation of eight days.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said this was the season when rain coinciding with extra high tides fuelled by the super full moon could lead to severe flooding.

“Between May and June, strong winds stir up huge tidal waves that are not safe for small boats,” he said.

A freak storm on Sunday caused several trees to fall on Penang island, one of them in Tanjung Bungah falling on a passing car.

To keep falling trees in check, State Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said a special committee was ironing out a method to pass the care of public trees from the Public Works Department (JKR) to Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

“JKR specialises in building and caring for roads and bridges but MBPP has a full landscaping team that includes arborists.

“This team has the know-how to care for public trees and recognise diseased trees that must be felled before they become a hazard.

“We are finalising a method for MBPP’s landscapers to have island-wide jurisdiction of roadside trees and be granted access to federal grants for their maintenance,” he said.

By Arnold Loh and R. Sekaran The Star


Freak storm lashes parts of Penang

  Expecting the unexpected

Related image

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Penang State to study Airbnb woes before legalising operations

Airbnb, Why the New Logo?

HOW other cities worldwide tackle their Airbnb problems are being studied to see if the home-sharing business could be legalised or regulated in Penang.

The office of the Penang State Exco for Tourism Development, Arts, Culture and Heritage (Petach) is studying their policies to tackle the issue of residential home owners who rent out their units as if they were running a hotel or serviced apartment.

Its exco member Yeoh Soon Hin (pic) said the global home-sharing business was quite established in Penang now that when people buy a house or condominium unit, someone might approach them and offer to guide them to sign up with Airbnb and make money from their new property.

He told the assembly that Penang Global Tourism had met with Airbnb’s management team to discuss how to regulate the business.

“Airbnb told us that they are ready to cooperate and register Airbnb units in Penang with the local authority, but we have no laws or policies for this yet,” he said.

Yeoh said in San Francisco, Airbnb operators are limited to renting their homes to a maximum of 90 days a year.

“In Catalonia, Spain, Airbnb operators can be fined up to 30,000 Euros (RM140,000) and the unit owners fined up to 90,000 Euros (RM420,000) if there are complaints.

“In Singapore, the Urban Redevelopment Authority is proposing to limit Airbnb units to only allow up to six people each time to rent them and for only up to 90 days a year.

“For strata units, Singapore plans to allow it only if at least 80% of all unit owners in the building give consent.

“Japan enacted a law to allow home-sharing of units for only up to 180 days a year,” he said when replying a question from Daniel Gooi Zi Sen (PH-Pengkalan Kota).

Gooi said he was concerned because despite strong enforcement from Penang Island City Council since 2017 to stop residential property owners from using their units commercially, the Airbnb portal lists thousands of units in Penang.

“We cannot deny property owners from benefitting from their assets, but we also cannot let them continue to operate without paying their dues such as commercial assessment rates or the hotel fee,” he said.

Yeoh said Petach was studying how Airbnb operators are regulated while waiting for the federal government to draft laws on home-sharing.

“We raised the issue and were told that the Housing and Local Government Ministry and the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry are studying possible laws on this.”

Yeoh said the business was unfair to neighbours, the hotel industry and local authorities.

“They are paying assessments and utility rates for residential units but are using those units commercially while legal hotels that comply with all laws such as safety and traffic provisions pay much more.

“The peace and privacy of their neighbours are being intruded upon,” Yeoh said.

He said his team in Petach was also considering the possibility of recommending that Airbnb operators be charged double or triple the current residential assessment rates that they are paying now after they are legalised.

By arnold loh and r. sekaran at the penang state assembly

Should Airbnb be regulated?

MUCH has been said about Airbnb in the news of late. The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang branch has claimed that the emergence of Airbnb and illegal accommodation are among the main causes for Penang hotel occupancy rate to decline.

Another news report indicated that Airbnb operators are required to register with Kuala Lumpur City Hall. At this point in time, it is vital to see the concept of Airbnb. The platform was started to connect people who were looking to rent their homes to those who wanted hotel-free stay accommodation for short periods. The reason for the registration must be for the purpose of regulation by the authorities.

The claim by MAH that the emergence of Airbnb has caused hotel occupancy rates to drop must also be examined.

In terms of cleanliness and hospitality, although hotels do fit the bill, not all hotels are in that category. All hotels must be refurbished and kept clean at all times. It may be a bit too much to ask for luxury bedding or first class service, but cleanliness and pleasant service is not too difficult.

