Report on Singapore not objecting to Indonesia taking over Riau airspace ‘inaccurate’: MFA

The administration of the Flight Information Region is not an issue of sovereignty, but based on “operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”, says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Channel NewsAsia 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday (Nov 26) refuted a CNN Indonesia report that said Singapore had no objections to Indonesia’s intention to manage its entire airspace, and that the Republic supported Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years.

The report, published in Bahasa Indonesia on CNN Indonesia's website on Tuesday, quoted Indonesian ministers as saying that President Joko Widodo had affirmed to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean – who was on a working visit to Jakarta – that Indonesia will take over the Flight Information Region (FIR) in Riau Islands.

Singapore has been in control of the airspace over some areas in Riau - such as Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands - since 1946.

“The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion,” MFA said in a statement released on Thursday.

The subject came up during a dinner hosted by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. MFA said Mr Teo “did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner”.

The ministry reiterated that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but based on “operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.

DPM Teo had emphasised that the issue was a complex one under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and involves many other countries and airlines which use the busy airspace covered by the FIR. These points were reiterated in meetings with several Indonesian leaders during Mr Teo’s visit, MFA said.

“The Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes is not an issue of sovereignty. They also agreed that the paramount concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR,” it said.

“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another. For example, Indonesia also provides air traffic services in airspace which belongs to other countries.”

- CNA/cy


MFA refutes CNN report; no agreement with Indonesia on airspace management
Today Online 26 Nov 15;

SINGAPORE — Singapore did not agree to relinquish the management of the entire Indonesian airspace to Indonesia, nor did it support Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has clarified today (Nov 26).

MFA issued the comments this morning after a report by CNN-Indonesia on Nov 24 which claimed Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had in discussions with Indonesian ministers, agreed to handover management of the Flight Information Region (FIR) in the Riau Islands – which includes Batam, Tanjung Pinang and Natuna – to Indonesia in the next few years.

The CNN report quoted Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as saying he had spoken to DPM Teo on the matter. Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi also said in the CNN-Indonesia report that Singapore has agreed to assist Indonesia in the preparations.

MFA confirmed that DPM Teo did discuss the issue of the Flight Information Region (FIR) over dinner with Mr Luhut on Nov 23. However, no agreement was reached after the brief informal chat as it was a major issue, MFA said.

The MFA spokesman said: “The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion. The subject of the Flight Information Region (FIR) came up during the dinner hosted by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on 23 November 2015. DPM Teo did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner.”

According to the MFA statement, DPM Teo has emphasised in his meetings with several Indonesian ministers of the issue’s complex technical and operational nature, which falls under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It also involves many other countries and airlines that use the busy airspace covered by the FIR.

MFA noted that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but rather, “it is based on operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.

MFA said the Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes. They agree, MFA added, that the top concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR.

“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another.”


Issue of airspace over Riau 'not about sovereignty'
Francis Chan, Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Nov 15;

JAKARTA - Singapore is aware that Indonesia hopes to "take back" the airspace over Riau, which has formed part of Singapore's Flight Information Region (FIR), said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

However, leaders from both countries agree that the priority of the FIR should be safety, efficiency and the smooth operation of the airspace, he added.

"This is a subject which is not an issue of sovereignty, I think the Indonesians understand that now," he said yesterday.

"It is a technical and operational issue, which comes under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to provide safe, efficient air traffic services."

Mr Teo said discussions with Indonesia as well as its neighbours and international users of the FIR will continue to ensure the issue is dealt with in the "proper context".

The FIR, which Singapore controls for take-off, landing and overflights in the region, became a prickly subject after the Indonesian Air Force took issue with Singapore's military activities in the airspace above the Riau Islands.

"We did discuss (the) military training issues and I explained to our friends here when Unclos was negotiated, we had an understanding with Indonesia with regards to military training," said Mr Teo, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He added that Singapore will continue to abide by those understandings which are also in accordance with international law.

Singapore has been managing flights over some areas in Riau since 1946, when ICAO allocated the airspace to Singapore on operational and technical merits. The area includes some of the airspace over Malaysia and Indonesia.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday that Indonesia indeed plans to take over the airspace.

But she agreed that the matter was not about sovereignty but rather one of safety and whether Indonesia is able to manage the FIR.

"The preparations (according to Indonesia's own road map) are ongoing but they cannot be done in a month or a year," she added.

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