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Sunday, 31 January 2016

(The Star) Penalty awaits those who fail to pay GST by Jan 31

PUTRAJAYA: Failure to pay the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is due by Jan 31, will incur a penalty of between 5% and 25% of the tax amount.

Customs director-general Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad said this was in line with amendments made to Section 41 of the Goods and Services Tax Act 2014, which came into effect on Jan 1.

He said the imposition of penalty would start for the taxable period for which the payment of the tax is due and payable within the time prescribed.

“The rate of penalty calculation is based on the number of days the GST is not paid. For the period of one to 30 days, the penalty rate on the amount of original tax charged is 5%; for the period of one to 60 days, 15%; and for one to 90 days, 25%.

“Those who fail to pay the GST amount beyond the 90-day period will be subject to a maximum penalty of 25% of the amount of tax,” he said yesterday.

He said the penalty would be imposed on the original amount of tax due and payable starting after the GST payment deadline. — Bernama


Saturday, 30 January 2016

(NST) Seven bus routes will be reassigned in Sungai Besi and Jalan Klang Lama


KUALA LUMPUR: The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) will reassign seven Bus Network Revamp (BNR) bus routes in the Sungai Besi and Jalan Klang Lama Corridors on Feb 1. 

In a statement today, SPAD said the reassignment of the seven bus routes was in an effort to improve and stabilise the bus services under BNR. 

"SPAD will reassign seven bus routes in the Sungai Besi and Jalan Klang Lama Corridors which are currently operated by Metrobus to Nadi Putra and RapidKL. 

"This move is to ensure that commuters in high demand sectors in both Sungai Besi and Jalan Klang Lama Corridors see an improvement in service," it said. 

It reiterated that BNR was not a static implementation and the commission remains open to review and improve routes within the BNR network. 

"Route 523 (Dengkil - IOI City Mall via Putrajaya/Cyberjaya) will be served by Nadi Putra and realigned as Route 521, and will run from Dengkil to IOI City Mall via Putrajaya. The service will operate from 6.30 am until 11 pm with a frequency of 30 minutes. 

"Route 608 (IOI Mall Puchong - Dengkil via Pulau Meranti) will be served by Nadi Putra and realigned as Route 503, and will run from IOI Mall Puchong to Putrajaya Sentral via Pulau Meranti. The service will operate from 6 am until 11 pm with a frequency of 30 minutes," it added. 

SPAD added in the statement, the other five routes will be served by RapidKL with Route 671 (Flat Enggang Kinrara-HAB Pasar Seni) realigned from Flat Enggang Kinrara-HAB Pasar Seni via IOI Mall Puchong. 

Other RapidKL routes were, Route T570 (UPM - KTM Serdang) as direct service, Route 670 (PPR Muhibbah - HAB Pasar Seni) will be merged with Route 651 from Taman OUG - PPR Muhibbah - HAB Pasar Seni. 

"Route T601 (Puchong Prima - Saujana Puchong via Puchong Utama) has been realigned into two routes to reduce wait time for commuters. 

"The Puchong Prima - Puchong Utama route will be known as Route T601 while the Saujana Puchong - Puchong Utama route will be known as Route T602," it said. 

For more information, the public may call SPAD Hotline at 1-800-88-7723 (SPAD) or check www.facebook.com/SPAD.my

(The Star) Separate quit rent billing on strata titles a reality?

SCENARIO A: For 15 years, more than 50 owners of 90 condominium units diligently contributed their share of quit rent, apportioned by the developer’s surveyor, to their developer.

They were shocked when they made checks at the Wilayah Land Office and discovered that their developer had somehow used their portion of payment towards arrears that had accumulated to RM114,432 between 2005 and 2013. This figure does not take into account the quit rent for the current year and the late penalty that was imposed by the related land office. More shocking was that the penalty levied was quite a hefty sum over and above the arrears.

(Note: It is a policy of every land office that quit rent (land rent) has to be paid yearly, not later than May 31, failing which a penalty of 10% will be levied.)

To rub salt into their wound, the now defunct developer, when approached by the owners/buyers, informed them that they have not pursued recovery through legal means, against those recalcitrant unit owners who have not paid their share of the quit rent.

Will those law-abiding owners then have to pay the apportioned penalties imposed by the land office against their defaulting developer, for failure to effectively collect from those recalcitrant owners? It is only fair that portion of penalties be borne by the developer! Perhaps, this situation allows the developer the very excuse that they are, thus, unable to apply for strata titles.

Scenario B: I have paid my apportioned quit rent of RM55 to the JMB/MC but other co-owners have not. My transfer of strata title to my son cannot be registered by the related land office because the total quit rent payable on the master title is RM19,500 and has not been paid. The fact that others failed to pay have thwarted my transfer of strata title. That’s not fair!