Airbnb hosts are conscious about their guests and the reviews that are given on the website. They go the extra mile, and it is not always accurate to say that Airbnb is cheaper and therefore people choose them over hotels. It is the space, the home away from home concept, and being looked after, the occasional bottle of wine left for guests, the fruit basket, the bottles of fruit juice and mineral water in the fridge — all of these go a long way in wooing guests.

In terms of protection for the hosts and the guests, Airbnb has enough protection in place. It is up to the renter to choose who they want to rent out to. Those who want to rent and those who are renting out their properties have their profiles. Reviews as to the safety of the place and its convenience — all can be seen from the website. It is a very transparent website and no one can complain that they were not aware that there was a danger or that they did not get their money’s worth. There are times that unfortunate Airbnb hosts unwittingly allow roguish guests and their premises are wrecked. The Airbnb hosts too, have a risk to take.

From the reports, it is unclear of the need for Airbnb to be registered or regulated. Hotel operators are required to register as it is a business. Airbnb is a service platform and not a business. For hosts, it is an additional income — especially for the elder population whose children have left, or even for those with university fees to pay, this additional income will be a good supplement. Unlike hotels and motels, Airbnb operators are there on a temporary basis. Sometimes, the owner may get a long-term tenant, and may not want to continue with the Airbnb concept.

Maybe we can take a leaf from countries where Airbnb has been regulated. In Los Angeles, United States, a regulation was passed for short-term rentals (vacation) with an initial cap on rentals for up to 120 days with flexibility to increase that number of days.

In New York, it is illegal to rent out an entire residence for less than 30 days. Short-term rentals are permitted if the homeowner is also staying there throughout the rental period and there are no more than two renters. This would be ideal for an elderly couple who would enjoy the company of young tourists who would in turn enjoy being in a home environment.

In Japan, anyone wanting to list their property on Airbnb will need to register with the local government, who will conduct fire and safety checks on the premises. The new regulations also limit rentals to 180 days per year.

Singapore has prohibited public housing rentals that are under six months, or three months in the case of private housing without the approval of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. In London and Paris, new laws have limited short-term rentals up to 90 days per year, and Liverpool City Council has pushed for national regulations to ensure that landlords register short-term rental properties.

Regulation is of critical importance in shaping the welfare of economies and society. Any form of regulation must work effectively and serve the public interest. Government agencies, in this case, the local councils are responsible for implementing regulatory policies and must be aimed towards protecting the consumer. When imposing such regulations on individuals, such as Airbnb hosts, there must be a goal that will help the government to achieve its purpose. The objective of a government or regulatory body is to ensure better and cheaper services and goods, and to provide a fair competition to any particular industry without encouraging a monopoly. Airbnb may be regulated and the town and city councils may want to draw up guidelines following from the examples cited above.

Grace Xavier is research fellow at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya and she can be reached at

Read more:

13 Places Cracking Down on Airbnb - Condé Nast Traveler

Monday, April 8, 2019

Penang, a hub for 5G RF chip production

Significant role: Mini-Circuits’ manufacturing facility in Penang is expected to contribute about 10% of the group’s 5G RF chips production over the next few years.

PENANG is one of a handful of manufacturing sites in Asia with a 5G (fifth-generation mobile networks) radio frequency (RF) chip production facility. And the state has become an important production site for Mini-Circuits Technologies (Malaysia), a subsidiary of New York-based Scientific Component.

It is now producing one million 5G RF chips a month for use in 5G telecommunication base stations worldwide.

“We started 5G RF chip production in 2018.

“The plan is to increase the output to between 40 million and 50 million units in three years, depending on how fast telcos worldwide are able to implement 5G base stations,” says Datuk Seri Kelvin Kiew, president and chief executive officer of Mini-Circuits.

In Penang, Mini-Circuits produces 5G mmWave and sub-6 GHZ chips.

What is the fuss over 5G?

“In layman’s terms, 5G, the successor to 4G, is 100 times faster than 4G, with speeds that reach 10 gigabits per second.

“This would let consumers download a full-length high-definition movie in seconds.

“5G will have enhanced bandwidth, allowing it to accommodate the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) such as smart refrigerators to traffic lights to dog collars, enabling them to transmit and receive data.

Faster speed: The 5G technology will benefit both businesses and consumers, says Kiew.

