Save Pengerang

(courtesy of Hee JW)

In the Shadow of Pengerang

On the southeastern tip of Johor, there is a small town with big story: Pengerang.

On May 13, 2012 the Johor government officially flagged off a Refinery And Petrochemical Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang – a project that involves an investment of MYR60 Billion and a capacity to refine 300,000 barrels of imported crude oil. One of the investors of the RAPID project, KuoKuang Petrochemical company had finally ended their long running saga at Taiwan, signing an agreement with Malaysia’s Johor state government to invest in the RAPID project.

RAPID project is estimated to acquire 22,500 acres of land affecting 4 Chinese Cemeteries, 7 Villages, 11 Chinese Temples and 2 Schools are told to be relocated. Affected people would be relocated in stages, with the first batch set to move in March next year consisting of 3 villages: Sg. Kapal, Teluk Empang and Langkah Baik. The quantum of compensation has still not yet been announced until today.

Citing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, conducted by Taiwan Chung Hsing University’s environmental engineering department, Prof. Tsuang Ben Jei in 2010, showed that the average life span of people islandwide will decrease by 23 days if the KuoKuang Petrochemical Project was to be launched in Taiwan: Full story here.

The RAPID Project is much more bigger. The only reasonable inference is that this means the damage will be serious. But Pengerang’s villagers are being relocated to a new location merely within a 5km radius away.

Almost every historical city has a geographical symbol that conjures up the trauma of its people. For Pengerang, it is a silver lobster monument placed at Sg. Rengit, right in the heart of Pengerang. From afar, the town by the seaside is remarkable graceful, the sky painted in blue and sea cover in shades of green.

Pengerang’s main source of income is reaped from agriculture and fishery, and some run local businesses mainly in the tourism industry and restaurants. Fishermen here need not venture far into the vast ocean foraging for seafood, especially because spiny lobsters congregate in the shallows to spawn. Farmers invested their entire life into plantations, and now, the fruits are finally repaying their commitment. But all were told to relocate, not only affecting their lifestyle but their source of income too!

In the Shadow of Pengerang
Hee JW
12 September 2012 – LoyarBurok


10 BIG QUESTIONS about Pengerang

On May 13 2011, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Petronas will invest RM60bil in a major integrated refinery and petrochemical complex in Pengerang, Johor. The Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development (RAPID) project by Petronas, as it is known, is expected to be commissioned by the end of

2016, as part of the national oil company’s efforts to expand its downstream production.

Exactly a year later on May 13 2012, when the RAPID project was officially launched, the total value is now RM120bil, with expected investments from Taiwanese and German petrochemical companies, easily making this Pengerang project the biggest-ever in the history of this nation.

In the midst of all the excitement and promises of economic benefits to the state of Johor and the nation, there has been some disquiet amongst the Pengerang community.

Local NGOs were formed and had submitted memorandums to various authorities and several protests were organised this year.

It would be wrong to say that these NGOs and the people they represent are against any form of development in Pengerang but what many are concerned about is that it has to be sustainable.

These local NGOs have adopted a unifying theme – “Kekalkan Pengerang Lestari”, or Maintain the Sustainability of Pengerang. Development of such scale must be embarked upon with regards for the people affected by it and be done responsibly to minimise its impact on the environment.

We have to ask honest questions and hear honest answers to these questions so that the concerns of not just the Pengerangites but also Malaysians are allayed.

There are many issues and questions to ask but I want to list down 10 big questions to ask the government about this massive project.

Question 1 – The RAPID Project requires 6,424 acres of land but why is the Johor government using the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to acquire 22,500 acres of land? We hope a plausible and detailed explanation for its justification is forthcoming so that the government would not be accused of using Rapid as an excuse to grab land from the ordinary people of Pengerang.

Question 2 – What is going to happen to the fishermen and smallholders who would have lost their means of livelihood? There are about 3,100 residents within the seven villages affected, who earned a living as fishermen and smallholders. Though some argued that 40,000 jobs would be created during the construction phase and 4,000 by the time the projects are completed in 2016, the reality are for many of these affected fishermen and farmers, it would be difficult for them to work in these new jobs because their skills are different.