Strata titles application

It is a requirement of every land office throughout Peninsular Malaysia that quit rent has to be paid up to the time of application for strata titles. This is provided for in Section 9(e) of the Strata Titles Act, 1985.

As long as the quit rent is not paid in full, subdivision of any building into strata titles cannot be processed by the land office. It is, therefore, pertinent that parcel owners should galvanise their representative group under JMB status to have periodical dialogue with their developers, or their appointed managing agents, and to make independent checks at the land office in the vicinity where their property is situated. As long as the strata titles are not applied for by the developers, they will never be issued by the land office who have often been blamed for the inordinate delays.

Lawyer’s dilemma

In a situation where separate strata titles are available for distribution to the parcel owners, the lawyer appointed by the owner will undertake the said transmission through the requisite memorandum of transfer (MoT) prescribed under the National Land Code, 1965 for effectual transfer from the developer (transferer) to the buyer (transferee).

Similarly, it is the policy of every land office that quit rent receipt must be produced at the registration counter (of the land office) as evidence that the quit rent has been paid up to the current year before they are able to accept the MoT for registration. Registration fees are also payable at the time of presentation.

Often, the lawyers are caught in a Catch-22 situation that thwarted registration of the MoT, where some stubborn developers will be uncooperative and refuse to heed their complaints for an expeditious settlement of the quit rent so as to facilitate transfer of their strata titles. Among the excuses are the following:

> Some of the owners have not paid up their contribution of quit rent;

> The developer is purportedly appealing against the re-adjustment of those rates;

> The penalties imposed by the land office, on delayed payment of quit rent, are unjust as they have to apportion the penalties to those parcel owners paid after the cut-off date i.e May 31; and

> Since the last day to pay the quit rent to the land office is May 31, why pay early when the developer can utilise those collected funds for some other purposes? There is nothing in it for them to facilitate the MoT registration.

The phenomenal growth of stratified building in recent years has posed new challenges to the law and in practice. Legislation has to be amended and re-amended to keep pace with such development. Amendments were made to the Strata Titles Act 1985 in 2007 which among other things, brought into operation the computerisation system for strata titles.

With the computerisation system of strata titles came provisions that relate to the forms, the procedures for preparation and registration of the title, dealing in parcel and entry or endorsement, memorial and modification.

The said amendments have been in force since April 12, 2007 for Peninsular Malaysia. One of the pertinent amendments is the deletion of Section 43 (1)(j) of the Strata Titles Act, 1985 that relates to “duties and power of the managing corporation” to “pay the rent of the lot”.

The “lot” here refers to the master (parent) title prior to subdivision. All the foregoing translates to the fact that it is possible to have separate billing of quit rent (land revenue) on the “individual parcel” i.e. strata titles instead of the “lot”.

Why then is separate quit rent billing not done by the land offices? Is there a lacuna in the law? If so, why hasn’t something been done? What have the authorities done for the past eight to nine years to give it clarity?

Let’s get practical

For many years, the National House Buyers Association (HBA) has expressed its frustration of the ills of not having separate quit rent billing even though we have separate strata titles. It doesn’t make sense to have one without the other.

If there is a “mistake”, why don’t the authorities do something about it instead of letting the rakyat suffer? Surely, eight or nine years is long enough to attend to something as simple as “one quit rent bill for one parcel property”!

The HBA has had several dialogues with Pemudah’s Focus Group on Registration of Property (FGRP) (http://www.pemudah.gov.my) committee helmed by Datuk Andy Seo and co-chaired by Datuk Sallehuddin Ishak (the newly appointed director-general of JKPTG) and the outcome of the meetings look positive and forward looking.

The major obstacle, that is the mindset of the government agency is now behind us because of the encouragement from Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa.

It is envisaged that the positives that will be conceived from these efforts would be the following:

> There will, henceforth, be separate billing of quit rent to individual parcel owners similar to the assessment rates (to ratepayers) billed by the local council;

> This enables payment of annual quit rent on individual parcels and not on the entire lot;

> Quit rent on the common property too will be apportioned by the land office and incorporated into the separate quit rent bill;

> The system change for separate billings will be made effective beginning next year on a clean platter (meaning “zero account”);

> Quit rent arrears prior to the year ending 2016 will have to be the burden of the developer or JMB (joint management body) or MC (management corporation), as the case any be, to procure collection from those delinquent parcel owners; and

> Billings will be to the nearest ringgit.

We sincerely hope that there will be no change of heart to thwart the smooth application of strata titles.


(The Star) Holding out during tough times

New mall: The Utropolis Marketplace by Paramount Property is one of the upcoming malls for 2016.
New mall: The Utropolis Marketplace by Paramount Property is one of the upcoming malls for 2016.