“The potential benefits to 5G are vast for both businesses and consumers – for the former, the additional capacity and speed should allow for greater mobile working whilst for consumers, the speed should offer additional benefits within the ability of your smartphone. 5G is also crucial to the full implementation of AI (artificial intelligence) worldwide.

“For example, a business using a 5G network would mean employees can video conference from any location whilst for consumers, 5G could allow you to download a film to your smartphone in under a second,” Kiew says.

Penang is an important manufacturing site for Mini-Circuits, contributing about 10% of the 5G RF chips – valued at about US$350mil – to be shipped out by the group over the next few years.

“The value of the 5G RF chips shipped out from Penang is estimated to be about US$80mil for 2019, of which, about half of the amount is for the China market,” he says.

In the initial phase, the sub-6 GHZ application will dominate production, as it provides reasonable bandwidth speed and wider coverage.

“In the subsequent phase, the mmWave will be used in areas where there is a need for multi-gigabit communication services.

“The objective with mmWave is to increase the data bandwidth available over smaller, densely populated areas.

“It will be a key part of 5G in many cities, powering data in sports stadiums, malls, and convention centres, as well as basically anywhere that data congestion might be a problem.

“Out in rural towns and villages, sub-6 GHz and low bands below 2 GHz will probably play a more crucial role in ensuring consistent coverage,” Kiew says.

A problem with mmWave is that the signal cannot penetrate walls.

“However, the mmWave will leverage the support from 5G base stations to bounce around until a decent signal is transmitted.

“When it rains, the signal will be impacted.

“Our manufacturing site worldwide, including Penang, will work on improving both the mmWave and sub-6 GHZ band RF modules to overcome the limitations,” he adds.

According to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) forecast, by 2025, there will be 1.2 billion 5G connections worldwide, with 5G networks covering almost 40% of the global population.

Asia Pacific will account for more than half of these, or 675 million 5G connections, by 2025. But when will 5G become a reality?

“The first 5G compatible phones will become available in the middle of this year, but consumers will not initially notice vastly faster speeds because 5G coverage will be limited to certain cities or neighbourhoods at first.

“Analysts predict it will be at least a couple of years before the network’s reach will be extensive enough to let you use your 5G phone without relying on current wireless standards most of the time,” he says.

“We had a record year in 2018 shipping over US$400mil worth of RF products that includes filters, power splitters, and amplifiers.

“Growth in 2019 will be between 5% and 10%, impacted by the trade war and the overall slow down in the handheld products. “Our Malaysia facility is expected to ship US$150mil worth of RF products in 2019,” Kiew concludes.

By David Tan The Star


AI to nearly double the rate of innovation in 2021 | Focus Malaysia


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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Than Hsiang - Engineering change for greater good

Guan Yin - Goddess of Mercy"

Than Hsiang Foundation was established in January 1990 to promote Buddhist education, welfare and cultivation based on the Conviction of: "The Young to Learn, The Strong and Healthy to Serve, The Aged and Sick to be Cared For, The Departed to Find Spiritual Destination." 
Ven Wei Wu (right) speaking at a dialogue commemorating the 25th anniversary of his renunciation on April 29, 2017.

Retiring engineer-turned-abbot has made big contributions to education, culture and welfare

BEFORE answering his calling to serve as a Buddhist monk, Neoh Kah Thong was a successful engineer, having done very well in Penang’s pioneer high-tech sector.

He learned Total Quality Management (TQM) from his Japanese teacher and friend, Prof Noriaki Kano, and implemented it successfully at his workplace in Penang, a sales office in Kuala Lumpur, and many government and private organisations.

For 19 years after graduating from a New Zealand university, Neoh worked tirelessly as an engineer, manager and consultant in New Zealand, Malaysia, Asia, the United States and Europe.

He also travelled extensively during this period and learned about the various cultures and acquiring knowledge while building up a wide network.

When he became a monk at 43, Neoh took up the name Venerable Wei Wu and continued to implement the TQM system at Bayan Baru’s Than Hsiang Temple which he founded with a group of friends working in Penang’s multi-national companies, mostly from Hewlett Packard.

“There was no looking back. With the help of my colleagues, friends, benefactors and supporters, we embarked on the mammoth task to build up the Buddhist organisation till today,” he said.

For many years, the Buddhist fraternity, especially those staying in Penang and the northern states, have regarded Ven Wei Wu as synonymous with Than Hsiang and vice versa. He is highly revered as a fatherly religious figure.

