SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG
AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE PENANG BIOBLITZ 2017
THE HABITAT PENANG HILL, PENANG, MALAYSIA
on 26th October 2017 6.30pm
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It gives me great pleasure to speak to you all today at the conclusion of the Penang Hill BioBlitz 2017 in this unforgettable location, under the stars and surrounded by our 130-million year old rainforest on Penang Hill.
2. From all accounts, it is clear that this event has been a tremendous success, both in terms of enlisting the participation of so many accomplished scientists and experts from Malaysia and the United States, and in the new records and discoveries that will undoubtedly help give us a more complete picture of the biodiversity of Penang Hill.
3. I am also excited to hear how, with the participation of the team from Jason Learning, the wonders of the tropical rainforest of Penang Island are being shared through various digital learning platforms to over 3.5-million students around the world. This is in line with the Penang State Government’s Policy to promote S.T.E.M. 4.0 or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Learning to prepare for the next industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.
4. Our common future depends on instilling a deep connection with the environment among future generations. I would like to thank Harry Cockrell and his family, and the management of the Habitat Penang Hill for investing RM35 million to establish The Habitat, and for their determination and commitment to realise the vision of creating world-class infrastructure to bring people back into the nature-loving forest.
5. I believe that The Habitat Penang Hill initiative is a fine example of a public-private partnership that has done the Penang people proud. We are creating a world class rainforest discovery centre which showcases nature and continues to draw local and international visitors, while playing an important role in environmental education within the community.
6. Penang Hill is unique as a rainforest site as it is located at the door step of a major population centre of 1.6-million people and also just 6km from a UNESCO World Heritage Site, our capital city of George Town.
7. I am excited to see that the new Canopy Walk is in the final stages of construction and look forward to returning to The Habitat again next month for the official opening.
8. Being able to experience this beautiful ancient 130 million year old rainforest is an incredibly humbling experience. It is a reminder that we humans are here but for a short time. These forests, which are brimming with life, are also vital to sustain human life. It is our duty to ensure that they endure for the benefit of current and future generations.
9. The Penang State Government has shown its commitment to this objective by protecting the forest of Penang Island within a complex of gazetted forest reserves, water-catchment areas and Penang National Park – which holds the record as the smallest national park in the world. Unlike many other states, Penang is the only state in Malaysia which has not cut a single square inch of permanent forest reserve.
10. We had never allowed logging on permanent forest reserves, the only state in Malaysia where not a single square inch has been touched since 2006. In comparison, Pahang, the biggest culprit, cut down 161,379 hectares, followed by Kelantan 157,919 hectares and Perak 74,032 hectares. And we have planted more than 271,000 new trees in Penang since 2008.
11. Even Penang was praised by Qatar Airways for our "magnificent natural scenery" as a factor why they choose Penang, when Qatar Group announced that they will be flying direct from Doha to Penang in February next year. And yet we are falsely accused of clearing hills when nothing is further from the truths. Penang is well on its way to be the first green state in Malaysia.
12. We are also proud to be preparing the nomination of the forests of Penang Hill as part of a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve. I would like to thank Mr. Cheok Lay Leng, General Manager of the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) for leading the process which is conducted in collaboration with other government agencies and stakeholders. I would also like to thank The Habitat Foundation for its generous support in helping to fund the preparation of the dossier.
13. On behalf of the Penang State Government, I would like to register our sincere appreciation to all scientists and naturalists who have been part of the Penang Hill Bio Blitz 2017. I am certain that the discoveries from the top-to-bottom exploration of the forest over these past two weeks, which I am told is a world-first, will not only strengthen the nomination but provide insights into the forests of Penang Hill that will engage and inspire us all.
14. For those who are leaving to return to home countries, thank you for coming to Penang and we wish you a safe journey home. For those from Penang, thank you for your participation in the Penang Hill BioBlitz 2017 and to you also, a safe journey home.
15. Congratulations and thank you once again to the management of The Habitat Penang Hill and The Habitat Foundation for organizing a successful event.
Thank You and enjoy the rest of your evening.