Challenging property market offers opportunities

DURING a presentation at the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the private sector, Malaysia (PEPS) seminar on Jan 20, one of the speakers asked the estate agents in the audience to identify themselves via a show of hands – but only a handful of them did.

The poor response could usually be associated with the typically shy Malaysian audience, who are more often then not, less interactive when questions are posed to them.

But it is Savills Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Allan Soo who probably sums up the situation best when he says: “Today, most of the estate agents are with (mobile ride request company) Uber.”

While his comment sparks huge laughter among the crowd, on a more serious note, it also goes to show that times have been challenging and that it was not surprising for valuers and estate agents alike to contemplate alternative income.

On the local retail segment, Soo expects more consolidation in the sector this year.

“We see rents going south in some of the best malls, with opportunities in good locations. We also see improved sales in better malls, with the weaker ringgit providing an opportunity for tourism and luxury.”

Soo cites Sunway Pyramid, 1Utama Shopping Centre, Mid Valley Megamall, Suria KLCC and Pavilion KL as examples of prime retail malls in the Klang Valley.

He says some 17 million sq ft of shopping space will be introduced into the Klang Valley from this year until 2018.

Expected incoming retail supply this year are Damansara City Mall, Sunway Velocity Lifestyle Shopping Mall, KL Gateway Retail Podium, MyTOWN Shopping Centre and KL Eco City Retail Podium, Sunway Pyramid Phase 3, Utropolis Marketplace, da:men, AEON Mall Shah Alam, Empire City Mall, The Starling @ Damansara Uptown, EVO Shopping Centre, M Square Shopping Centre, Melawati Mall, Retail @ Pacific Star, GLO Damansara, Selayang Star City, Amerin Mall and Bangi Mall.

Next year will see the introduction of Giant Setapak Mall, Elite Pavilion, Four Season Place Retail Podium, Suria KLCC Extension (Lot 185,167,K), TRX Lifestyle Quarter Mall, EkoCheras, Kiara 163 Lifestyle Mall, Tropicana Gardens Mall, CentralPlaza Mall and The Wharf Puchong.

GM Robertson and Kuala Lumpur International Outlet are expected to make their debut in 2018, and 2019, Pavilion Damansara Heights will be opening its doors.

Meanwhile, Area Management Sdn Bhd executive chairman and former Axis REIT Managers Bhd chief executive officer and executive director, Datuk Stewart Labrooy, says the outlook for the Malaysian real estate investment trust (REIT) sector is positive.

Soo: ‘Today, most of the estate agents are with Uber.’
Soo: ‘Today, most of the estate agents are with Uber.’

“The Malaysian REITs fundamentals remain solid, backed by steady organic earnings growth (positive rental reversions, space reconfiguration and stable occupancy rates) and healthy balance sheets.”

He says the market likes REITs with strategically located prime retail assets, such as KLCC Property’s Suria KLCC, Pavilion REIT’s Pavilion KL Mall, IGB REIT’s MidValley Megamall and Sunway REIT’s Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall, which have relatively stronger holding power for rental hikes and the industrial space which is growing in a dull market.

Labrooy notes that acquisitions among mall REITs are on the rise, with Pavilion REIT recently announcing two acquisitions, namely The Intermark Mall and da:ménUSJ for RM160mil and RM488mil respectively.

“The Intermark Mall has a total net lettable area of 255,014 sq ft. The net yield of 6.1% for the three-year-old mall is fair, given its prime location along Jalan Tun Razak and direct access to the Integra and Vista office towers.

“We note that the 74% occupancy rate is lower than its other portfolio assets, although we see this as an opportunity for the REIT to bring in high-yielding tenants.”

Labrooy also says things remain cautious on the over-supplied office market, adding that demand could remain soft due to the slowdown in business expansions given a weaker economic outlook.

Growing office space

“Kuala Lumpur will see an additional availability of 100 million sq ft of office space by the end of this year, beating other business hot spots like Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta.

“Purpose-built office supply is estimated to grow by 5.51% to a historical 99.98 million sq ft in the Klang Valley this year. There will be a fresh supply of 4.83 million sq ft of new office space, as 10 key commercial developments are likely to be completed this year.”

He says most of the projects nearing completion are in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (57%), followed by Metro Kuala Lumpur (38%) and Greater Kuala Lumpur (5%).

“The office segment would be a tenant’s market due to the supply increase and that rental has not moved in tandem with the increase in commercial property prices. However, vacancy is not a concern yet, albeit market talk of a glut in city office space supply.”

Separately, Labrooy says industrial REITs have a strong growth story through acquisition and organic growth. He says the rapid growth of e-commerce is creating new high value assets that are coming on stream in the next two years.

Labrooy says industrial land prices have been climbing, leading to an introduction of new innovative multilevel distribution centres.He adds that the demand for new high quality industrial estates will transform the Industrial landscape.