However, come March 16 this Saturday, Ven Wei Wu will retire as the Than Hsiang abbot at a ceremony where Ven Zhen Dian will be installed as the new abbot.

Born into a wealthy family, Ven Wei Wu, now 70, said his parents passed away before he was ordained.

“My eldest sister and foster mother were initially concerned about me abandoning my successful career. But they soon came to accept my decision and happily witnessed my ordination by Senior Ven Xiu Jing.”

Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand.

He recalled that Than Hsiang was mooted at the Hewlett Packard canteen when his colleagues questioned him about his vegetarian diet.

“They also questioned me about Buddhism and its practices. We then started meditating and doing puja together in a colleague’s house before setting up a centre in Bayan Baru, which later became Than Hsiang.

“I received my higher ordination at the Hsi Lye Temple in the United States. I later received my Chan (Zen) Dharma transmission from Senior Venerable Bo Yuan in the Zhaodong Chan Dharma lineage,” he added.

Than Hsiang Temple was initially a place mainly for spiritual practice.

Later, it extended to play a social role in promoting education, welfare and cultural activities.

According to Ven Wei Wu, although Than Hsiang is a spiritual organisation, it is also active in education, social and cultural work.

“I believe that Than Hsiang will become better when I retire as abbot but I will still play a different (advisory) role.

Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand. 
Than Hsiang now has extensive ‘cradle to grave’ services and facilities including 10 kindergartens, Dharma classes for children and adults, Taiji classes, pre-marital courses, free clinics, vegetarian canteen, counselling centres, homes for senior citizens at several branches in the country as well as the International Buddhist College in Thailand.

“My successor Ven Zhen Dian was among the first batch of monks and nuns to be ordained at Than Hsiang Temple after me, so he is no stranger to the older devotees,” he said.

On his future plans, Ven Wei Wu said he would want to attain spiritual liberation, ultimately Buddhahood. He would also like to share the Dharma with friends in China and Western countries, if necessary to continue in future lives.

Than Hsiang started with about 20 members in the 80s, today it has 20,000 members and some 200,000 who support the organisation directly or indirectly in and outside Malaysia.

They have set up facilities such as a Metta Free Clinic, 10 kindergartens, two Mitra counselling centres and four senior citizens’ homes.

In Malaysia, there have branches in Penang, Kedah, Selangor, Wilayah, Negri Sembilan and Perak.

In Thailand, they have a Foundation and the International Buddhist College (IBC) which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

International Buddhist College IBC

IBC is an accredited institution offering BA, MA and PHD degree in English and Chinese mediums.

They have produced graduates from more than 30 countries. The students were recruited from top schools and universities such as Yale, Columbia, HKU, MU and NUS.

IBC graduates have been accepted into top universities of the world.

Currently, Than Hsiang is supporting the four Phor Tay schools financially as well as providing teachers with Buddhist classes.

The good work of Ven Wei Wu is the visible outcome of Than Hsiang’s noble mission: “For the young to learn, the strong and healthy to serve, the aged and sick to be cared for, and the departed to find spiritual destination.”

Source: Metro News


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A RM53mil road in Balik Pulau no one wants, now a township will be taking shape there on dangerously unstable mangrove swamps, and the Penang govt isn't aware of it !!

Ongoing work: A general view of the road project linking Kampung Sungai Pinang to Kampung Pulau Betong.
Ongoing work: A general view of the road project linking Kampung Sungai Pinang to Kampung Pulau Betong.

It's is unnecessary and the money is better spent elsewhere, says locals

BALIK PULAU: The government’s move to build a RM53mil road linking Kampung Sungai Pinang in the north to Kampung Pulau Betong on the south-western end of the island has got local folks fuming.

Fisherman Wan Mohizan Wan Hussein is one such person. The 52-year-old said the project would threaten Balik Pulau’s image of being “one with nature”.

“It would be better to spend the money on flood mitigation in the area,” he suggested.

“If it rains for two hours straight, there will definitely be flooding. That’s something that should be addressed,” he said.

Wan Mohizan said furthermore, the new road would be built along an existing narrow dirt trail and he felt that prices of land in the vicinity would increase.

“What if developers start coming here and offer to buy Balik Pulau farmland for development? Can we stop them?

“This side of the island is flat and easy to develop. The road can change Balik Pulau,” he said.

Balik Pulau is the “last hinterland” of Penang island, a flat farmland of about 1,000ha with narrow dirt trails.

