Govt to push ahead with unpopular Satun, Songkhla deep-sea ports
published : 3 Dec 2019 at 15:36
writer: Thodsapol Hongtong
The government will push ahead with building the Pak Bara deep-sea port in Satun, and the second Songkhla deep-sea port, at a total cost of 17 billion baht, despite opposition from local residents.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said on Tuesday he had asked the Marine Department to revive the Pak Bara deep-sea project, to cost about 12 billion baht.
He admitted the project had earlier been put on hold because of public protests against it.
However, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wanted the port to be built, Mr Saksayam said.
The government also wanted to go ahead with construction of the planned second Songkhla deep-sea port, which would cost about 5 billion baht.
The transport minister said the first step would be to create a better understanding with local residents about the Songkhla port project. They would be told about the benefits the second deep-sea port would bring. Officials already had results of studies on the project.
Mr Saksayam said the ministry had not budgeted for the two deep sea-port projects in fiscal year 2020. However, he believed there were several ways to fund projects if they were deemed useful, such as the using the Thailand Investment Fund, or investment in the form of a public private partnership.
“These projects are good and will benefit the trade and maritime transportation, as they will keep transport costs lower. The Marine Department has been assigned to carry out the projects, to set them in concrete.
"A study must cover both the pros and cons of the projects in every aspect. It is necessary to create a better understanding among the local people,’’ Mr Saksayam said.
The Pak Bara deep-sea port would bring many benefits, according to the minister. He admitted there were those agreed with it, and those who disagreed. He and his deputies would work together to make it happen.
Findings of previous studies on the project would be reviewed, and a new environmental impact study may be needed, Mr Saksayam said.
Studies for the Pak Bara project were conducted and efforts made to push the project in 2017-2018, but it was met with opposition from local residents and non-governmental organisation activists.
A source at the ministry said this strong opposition posed a major obstacle for the government's plans to hold public hearings and prepare public, environmental and health impact assessments for the project.
The second Songkhla deep-sea port project has faced similar obstacles.