“The larger new distribution centres will carry sticker prices of RM400mil to RM500mil and provide industrial REITs an opportunity to find scale and liquidity.

“Yields will be higher and provide REITs with higher yields (7% and above) with long leases and stable revenues. The long-term outlook will be bright for the sector.”

Knight Frank Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Sarky Subramaniam says the Kuala Lumpur office market is expected to remain subdued in 2016 due to the expected oversupply.

“Overall occupancy level is projected to move south with the impending high completion level totalling more than 10 million sq ft by end-2017.

LaBrooy: ‘The Malaysian REITs fundamentals remain solid, backed by steady organic earnings growth.’
LaBrooy: ‘The Malaysian REITs fundamentals remain solid, backed by steady organic earnings growth.’

“Pressures on rental rates are growing as major occupiers in the oil and gas and related industries, financial and IT sectors will consolidate, reducing headcount and expansion plans.”

Sarky believes the “tenant-favoured market” will continue into 2016 and beyond as tenants will be spoilt for choices as gap between supply and demand widens.

“We believe there will be more attractive tenancy terms in the offing with heightened competition. Savvy investors will also continue to look out for good investment grade properties.”

In light of the subdued office market, Sarky says steps need to be taken by either landlords of new office buildings or older office buildings to improve or maintain occupancy levels.

“Landlords of older office buildings need to undertake asset enhancement exercises via renovation, conversion or redevelopment to optimise returns from their properties.”

He says successful refurbishments include Menara Citibank, Kenanga International and Etiqa Twins.

“Successful conversions (office into hotel) include Wolo Bukit Bintang (formerly Wisma KLIH) and Piccolo Hotel (formerly Wisma Peladang).

Sarky says upcoming conversions from office into serviced apartment include the Oasis Hotel Suites Kuala Lumpur (former Plaza Atrium). He emphasises marketing plans need to be in place during the construction stage of office projects.

“These include awareness campaigns, advertisements in various platforms such as newspapers and magazines and attending property showcases at expos.”

On the outlook for high rise residential property market in 2016, Henry Butcher Real Estate Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tan Chee Meng says the market will be challenging in the first six months of 2016, but could pick up in the second half – provided the country’s economy is not adversely affected by any external shocks.

“The affordable homes segment will be in focus as the Government has allocated more funds to build affordable homes. Market activity in 2016 is likely to be focused on the mid-priced segment, such as RM500,000 and below.

“More developers will refocus on building affordable homes, but a small number could concentrate on niche, top-end projects. They will also resort to offering more incentives like rebates, freebies and deferred payment schemes.”

On a longer term perspective, Tan says the slowdown is positive as it reins in the rapid price increases and avert a potential asset bubble.

“However the authorities should monitor the situation and work with the industry to ensure stability and sustainability.”

He adds that 2016 would be a testing time for speculators who have invested heavily in projects that have recently been completed or are completing (especially those with developer interest bearing scheme) as they would now need to service their loans amidst a competitive secondary market and rental environment.

“It’s also a good time for genuine home buyers and long-term investors as good deals at realistic prices will be made available.”





(The Star) HSBC survey: Malaysians not saving enough for their retirement

KUALA LUMPUR: High debts and low savings are among the reasons why many Malaysians are unable to retire, a HSBC survey revealed. More than 90% of Malaysians aged 45 and over who want to retire in the next five years are unable to do so due to some financial constraints.

The survey showed that many are bogged down by health bills and children’s education fees, resulting in many of them unable to save enough for their retirement, HSBC Malaysia Retail Banking and Wealth Management head Lim Eng Seong said at a briefing.

A total of 1,105 Malaysians participated in the survey, which involved 17 countries and more than 18,000 participants.

Only 69% of Malaysian pre-retirees aged 45 and over would like to retire within the next five years if circumstances allowed them to, Lim added.

“While financial pressures are great, only 13% of pre-retirees in Malaysia predict that they will never be able to retire fully.

“This is, however, 8% more than what was said of the same in 2015, when only 5% pre-retirees expected to be able to afford to fully retire,” he said.

Lim said in addition to the 11% contributed by individuals to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), they need to save an additional amount.

On the 3% EPF reduction in contribution by individuals allowed by the Government, as announced in the recalibrated Budget 2016 on Thursday, Lim said everyone is responsible for his or her retirement.

“If you choose to go for lesser EPF contribution, you then have an option of either spending the money or investing it elsewhere.

“Proper planning and wealth management will help you retire comfortably,” he said, adding that the earlier an individual starts saving, the better.

He said how much a person saves – and eventually invests – is based on the person’s lifestyle. The recalibrated budget allows individuals to reduce their EPF contribute from the current 11% to 8% from March 2016 to December 2017. This is expected to increase private consumption expenditure by RM8bil a year.