For the first time since Penang was founded in 1786, this land on the island’s rustic eastern side will get a two-way tarred 10.2km road stretching almost the entire north-south length.

But the road construction has left many wondering why this road was being built through mangrove swamps, padi fields, shrimp ponds and oil palm estates.

Another fisherman, Mazlan Sahib, 48, said the new road was unnecessary and it would only welcome over-development.

“There are hardly any residents living there so it doesn’t make sense to have it at all.

“The project might also be a threat to the mangrove swamps along the coast,” he added.

Balik Pulau’s Simpang Empat resi­dent Zainudin Ahad wondered why the government planned to build a new road when the existing Jalan Baru that ran parallel to the new road about 3km away never experienced traffic congestion.

“I thought we need new roads only when existing roads are congested.

“The only traffic jam we get in Balik Pulau is in the town itself.

“There is never any traffic jam in the kampung area, so why give us a new road?” Zainudin questioned.

Kuala Sungai Burung Fishermen’s Association committee member Abd Malik Man, 55, said there was talk about the road project since the Barisan Nasional government.

“We thought that the project would be shelved. I didn’t think the new government would go ahead with it,” he said.

Abd Malik said many residents in the area around the new road were living or farming on government land and their leases might be over soon.

“The government has all the right to develop the land but the long-term impact should be taken into consideration,” he cautioned.

Even Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakthiar Wan Chik was dumbfounded by the new road.

He urged the Rural Development Ministry to look into more pressing areas that need the funds, beginning with flood mitigation, a new hospital and traffic snarls in the heart of Balik Pulau town.

“The new road is not top priority and does not serve much purpose,” he pointed out.

“I hope the ministry will practise stakeholder consultation with the locals and hold town hall meetings to see what the residents want.

“Neither the locals nor me knew that the road project was approved and the construction had begun,” he said.

He also appealed to the ministry to foster entrepreneurial projects for Balik Pulau’s numerous cottage industry products including bedak sejuk (cooling powder, a traditional facial treatment product), nutmeg, otak udang (prawn paste) and salted eggs.

By arnold loh and intan amalina mohd ali The Star

Parts of controversial road run along mangrove swamps

BALIK PULAU: The state government had tried to stall plans for a new road in Balik Pulau’s coastal farmland by insisting on an application for planning permission.

State Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said he had asked for realignment proposals of the road because stretches of this new road will run along the edge of the mangrove swamps.

“When the 2004 tsunami hit us, the mangrove swamp saved Balik Pulau from the worst effect.

“We also agree that the swamps are vital breeding grounds for the jumbo prawns that our inshore fisherman can catch when they are in season.

“So we want the road to be away from the swamps,” he said.

State Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said the requirement for an environmental assessment (EIA) impact report was initially done away with because the proposed road was to run along the existing dirt trail and the footprint was therefore too small to need an EIA.

“If there is proof that a tarred road through the western coastline of the island will impact the environment, we will not hesitate to require an EIA,” he said.

When told of the sentiments of the locals, a senior officer in the Rural Development Ministry declared that the ministry would immediately conduct a stakeholder consultation on the road construction.

“We renegotiated the road project because it was first proposed in 2016 and we did not want any more delays.

“But since there are signs that locals find the road unnecessary, we will go to the ground at once and find out what the Balik Pulau community wants,” the spokesman assured.

It is understood that the budget for the road comes from the 10th Malaysia Plan in 2015 and the state was willing to surrender 11.5ha of land along the route without asking for the premium, which came up to RM18mil, for the 10.2km two-way street.

Things changed after the general election when the Rural Develop­ment Ministry renegotiated with contractors and brought the price down to RM53mil from the initial ceiling budget that was over RM78mil.

As is permissible for government projects, the state government subsequently waived the need for planning permission and state approval was given late last month.

Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun visited the newly begun road construction last month.

Meanwhile, cycling enthusiasts were disappointed that the new road would be built over a dirt trail that made up the Balik Pulau Eco Bike Trail.

“This is a popular route for cyclists to enjoy some light off-road mountain biking across Balik Pulau’s rustic farmland,” one cyclist said.

A netizen, Adrian Chan, also wrote on Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik’s Facebook page: “We already have Jalan Baru (a two-way street serving villages in Balik Pulau). Just upgrade or widen it.

“We should keep the cycling trail. That is the only (rural) asset in Penang island.