Question 3 – It has been reported that licensed fishermen are being offered RM30,000 compensation whilst unlicensed ones are offered half that amount. Smallholders with 1-2 acres land are offered between RM65,000 to RM105,000 for their land. As a “sweetener”, the Johor government is offering “subsidized” alternative housing on 6,000 sq.ft. of land with built-up area between 750 to 1,600 sq.ft. The discounted prices the villagers would have to pay for these houses range from RM35,000 to RM105,000. In short, they would have given up their 1-2 acres of land and houses in exchange for 6,000 sq.ft. of land with a house on it, some 15-20km away, with little or no money in their pocket and no land to earn a living. I am told many of these lands are shared between several siblings in the first place, thus, after dividing the compensation they won’t even be able to afford the “subsidized” housing. Is this a fair deal?

Question 4 – Why is our government so keen to welcome KuoKuang Petrochemical of Taiwan when they have been rejected by their own country? Again, like the Lynas case, is our government telling us that Malaysian lives are worth not only less than the Australian but also now, less than the Taiwanese? We have to understand why the Taiwanese people were so against KuoKuang before we welcome them into our land.

Question 5 – Is it true that a petrochemical plant the scale of Rapid would need massive amount of processed water a day to operate, almost 75% of Johor’s current daily consumption? If this is true, wouldn’t it cause acute water shortages in Johor? Have the government foresaw this and made plans to increase the supply of processed water for the state?

Question 6 – Apart from consuming large quantity of water, it would also need large quantity of electrical energy? If not, has the government made plans to increase the energy output in Johor? Has this got anything to do with the rumoured nuclear power plants to be setup in Pengerang? What would our neighbour across the straits have to say about this, especially in the light of the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster?

Question 7 – In May 2009, during a visit to Singapore, PM Najib proposed to his counterpart PM Lee Hsien Loong that a third link be built linking Pengerang to Singapore. When would this proposal be followed-up with another announcement? Would it be after all the land near this third link has been acquired and parceled to third party companies so that they can make a killing?

Question 8 – Currently the Department of Environment (DOE) requires developers to submit the EIA report. This report is paid for by the developers, in this case Petronas. Can we trust the glowing DEIA (Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment) report by Integrated Envirotect Sdn Bhd? Isn’t it a case of “he who pays the piper calls the tune”? Shouldn’t an independent panel of local and international experts be appointed to do the DEIA so that the integrity of the report would not be compromised and the truth of potential environmental impact can be known?

Question 9 – It is oppression to the local communities when you unilaterally announce a major development without consultation. That was what happened in Pengerang. When PM Najib made the announcement in May 2011, it was said that even the local state assemblyman was clueless, let alone the villagers. Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is an approach outlined in international human rights law and declarations. It recognizes the right of local affected people to be consulted, and to negotiate with, project developers on the impact of a project on their community. Have the voices of the Pengerang people being heard?

Question 10 – For all the claims of huge economic benefits these petrochemical projects would bring to this country, we hear that the Taiwanese company, KuoKuang Petrochemical will be given a tax holiday of 10-years! Their government rejected them and ours give them this incentive to move here. While we, the taxpayer pay our government to look after us, hazardous foreign companies are invited into our country to pollute us tax-free, denying us probably billions in taxes which could have bee used to clean up the environment and improve health care here. What is going on here?

In Conclusion…

What do we value in our society? Have we come to a point where everything is valued by ringgit and sen? If a project is valued at RM120 billion, then it is more valuable than the rights of people, our heritage, creatures under our care, our floral and fauna, and the environment? If so, how are we different from the prostitute who offers herself to the highest bidder?

As Malaysians, we are concern with what is happening in Pengerang not because it could directly impact us but because it could be our homes and livelihood that would be taken next. What we are confronting is not an isolated situation but a systemic problem of lack of transparency, disregards for the people’s rights and the environment.

These are honest questions that are in need of answers from the only people who can answer them – the government. We hope that honest answers will be forthcoming in the days to come. We hope that the declaration “Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan” (People first, Performance now) is more than an empty slogan when it comes to Pengerang.

But for now, I and thousands others will be attending Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang on 30th September because we are seeking answers and standing in solidarity with our fellow Malaysians in Pengerang. For more information, you can visit

10 BIG QUESTIONS about Pengerang
Written by Thomas Fann
26 September 2012 – Malaysia Chronicle


The last struggle for Pengerang people

FMT LETTER: From Teck Hwa Er

Himpunan Hijau Organising Committee and Pengerang NGO Alliance, together with some other NGOs will hold a 15,000 strong people’s rally in Pengerang on 30 Sept 30, 2012. The theme of the rally is ‘Green Assembly: Lestari Pengerang’.

I have said before that the real issue in Pengerang is basically different from the issue of factory lots in Kuantan, or also the issue of gold mining that uses cyanide in Bukit Koman.

