Indonesia: Jokowi urged to take bolder steps on Riau, Riau Islands airspace control

Fadli Fadli The Jakarta Post 9 Oct 16;

The Riau Islands Legislative Council has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to continue to strive for Indonesian authorities to take over control over the Flight Information Region (FIR) over Riau and Riau Islands from Singapore.

The call comes after Indonesia failed in its bid for International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council membership for the period 2016-2019.

The council’s speaker, Jumaga Nadeak, said Indonesia’s failed ICAO Council membership bid was bad news for all Riau Islands residents, because it meant the islands’ airspace control would be still in the hands of Singapore. Indonesia could take over the FIR control only if it became an ICAO Council member.

“Indonesia’s sovereignty extends to land, airspace and territorial waters. Therefore, the control of airspace above Riau Islands must be discussed again and renegotiated. We will convey this matter to President Jokowi via the defense minister [Ryamizard Ryacudu] and foreign minister [Retno LP Marsudi],” Jumaga told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The lawmaker explained that on Oct. 7, 2015, Riau Islands Legislative Council members met with then-Air Force chief of staff Air Marshal Agus Supriatna, adding that during the meeting, Agus had said the FIR control over Riau Islands would be handed over to Indonesia in 2019, several years earlier than initially planned.

“Now, that information must be followed up. We will remind President Jokowi to take over the FIR control from Singapore. We are a sovereign country,” said Jumaga.

Hang Nadim Airport general manager Suwarso said technically Indonesia would get many benefits if it took over control over the Riau and Riau Islands airspace from Singapore.

“If Indonesia controls the FIR, flight traffic in Riau and Riau Islands will be managed with economic considerations. Routes assigned to airlines will be shorter, which means there will be a more efficient use of fuel,” said Suwarso.

Currently, he said, Indonesian airlines had flight routes longer than they should and this was not economically feasible.

Citing an example, Suwarso said flight routes assigned to Indonesian airlines that served haj pilgrims departing from Hang Nadim Airport in Batam were from the north, causing unnecessarily long distances.

“Haj airplanes fly longer and spend more fuel because of the routes determined by aviation authorities in Singapore, and we cannot do anything about it, because it’s within their authority,” he said.

Although an airborne training module conducted by the Indonesian Military in the airspace above Riau and Riau Islands was fully controlled by the Air Force’s radar in Tanjung Pinang, in general Singapore still controlled and monitored it, he went on.

“It’s just like someone owns land but its use is controlled by other people,” said Suwarso. (ebf)

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