He said given the concerns that they will never be able to retire fully, the need for sound financial planning is stronger than ever.

“Malaysians should consider these aspirations when planning for retirement and ensure they are making sufficient financial provisions for this new chapter in life.

“Even a small amount saved today can lay the groundwork for a comfortable retirement tomorrow,” he said. – Bernama


(The Star) Hap Seng-Naza TTDI to build RM3.8bil project

SM Faliq says Naza TTDI is committed to accelerateing the transformation and reshaping of the country’s Mice industry.
SM Faliq says Naza TTDI is committed to accelerateing the transformation and reshaping of the country’s Mice industry.

Mixed commercial development in KL Metropolis masterplan

PETALING JAYA: Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd and Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd will co-develop a 8.95acre project with a gross development value of RM3.8bil.

In a joint statement yesterday, the companies said Hap Seng Land Development Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hap Seng Consolidated, had signed both a shareholders’ agreement and a development rights agreement with TTDI KL Metropolis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Naza TTDI.

To develop the leasehold land, the companies will set up a joint venture (JV) company, Golden Suncity Sdn Bhd, with Hap Seng Land Development Sdn Bhd and TTDI KL Metropolis Sdn Bhd having a 70/30 respective stake.

Under the development rights agreement, Golden Suncity Sdn Bhd will be granted exclusive right to develop the land within the KL Metropolis masterplan. This includes the right to design, develop, build and complete a proposed mixed commercial development on the land.

Hap Seng Group group managing director Datuk Edward Lee said the partnership would offer an opportunity for the Hap Seng Group to reinforce its presence in the property development market sector in the Klang valley.

Lee: ‘Being part of this iconic development will certainly help elevate Hap Seng Group’s brand name.’
Lee: ‘Being part of this iconic development will certainly help elevate Hap Seng Group’s brand name.’

He added that the partnership also formalised the strategic alliance between two established conglomerates and catalysed the transformation of the KL Metropolis masterplan.

“Being part of this iconic development will certainly help elevate Hap Seng Group’s brand name and consolidate our property arm towards becoming a premier property developer in Malaysia.”

Naza TTDI is the master developer for the 75.5acre iconic mixed development envisioned to be the International Trade and Exhibition City for Kuala Lumpur.

Naza TTDI deputy executive chairman and group managing director SM Faliq SM Nasimuddin said the JV reflected Naza TTDI’s commitment to accelerate the transformation and reshaping of the country’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions or Mice industry by inviting development partners in building complementing components to position Malaysia as the premier Mice destination in the region.

“It is our hope that with Hap Seng Land’s participation, it will contribute significantly towards turning KL Metropolis into a sustainable development that incorporates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building,” he said.

The development is expected to draw enormous interest as this is one of the last prime acreage in the Klang Valley. The land is also strategically located in an up market area with close vicinity to prime established residential and commercial centres such as Mont Kiara, Publika, Damansara Heights and Bangsar.

The site is accessible via Jalan Kuching and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim which connects to the KL City Centre and KL Sentral.


(The Star) Don’t opt for 3% cut, employees urged

If there is no reason to take the extra money, my advice is, they should opt to maintain their contribution. - Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan
If there is no reason to take the extra money, my advice is, they should opt to maintain their contribution. - Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Employers Federation has advised workers not to opt for a 3% reduction in their contribution to the Employees Provident Fund because it can affect their retirement savings.

Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said although extra money could come in handy for some households, lower EPF contribution would erode the retirement savings of about 70% of EPF contributors.

He said private sector employees contribute about RM18bil annually to EPF and the reduction would translate into RM540mil in the hands of employees.

“But the extra money will only be a small sum for a contributor from the lower income bracket or one who earns less than RM5,000 a month.

“If there is no reason to take the extra money, my advice is, they should opt to maintain their contribution,” he told The Star yesterday.

Cuepacs secretary-general Datuk Lok Yim Pheng said employees should weigh their options carefully.

“If they can afford surviving without the extra money, they should opt not to reduce their EPF contribution.

“They should only do it if they really need the money to offset the higher cost of living,” she said.

Lok said the extra money could be useful for children’s education or for getting housing or car loans.

Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said EPF was the only form of forced savings for employees.

“The reason why EPF contributions are mandatory is to make sure that we have retirement savings.

“Employees must think carefully if they wish to reduce their contribution,” he said.


