KUANTAN: The Pahang government will not budge from implementing the new leasing scheme in Cameron Highlands, due to the pressing need to resolve issues that have been plaguing the area.
Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail said he had heard the grumblings from farmers but maintained that the scheme was set up so that Cameron Highlands would not be continuously ravaged by irresponsible parties.
“We have to be aware that Cameron Highlands is not just an agricultural centre but also a tourism centre and a treasure of Pahang that has to be conserved and protected.
“Two main problems are pollution and a flood of foreigners. The foreigner issue has long been a hot topic reported in mainstream and electronic media as well as social media.
“Sadder still is that the foreigner and pollution issues are related, where the masterminds are locals who are greedy and irresponsible, ” he said.
Wan Rosdy said there were farmers who illegally encroached on public land without thinking of consequences to the environment.
“The land consists of road reserves, river banks and hill slopes, which errant individuals encroached on to lease to foreigners for profit.
“If these lands are cultivated by foreigners, the standard operating procedures and regulations set by the government will not be followed, thus causing not only land damage but also water and air pollution, ” he said.
Wan Rosdy said the state government had thus taken drastic measures to control commercial farming in Cameron Highlands.
One of the steps, he elaborated, was to increase the land rent for agricultural purposes.
He said the rate of RM4,500 per year or RM375 a month was not a huge amount for anyone who wanted to be a commercial farmer there, since the returns were estimated at between RM5,000 and RM15,000 a month per acre.
“But for those who intend to illegally rent out these plots of land to foreigners or others, they will find this a burden even though the change in rates is insignificant to real farmers, ” he reasoned.
He noted that there were dishonest parties who had stated that the rate had increased by 500%, which was a malicious and wrong accusation.
“The RM4,500 rate includes quit rent, assessment tax, water usage charges, environment charges and agricultural waste management charges.
“With this money, the state government will conserve and rehabilitate Cameron Highlands and at the same time, cover for the damages in the area.
“For those who are honest and committed, they will have no problem with this and assistance will still be rendered to them.
“However, our message is clear, please follow the rules and policies that have been set.
“We will not compromise with those who try to misappropriate the facilities provided by the state government to the people, ” said Wan Rosdy, while urging everyone not to politicise the decision.
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