“Batu Maung, Bayan Lepas all gone with the concrete like Queens Bay.

“Visitors from overseas really admire that we have a cycling trail with the nature view.”

Balik Pulau residents riled after finding out about latest development

BALIK PULAU: While residents in Balik Pulau are unhappy with a new road being built, it has been revealed that there’s actually a proposal to set up a new township on this last hinterland of the island.

A developer from Kuala Lumpur has promised farmers a payout of at least RM120mil to turn a strip of rural land on western Penang island into a township with nearly 600 houses, four blocks of high-rise buildings and two blocks of shoplots on top of community amenities.

It wants to develop 36ha of oil palm estates along which will soon be a new road for which the Rural Development Ministry is spending RM53mil to build.

When the road project was announced by the federal government last mid-December, many Balik Pulau residents were left wondering why the 10.2km road was needed along 1,000ha of oil palm land, shrimp ponds and mangroves, with hardly anyone living there.

Even the state government is left dumbfounded and completely unaware of plans to develop this countryside.

“This is something new to me. I don’t remember ever seeing a proposal to develop that area or to convert the land use.

“We have got to find out what is being planned. Is the ministry building that road for the developer?

“At first, we were unhappy that the road is being built right beside the mangrove swamp and we wanted another alignment away from it.

“And now we find out a developer has plans to build a township there.

“We will find out what is going on,” state Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh told The Star, stressing that the road was a federal project and the state was kept in the loop about it on a “for-your-info” basis.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia on Jan 30, the public-listed developer announced that it has entered into a joint-venture development agreement with Koperasi Kampung Melayu Balik Pulau Berhad to build 276 terraced houses, 214 semi-detached houses, 91 double-storey bungalows, two 16-storey blocks of condominiums, two 16-storey blocks of low-cost flats, two blocks of retail shoplots, a school, mosque, community hall and other public amenities on land which the co-op owns.

The 36ha is specified as being on Lots 254, 804 and 803 of the area.

A check with the Malaysia Co-operative Societies Commission database shows that the co-op exists though no other information on its members are available.

The developer guarantees in writing that the co-op will earn RM120mil, out of which RM45mil will be in cash payouts and the remaining will be given in the form of units built on the land.

It will be an 80-20 joint venture between the developer and the co-op, respectively.

The developer informed Bursa Malaysia that the gross development value of the joint venture deal is RM600mil.

In its Bursa Malaysia filing, the developer specified that the deal is conditional upon the successful extension of the land lease to 99 years, re-zoning of the land use category, and approval of all relevant building plans. The current status of the land is unclear.

For the first time since Penang was founded in 1786, the island’s rustic western coastline will get a two-way tarred road stretching almost the entire north-south length, from Bagan Sungai Pinang to Pulau Betong.

The road was first proposed by the federal government in 2016 and initially, the state Town and Country Planning Department requested the Public Works Department to apply for planning permission from Penang Island City Council.

The initial budget for the project was RM78mil and after the general election, the new government renegotiated with contractors and brought the price down to RM53mil.

Earlier, state Works Committee chairman Zairil Khir Johari said that the state waived the planning permission requirement after being convinced that the footprint of the road, which will be built along an existing dirt trail that villagers have used for decades, would be small.

The road construction began in December.

‘Risky to build on ex-mangrove swamps land

BALIK PULAU: A mangrove ecologist has warned of the risk of development encroaching into mangrove swamps, and the risks are for people and buildings.

Dr Foong Swee Yeok predicted that the road or planned property development on the eastern coastline of Penang island would not endanger the swamp or wildlife.

But she said the future road and buildings might suffer because the land on Balik Pulau’s coastline is all ex-mangrove swamp land, and there could be as deep as 25m of mud and clay down below.

“Developers will know how to pile deeply until they reach the bedrock for high rises, but there is no piling requirement for two-storey homes.

“You see nothing wrong in the first 10 years or so, but after that, things start sinking.

“Roads become wavy, uneven and start breaking apart,” she warned.

Dr Foong, who has been studying mangrove swamps since 1996, explained that the thick column of peat, mud and clay below the swamp is high in organic matter and once disturbed, it is prone to shifting over a long period after development.

“Waterlogged and anaerobic peat in the swamp becomes aerobic when drained. Then you get biological oxidation or mineralisation of the organic deposits. That is why the soil will sink,” she pointed out.