Whether it is construction of factory lots in Kuantan, or gold mining factory operations by Raub-Australia Gold Maining Co, no residents’ land is to be acquired. The residents in those affected areas are able to continue protest activities until the factories concerned are closed down.

The Pengerang Refinery and Petrochemical Project is completely different. The land of the local residents will be taken back for this development project. While the residents are being forced to move out because land is taken away, the affected areas will be left empty. If the said areas are without tenants, how can the struggle be continued?

According to the latest plan, the government will take over more than 6,000 acres of land in two stages. The area that is being taken encompases land from Kampung Sebung to Kampung Sungai Buntu.

The first stage of taking back land started at early September 2012. The taking back of land will commence during the sixth week, after the briefing on the taking back of land ends.

I wish to emphasise again that the big rally which will be held in Sungai Renggit on Sept 30, 2012, maybe a huge grand assembly which is the last in Pengerang area.

After the government has completed the taking back of land for the first and second stages, the houses and land from more than half of the members of Pengerang NGO Union, including the headquarter of Pengerang NGO union, which is situated in Sg Kapal , all will be completely taken away by the government.

After the committee members and residents in the affected areas are forced to migrate to other places, they will lose its office and most of its commitee members.

Although remaining members who are left behind can reorganise for further struggles, the situation they will face is they will confront a RAPID project area that is of 10 thousand acres, closely guarded by the security officers, and the place is full of bulldozers and tractors.

The final struggle

The struggle to save Pengerang village living area has been going on for half a year. The inconveniences and problems that have been experienced are beyond imagination.

The activities which are carried out by Pengerang NGO union in the villages in Pengerang, include giving information explaining the resulting effects arising from this project, collecting data and facts, and soliciting donations for activity.

Besides that, they have to stand against sabotage and spies from certain quarters. For outsiders, if a civil campaign fails, it can be reorganised and initialied again. On the contrary, for the Pengerang residents, they have only one chance.

The writer is MP for Bakri (Johor)

The last struggle for Pengerang people
September 14, 2012 – FMT


Storm brewing over RM35b Johor-Taiwan oil deal in Pengerang

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Johor has quietly agreed with a Taiwanese firm to undertake construction of a RM35 billion oil refinery in Pengerang, a business weekly reported, a decision that could risk triggering a second Lynas storm in Malaysia.

The Edge Business and Investment Weekly reported in its latest edition that the Johor government had inked an agreement with Taiwan’s CPC Corp last week with little fanfare despite Putrajaya’s eagerness to court foreign firms in its bid to push Malaysia into the ranks of high-income nations by 2020.

“A letter of undertaking was signed early last week between the state and Kuokang… [however] the formal announcement has to come from the Taiwan government, not from Johor,” the weekly quoted an unnamed executive close to the deal as saying.

The paper reported that CPC’s majority shareholder Kuokang Petrochemical Tehnology Co will be taking a lead in the construction as the word among industry players is that the Taiwanese company’s plant in Kaohsiung will be shuttered within three years due to long-standing complaints of pollution by the country’s environmental groups.

The project involves the building of a petroleum refinery complex capable of handling load of up to 150,000 barrels-a-day and a naphtha cracker with an annual capacity of 800,000 tonnes, the paper reported, adding that the project was still in early stages.

The Edge reported that state-run CPC had initially planned on building the oil refinery in Taiwan but was forced to relocate after the island nation’s president Ma Ying-jeou pulled his support for the project last year due to intense lobbying from domestic green groups.

CPC turned to Malaysia because it is closer than the Middle East and Johor is understood to have promised to transfer land for the company’s use, the paper reported.

But the multi-billion ringgit project may face equally strong opposition here as in Taiwan.

In April this year, a group of 578 fishermen initiated a lawsuit against the Johor government and its contractors to stop a RM5 billion Pengerang petrochemical hub from being built in their backyard, which they claim is affecting their livelihood.

The two projects, one by Petronas, and the other by Kuokuang, carry a combined investment value in excess of RM120 billion and could catapult Malaysia into position as Asia’s petrochemical hub.

But Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuki Seri Mustapa Mohamed, told Parliament last month that no formal application has been submitted to his ministry for approval.

Storm brewing over RM35b Johor-Taiwan oil deal in Pengerang
July 15, 2012 – TMI

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All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil
is for good men
to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke
When the people
fears their government,
there is TYRANNY;
when the government
fears the people,
there is LIBERTY.

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