The now moth-balled Tanjung Aru Eco Development Sdn Bhd (TAED) is a 100pc Sabah Government-owned company that was incorporated to implement the TAED project when it was launched in 2013.
TAED spokesman John Kong said the clarification was necessary to dispel the notion propagated by activists, among others, that the company and project belonged to former Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
"The company does not belong to Musa or to any other individual," he said. It was registered under the Chief Minister Incorporated (Ordinance) (Sabah Cap. 23) under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government and that its Board comprises the Mayor, representatives from various relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Finance, heads of government departments and others.
"A lot of people don't understand the company structure. Likewise, many have the notion that Tanjung Aru Beach has been taken over by China. It's totally baseless. Let me stress here that TAED is free from encumbrances. We want to set the record straight about TAED, which is a mixed development project," he said.
"The public deserve to know the truth. It is a blatant lie for anyone to claim that the public have lost several hundred acres of beach land because of the project. Rather, the whole idea of TAED is to give back a nice public beach to Sabahans while promoting the concept of sustainable development".
He said the other misconception is that the public have lost access to the beach. "This is not true. In fact, 25.5pc of the total land area (348.14 hectares) for the mega urban tourism development project belongs to the public. This is free public space," he said.
The open spaces (25.5pc) include Prince Philip Park, Prince Philip Wharf, Beach, Beachfront Park, Canal Boardwalk, Canal & Basin, and Green Connector & Buffer.
Kong said the TAED Local Plan (covering 348.14 hectares) has been gazetted by the State Government, following the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) approval for the project. The gazettement was signed by the Head of State on March 5, this year, and published in the Government Gazette on April 5 this year making TAED an approved scheme.
"As an approved scheme, it has legal protection and no one can change it unless you go through the degazettement process. It has taken years for the gazettement to take place as it involves EIA and has to go through WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature). The TAED EIA process is all transparent to the public," he added.
The environmental consultant responsible for the preparation of this SEIA Report was DHI Water and Environment (M) Sdn Bhd (535484-V) (EPD Reg. No. F008 - Exp. 30/09/2018).
It has been rated as Sabah's biggest green development under the Green Building Index, according to him.
Borneo Media & Publication, of which Kong is the Creative Director, has been appointed by the TAED Board of Directors to engage with stakeholders, notably the general public, business community, environment activists and media practitioners, among other target groups, in disseminating correct information on the TAED project and gathering feedback to gauge the people's sentiment towards it.
Kong is building a TAED website to house all the information and links to relevant documents.
"We feel that the public are not well-informed on what TAED is all about and hence the misperception and inability to give a fair judgement. For now, my role is to provide the facts and figures to enlighten the people. Once the information is out, the public can decide. I am given two months to complete the job. Very challenging. Ultimately, the people together with the State Government (Warisan-Pakatan Harapan-Upko) can then decide whether they want to proceed with the project or scrap it. That's what the CM said," Kong pointed out, adding that Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has been briefed on the project.
Assuming that the people want the project to be scrapped, what will happen? He contends that we cannot simply convert the land and sell it to an individual as the government is the shareholder.
"Changing the plan entails public consultation and going through the degazettement process and the Cabinet. That will take three years, and the new Development Plan (if there is one) submission and approval may take another few years. By that time, it will be the 15th General Election. Do the politicians want this?" he asked.
"At the same time, the public will not get to enjoy a nice beach."
Kong stressed that under TAED, the State Government's mission is to address the current environmental issues and to rejuvenate the degraded Prince Philip Park (PPP) and polluted Tanjung Aru Beach in efforts to create sustainable development towards boosting the State's economy.
This, he said, will in turn create much-needed job opportunities for the people of Sabah.
While conceding that the TAED project is a mega urban sustainable tourism development project for the city of KK, he assured that this eco development will also focus on creating green public places to provide a healthy environment for the people.
"In other words, our development approach is one that will balance the environment, social benefits for the people and economy. But the public appear to disbelieve this."
Kong established the validity of earlier media reports that the TAED project is anticipated to rake in an initial investment of about RM30 billion.
"This will be realised through the sale of about 30pc of the land. Funding is required to finance this mammoth project. We will be tendering the 30 lots earmarked for commercial and residential development once the project is given the nod by the State Government."
On the positive outcome of the project, he said the public will be rewarded with free public spaces such as a cycling track, pedestrian walkways, a larger and rejuvenated beach and a larger Prince Philip Park more than double its existing size with a rainforest theme.
"Perhaps we should pose this question to the public - do you want your children and grandchildren to enjoy those facilities?"