(The Star) Food truck operators given the option to choose new trading area

JOHOR BARU: Food truck operators operating at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Baru have been given several options to cease their operations in the area.
Johor Baru mayor A. Rahim Nin said the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB) had recently held a meeting with the 15 operators to discuss the issue.
“They were supposed to move out last year, after being notified, but are still operating here,” he told reporters after chairing the full council meeting on Thursday.
Rahim said the council had received complaints from the public visiting Dataran Bandaraya about facing problems parking their cars at night as the parking lots were taken over by the food trucks.
He said motorists had no choice but to park their vehicles along the roadside and that the situation worsens if sports events or carnivals were held there.
“In the meeting, we told the operators that they have a month or two to move out and continue their businesses elsewhere,” said Rahim.
He said the council had identified four places under the MBJB’s jurisdiction for them to operate the food trucks and it was up to them to make the choice.
Rahim said the places were open spaces in Bandar Baru Uda, Taman Impian Emas, Taman Sentosa and the abandoned Lot One shopping complex.
“The owner of Lot One shopping complex had agreed to convert the open space as parking lots for motorists and for the food truck operators,’’ said Rahim.
He said to date there were 24 food truck operators registered with the council and licensed to sell food and drinks from their trucks at open spaces but that only 15 were active.
Rahim said the truck operators were all locals and foreigners were not licensed to operate the food trucks, adding that MBJB would continue to monitor the situation to ensure the operators do not abuse their licence.

(The Star) 24-hour pizza outlet opens next week

KUCHING: Pizza lovers can now look forward to enjoying their favourite meal round-the-clock with the opening of the first 24-hour Pezzo at Simpang Tiga, Kuching, starting in February.
This is the 37th Pezzo outlet in Sarawak but the first outlet with the 24-hour concept in Sabah and Sarawak.
Pezzo Simpang Tiga franchisee Henry He said as a lot of the younger crowd used to frequent the 24-hour shops next door, it would be suitable to introduce a 24-hour Pezzo.
“We believe that by offering a nice and bigger environment compared with a regular Pezzo kiosk, we can bring a better experience to our customers.
“Being located next to Swinburne, we think a lot of younger people like to stay out late for studies or socialising. So we want to provide a good environment for them to do that, at the same time enjoy delicious food,” said He during the new Pezzo pizza flavour launch at Simpang Tiga.
The outlet will also offer delivery services starting on March 1.
“We are likely to cater to Swinburne University, the Immigration service centre, the Spring and ST3 staff and some residents staying nearby,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pezzo launched its two new “Gong Xi Fa Cai Pizza”, namely the Gong Xi Fa Cai Beef and Gong Xi Fa Cai Chicken. The new pizza will start selling until Feb 28.
The new flavours were launched yearly to usher in the Chinese New Year celebration. Customers will get complimentary Pezzo ang pow packets with every purchase of one whole pan pizza, consisting of six slices of mixed-and-match pizza or single flavoured pizza in a single receipt.
The next 24-hour Pezzo outlet is slated to open in Bintulu. – By AVA LAI

(The Star) New entertainment, business centre in Sibu for young

SIBU: After much hype, the New Generation Square (NGSquare) will finally have its official launching ceremony today by Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.
The square, a unique address with an exceptional location, unique ambience and widest range of dining options, is poised to be the new epicentre for entertainment development in Sibu, drawing crowds from the city and beyond.
Created specifically for the young generation in mind, NGSquare covers over 18,000 sq ft and houses over seven food outlets.
The square will also feature the very first New Generation Business Centre Concept in Sibu. For the budding young entrepreneur who is looking to start out in the world of business, the acquisition of a proper and presentable office space is especially daunting.
More so, there is a need to impress potential clients, business partners or customers.
At NGSquare, young entrepreneurs need only to rent an office space and enjoy the best office facilities available to them. The Business Centre will consist of a front reception, waiting area, discussion rooms, a full-sized conference room, full WiFi/Internet connectivity and full office amenities such as photocopiers and fax.
Six restaurants on the ground floor – Bug’s and Bee’s, The Vine, The Kopitiam Café, Hashtag, Eiffel Bar and The Great Restaurant – have already started their business operations.
Another restaurant, Mugen Café, will be opening soon. All the restaurants at NGSquare will participate in the launching ceremony today.
A street party will proceed right after the official launch.

(The Star) Spicing up the island Aquatic centre promises splashing fun for visitors