She said in developed ex-mangrove swamps on the island, such as parts of Bayan Lepas and Batu Maung, there have been numerous instances of buildings sinking and cracking after a few decades and this was due to the slow shifting of the mud and clay below.

Dr Foong also urged authorities to look into the operations of over 40 shrimp or fish dugout ponds fronting the land which a developer from Kuala Lumpur plans to build 276 terraced houses, 214 semi-detached houses, 91 double-storey bungalows, two 16-storey blocks of condominiums, two 16-storey blocks of low-cost flats, two blocks of retail shoplots, a school, mosque, community hall and other public amenities.

She said the tens of tonnes of shrimp and fish reared in the ponds produced vast amounts of nitrate and ammonia pollution.- The Star


MBPP, contractor, engineers and DOSH named as responsible in fatal Penang landslide

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Flat property market seen for Penang

Resilient values: Geh believes that both landed and high-rise units in prime locations will hold their values.

Research house says it will be buyers’ market over the short term

THE Penang property market is expected to remain flat yet resilient this year and could bottom out within the next two years.

CBRE|WTW Research in its Real Estate Market Outlook 2019 says it will be a buyers’ market over the short term, particularly for residential properties.

“Under the prevailing subdued market, launches of smaller, single phase developments would reduce in the short-term but larger integrated mixed developments or townships would carry on.

“The property market is anticipated to remain generally soft and flat in 2019. This is in consideration of the challenging global and domestic economy, rising cost of living, as well as supply-demand imbalances, particularly in the high-rise residential sector.”

The property consultancy however adds that Penang’s property market still demonstrates resilience, aided further by recovery in the economy.

“Meanwhile, the current excess in supply will effectively be absorbed by the market. Benefits of reforms undertaken by the new government could also trickle down to the local property market.”

Raine & Horne Malaysia senior partner and FIABCI Malaysian chapter president Michael Geh says transactions and values will most likely remain flat, at best.

“As residential market activity, in terms of transacted units, has been falling over the last few consecutive quarters, at best the year-on-year levels will hold. In light of the overall soft market, property values are not expected to rise in 2019,” he tells StarBizweek.

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents Penang chairman Mark Saw says the Penang residential market will see “some correction” this year.

“However, long-term planning on infrastructure improvements will go some way towards ensuring those locations currently only accessible by cars are better served with public transport.

“For those who have been holding back their launches the past few years, there may be a need to start selling, especially if land were bought on loans.”

He adds that measures taken by the state government will help to spur the Penang property market.

“With the waiver of the 3% approval fee for foreign purchasers starting from Feb 1, Penang must be seen to be investor friendly and foreign buyers should be encouraged to come.”

Meanwhile, Knight Frank Malaysia in its latest research report Real Estate Highlights for the Second Half of 2018 says the general outlook for the Penang property market “remains mixed without a dominant overall trend”.

“However, resulting from the interplay of supply and demand as well as the general economy, different sectors are performing differently. The residential sector, which is the leading sector in terms of total volume and value of transactions, has shown some improvement during the first half of 2018. “It registered a 5.4% increase in the volume of transactions year–on-year. This trend is expected to continue.”

Saw says prices of landed property in Penang are unlikely to drop.

“However, the high-rise market will remain challenging and developers will need to continue to offer incentives as well as alternate options of home ownership.

“Developers with deeper pockets or less loans may look into rent-to-buy schemes in tandem with the recently-announced National Home Ownership Campaign by the government.”

Geh believes that both landed and high-rise units in prime locations will hold their values, while speculatively-purchased condominiums will be affected.

“Government announcements on transportation plans, infrastructure and stimulus plans are among actions that can help stimulate the Penang property market tremendously,” he says.

Easing overhang

CBRE|WTW Research says the overhang within the Penang residential property market is likely to ease over the next two to three years, with developers offering special packages and postponing launches, all of which would allow demand to catch up with supply.

“The medium to long-term outlook remains positive given that various policies and efforts are being undertaken by the government,” it says.

Citing data by the National Property Information Centre, CBRE|WTW Research says there are over 2,200 high-rise overhang units worth nearly RM1.6bil as at the second quarter of 2018. “This is due to the abundant apartment and condominium units launched, constructed and completed within the past three-to-five years, coupled with the high rejection rate of end financing, unreleased bumiputra units and low demand for units in secondary locations.”

In terms of unsold residential units, CBRE|WTW Research says around 34% or 1,300 of the overhang units are in the RM500,001 to RM1mil per unit price range.