Children can have a splashing time in the pool while their parents attend fitness classes or even train their stamina at the Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Setia SPICE Aquatic Centre, in Bayan Lepas, Penang.
Water sports facilities such as the diving pool, swimming pool and children’s water theme park are bound to please everyone.
For those who love to sweat it out, there are other sports facilities such as the badminton courts and squash courts.
Several people swimming in the huge pool after the opening ceremony. — GARY CHEN/The Star
(Several people swimming in the huge pool after the opening ceremony. — GARY CHEN/The Star)
Within the centre are function rooms, a cafe, a sports clinic and a swimming school.
SP Setia Berhad acting president and chief executive officer Datuk Khor Chap Jen said SP Setia undertook a public-private partnership project with the then Penang Municipal Council (now known as Penang Island City Council) to revamp the Penang Indoor Sports Arena (PISA) and its aquatic centre.
“We added three components to the project – a convention centre, a hotel and retail outlets.
“In return, we are granted a 30-year concession by the council to manage and operate the Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (SPICE) upon its completion,” Khor said in his speech during the opening of the Setia SPICE Aquatic Centre on Thursday.
Khor said facilities at the aquatic centre were powered by solar energy.
“A RM4mil solar photo voltaic system which can generate up to 980 megawatt hour per year has been added onto the roof of both the aquatic centre and the Setia SPICE Canopy. It is the biggest commercial solar PV farm in Penang and will help to supplement SPICE’s electricity consumption.”
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who launched the aquatic centre, mentioned that the proposed light rail transit (LRT) line would be passing through Setia SPICE.
“So in the future, if you want to come here, you can come by road or by LRT, either from George Town or from the Penang International Airport,” Lim said.
Lim added that the refurbishments and enhancement of the previous PISA that was just a sports centre, has increased the service offerings and value tremendously.
“The aquatic centre will be complemented by a world-class convention centre, hotel, retail, F&B outlets; spread over 25 acres (10.1ha) upon its completion.”
Lim said he looked forward to continuous support from the private sector to transform Penang into an international and intelligent city.
The swimming pool is open from 8am to 11pm daily including public holidays.
Prices for adult entry is RM8 (Monday to Friday / 8am to 6pm), RM10 (Monday to Friday / 6pm to 11pm) and RM10 (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday / 8am to 11pm).
For children below 12, senior citizen 55 and above, and the disabled, the entry fee is RM6 (Monday to Friday / 8am to 6pm), RM8 (Monday to Friday / 6pm to 11pm) and RM8 (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday / 8am to 11pm).
For spectators, the price is RM2 (Monday to Friday / 8am to 6pm), RM3 (Monday to Friday / 6pm to 11pm) and RM3 (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday / 8am to 11pm).
The price for renting the badminton or squash courts is RM14 (per hour per court) from 8am to 5pm; and RM18 per hour per court) from 5pm to 11pm.
It was opened to the public in Dec 19 last year.
For more details, visit www.setiaspice.com or e-mail to spiceaquatic@spsetia.com or call 011-36047668.

(The Star) Making the most of community halls JKKK kicks off plan to set up reading corners

There are 54 underused community halls in mainland Penang but if a move to set up children’s reading corners at the halls succeeds, more people may flock there.
The Bukit Panchor Village Security and Development Commitee (JKKK) in Nibong Tebal kicked off the initiative with over 5,000 donated books.
JKKK chairman Tang Kean Phoay said the books were collected in a campaign a few months ago.
Senior citizens relaxing while children play a board game at Sudut Ilmu JKKK Bukit Panchor.
(Senior citizens relaxing while children play a board game at Sudut Ilmu JKKK Bukit Panchor.)
“We chose the ones that were suitable for our children. This reading corner is dedicated to our community’s kids,” he said.
Jawi assemblyman Soon Lip Chee said the community relied on social media to run the book collection campaign.
“The response was overwhelming and we got books by courier from Kedah, Perak and Johor too,” he added.
Palleture Wood Resources proprietor Vincent Ooi donated the wooden book racks, tables and chairs.
State executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow opened the reading corner.
Also present were Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif, councillors Hng Mooi Lye and Heng Yeh Shiuan and Nibong Tebal police station officer-in-charge ASP R. Govindasamy.
Maimunah said in her speech that of the 54 underused community halls, 13 were in north Seberang Prai, 25 in central Seberang Prai and 16 in south Seberang Prai.

(The Star) Refreshing hike up Kanching falls

I have always wanted to do a waterfall hike, so when a fellow hiker shared his trip to the 208m high seven-tier cascading Kanching Falls, it was a simple decision picking it as our destination for the weekend.
All of us in the group were eager to see the much-photographed and much talked-about waterfalls.
Kanching Forest Reserve lies to the north of Kuala Lumpur, in Rawang, and is a short drive from Templer’s Park. It is a popular spot for swimming, picnics, camping and jungle hiking.
Beautiful : Power shower and cool dip at the fifth tier.
(The waterfall and pool at the third level.)
The 30km drive from Kuala Lumpur to our rendezvous point in the carpark was smooth and easy.
After four months of unhealthy haze last year, we were all enjoying the fresh air and blue skies during the car ride.
Being a weekend, families and picnickers were out in full force and all the bays in the carpark were taken.
Also out in full force were the resident monkeys – often described as aggressive and quick-fingered.
1 The waterfall and pool at the third level.2 30m of cascading fresh spring water.3 Steep steps going up to the fourth level4 Stepping stones and tree roots litter the path.5 Power shower and cool dip at the fifth tier.
(30m of cascading fresh sping water)
Reviews on various websites, without fail, warn visitors to guard their belongings, especially food, from these creatures.
We got our tickets and followed the sound of trickling water, walking through a large picnic area with drink stalls, ice-cream carts, souvenir shops, gazebos and directional signs pointing to changing rooms, toilets and the camp site.
Our plan was to go beyond the seven levels with the upper falls as our end point. A flat paved road led up to cement steps, quickly taking us past the first three levels within five minutes.
Not surprisingly, the purpose-built pools at the base of these lower falls were filled with children and families having a splashing good time in the refreshing cold water.
From the third tier, the next flight of steep steps make a nice, short lung-buster that is over before you know it.
The cement steps ended midway up and we continued along an earth path.
The next level is marked by a small bridge with the waterfall and natural pool on one side, and an overlook of the water roaring down on the other.
We crossed the bridge to the other side of the waterfall, continuing along a clearly marked trail.
Popular : The waterfall and pool at the 3rd level
(Power shower and cool dip at the fifhj tier)
A pleasant short stroll on a gentle incline got us to the fifth waterfall.
It was blessedly quiet and empty and the temptation to dip in the sizeable pool’s clear spring water and be pummelled by a power shower was very, very strong.
We pushed on, reluctantly, following the narrow dirt path that snaked its way up with the waterfall on our left.
The sixth level presents a rare view of the waterfall from the base, all the way to the top.
I could almost feel the force of the water as it tumbled down over the rocky surface.
From here on, we hiked along the right side of the waterfall, accompanied by the sound of water roaring down to the bottom.
We picked our way carefully along the tree-root littered path, scrambling on hands and knees on the bare rocky portions for added stability.
After an hour’s uphill climb, the trail ended at a sandy bottomed pool that carried on upstream.
Lung buster : Steep steps going up to the 4th level
(Steep steps going up to the fourth tier)
To go further, a river trek was the only option.
At the upper falls, the shallow pool of crystal clear water exudes peace and serenity, inviting us to dip in its chilly water.
My peaceful contemplation at this lovely spot was rudely cut short by a light drizzle that steadily got heavier and we packed up and headed down.
We made our way down cautiously as the trails became muddy in the rainy conditions and soon turned into mini cascades with puddles forming in many places.
To avoid slipping on the wet rocks, we walked around it, using the roots as footholds or holding onto tree trunks for balance.
The rain eased up when we reached the cement steps and we were back in the carpark 10 minutes later.
It was a leisurely but exhilarating climb covering a distance of 2.8km with beautiful waterfall views at regular intervals.
On a sadder note, it was disheartening to see the amount of rubbish left behind along the paved walkway and at the lower falls.
Viewing spots at each waterfall were “decorated” by empty bottles, polystyrene packs, food wrappers and plastic bags.
While there are sufficient bins strategically placed at rest stops and gazebos, the bins are not monkey-proof.
As it is, the monkeys rummage the bins for food scraps, leaving an even bigger mess.
While corporate bodies and environmental groups regularly organise clean-up efforts here, instilling a culture of caring for the environment among Malaysians, to not litter and be responsible for their trash, is the only long-term solution.
One of the most recent clean-ups in Kanching was organised by KampusSarap on Nov 28 last year, in conjunction with the Global Climate March.
Interestingly, the Kanching Falls is also a geocache location and the geocache is hidden at the top of the highest fall, near the roots of a big tree, under a stone and covered by leaves.
In early October, a geocacher reported the geocache missing and it was replaced by a new geocache container on Oct 31, 2015, by a fellow hiker who had also ‘hid’ the first cache in December 2003.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS-enabled devices.
Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. The coordinates for geocaches around the world can be found at www.geocaching.com
About Kacnhing Falls:
Kanching has seven tiers of beautiful waterfalls spaced out over a height of 120m. Set in a 500ha forest reserve between Rawang and Selayang, Kanching Falls makes an ideal break from busy Kuala Lumpur, offering activities such as swimming, camping, picnic, photography and jungle hiking. It is approximately 30km away from Kuala Lumpur and 13 km from Rawang via Jalan Selayang–Rawang.
Getting There:
GPS : 3.299641,101.619371
N 03° 17.927’ E 101° 37.153’
From 1Utama Shopping Centre: Take the LDP and head towards Selayang and after that Rawang. Look out for the signage to Hutan Lipur Sg Kanching before you reach Rawang. Go further up to make a U-turn as the Kanching Recreational Forest is located on the other side of the road. There is a U-turn at the traffic light with a Petronas petrol kiosk to your left. After the U-turn, drive slowly and look out for the entrance to the forest.
Entry fees (since 2009)
• Adults (with MyKad): RM1
• Adults (without MyKad): RM3
• Toilet/Bathroom: 50sen
• Parking: Car (RM2), Motorcycle (RM1), Lorry/Bus (RM5)
Opening Hours: 7am to 7pm daily