“On the other hand, units priced at RM1mil and above form the bulk (58%) of the total overhang valued at approximately RM1.75bil.

” The property consultancy adds that high-rise projects, particularly, are experiencing increased sales pressure amidst an oversupply situation.

“Under the challenging market, developers have resorted to offering incentives such as rebates on selling prices, zero or low downpayment, easy instalment payment of up to 24 months, deferred payment of (say) 30% of the selling price over five years at 0% interest, free legal fees and one year’s maintenance fee.

“Complimentary packages include interior design package, kitchen and electrical appliance vouchers as well as referral and reward schemes.”

Office and retail markets

Knight Frank Malaysia says the office sector is still enjoying stable rents and high occupancies, pointing out however that the overall occupancy rates in some buildings have dropped marginally.

“This favourable state of affairs is expected to continue for the next few quarters as new supply is only expected to come on-stream beyond 2020.”

CBRE|WTW Research says pent-up demand for newer and prime offices persists in Penang.

“New supply of offices in Penang in the past ten years was limited. New prime purpose-built office buildings completed within the past three years such as HunzaTower and Straits Quay Commercial Suites are enjoying commendable occupancy rates, although charging new benchmark rentals.

“Newly set-up offices, as well as offices relocated from older office buildings, comprise the tenants in these new buildings. Office occupiers are seeking newer office buildings that serve their contemporary needs and enhance their corporate image.”

It adds that pent-up demand for newer and prime offices would continue in the short-term, as most of the upcoming purpose-built office buildings are scheduled for completion in year 2020 and beyond.

“Older buildings are likely to experience a slide in demand thus lower rentals and capital prices.”

CBRE|WTW Research says stable occupancy rates can be anticipated, adding that rentals will increase.

“As at mid-2018, the overall occupancy rate of purpose-built office buildings in Penang declined slightly to 77% from 82% year-on-year. Occupancy rates are anticipated to generally remain in the region of 80% in near future.

“Rentals of prime office space in Georgetown were between RM2.50 and RM3.50 per sq ft. Prime offices outside George Town, particularly newer buildings in Bayan Lepas/Bayan Baru and Tanjung Pinang (Tanjung Tokong), registered higher rentals of RM3.30 to RM4.50 per sq ft.”

Due to increasing maintenance cost, CBRE|WTW Research says rentals of office space in most buildings are expected to increase in the short term.

“The overall average rental of prime offices would also increase, pulled-up by new entrants with higher asking rentals.”

As for the retail sub-sector in Penang, Knight Frank Malaysia says the current supply remains unchanged, adding that a more challenging scenario is anticipated for this sector with new supply to come on-stream with the expected opening of IKEA in Batu Kawan in the current quarter and the extension of Penang Times Square.

“Other retail centres/expansion of retail centres will be adding on the supply in 2020 and 2022.”

CBRE|WTW Research says the retail sector in Penang is likely to be flat, buffered by cautious optimism.

“Mixed performances will be more evident between the better and under-performing retail complexes, of which the latter is likely to drag down the overall occupancy and average rental rates.

“With abundant supply in the pipeline, shoppers can look forward to exciting shopping experiences.”

It says the overall occupancy rate stood at 72% as at mid-2018, with 79% for Penang island and 63% for Seberang Prai.

“Retail lots on the ground floor of selected prime retail complexes on the island commanded higher gross rental rates of up to RM45 per sq ft.”

Meanwhile, Geh says better-managed malls in prime locations are sustainable.

“These malls have sustained rental rates but vacancy factors have certainly increased by 5% to 10%.

“There is no oversupply but a rise in vacancy factors. Going forward, the general population’s purchasing trend remains cautious and wary of big-ticket items.”

Saw is less optimistic about the Penang retail sector, saying “this sector has been saturated for a few years and there is no end in sight”.

By Wugene Mahalingam, The Star


Real Estate Market Outlook 2019 - CBRE | WTW - C H Williams Talhar ...

Property sector expected to recover in first half
Property sector expected to recover in first half







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Property goodies with Govt and developers offering various incentives

A new challenge for the EPF


MANY international experts and organisations have expressed concern about the global economic outlook this year.

Tighter monetary policy, weaker earnings growth and political challenges are confronting major economies.

The long-running US-China trade war and uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the European Union have soured business and consumer sentiment in recent months. However, the risk of a recession remains small, say economists.