JAKARTA (JP): Pabelokan Island, the home base of Argentinean oil firm YPF-Maxus since 1984, is located at the northwestern tip of the chain of 106 islands known as Pulau Seribu (Thousand Islands).
Locals say Pabelokan (curve) Island is named after its remote location, which forces visitors to take a series of hairpin turns before reaching the11,000-square meter island.
Located some 70 kilometers from the North Jakarta shore, the island can be reached in some three hours by boat from Tanjung Priok port in North Jakarta, or 45 minutes by helicopter from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta.
A jetty for the berthing of ships, including large vessels, is located onthe tiny island, which also boasts sandy beaches.
The oil company's logistics manager, M. Syuhul, said the island had many modern facilities, including a hotel, warehouses, a power plant and a helipad.
""It's all to support the firm's activities on its offshore oil platforms,"" Syuhul told visiting Jakarta city councilors, who, accompanied by a group of journalists, visited the island recently.
A ship from the Indonesian Navy, KRI Teluk Sabang, carried the councilorsand the press during the trip and berthed at the island's jetty, which is the only jetty in the island chain able to accommodate such a large vessel. In comparison, all passengers arriving aboard large vessels at Puteri Island, one of the island chain's popular tourist destinations, must be ferried to the island aboard smaller crafts.
The hotel on Pabelokan Island mainly serves guests of the firm and workers. At least 600 of the firm's 1,000 workers are based on the island.
To supply clean drinking water to the company's staff and guests, Maxus constructed a water treatment plant to recycle sea water into drinking water. The plant has a production capacity of 400 cubic meters per day.
The company also enlivens the island with a 36 megawatt electric power plant, which is fueled by natural gas produced by the firm.
Visitors to the island are greeted by giant pipes and other oil drilling equipment at the berth. Similar views are to be found at most of Maxus warehouses on the island, since the warehouses also function as workshops for the firm.
According to Syuhul, the firm has a community development program to helpimprove the welfare of locals living on nearby islands.
He said the firm offered Rp 90 million (US$12,330) in scholarships to 700students every year.
The company also donates basic needs such as rice and medicine to locals,he said.
""We also employ 60 locals in our firm,"" Syuhul said in response to complaints from residents of nearby islands about the company's lack of community involvement.
According to data from the Thousand Islands district office, 11 of the 106 islands are currently occupied by 17,761 people, while the remaining 95islands are either vacant or privately owned. Most of the local residents are fishermen.
Local resident Bahrul Ulum, 29, is employed by Maxus as part of their cleaning service.
He said he had worked for the company for a year, earning a basic monthlysalary of Rp 260,000 plus medical benefits of Rp 150,000 per month.
Ulum said the firm employed 36 local residents from nearby Kelapa Island. ""Many of them have been working here for 10 years and receive the same salary of Rp 8,000 a day. We are all still contract workers,"" the father ofone said.
He said the locals mostly worked as gardeners and cleaners.
Outgoing councilor Achmad Suaidy said the firm apparently had little concern for local residents, who mostly lived in poor conditions on nearby islands.
""The scholarships and sembako (acronym for basic commodities) are too small for such a big company like Maxus,"" Suaidy, who heads the United Development Party's faction in the council, said.
He said the firm should donate clean water to locals, who always sufferedduring the dry season. He added that currently locals had to travel to North Jakarta for clean water.
When asked about the water treatment plant, the firm's executives seemed reluctant to answer the councilors' questions.
However, councilor Ali Wongso H. Sinaga from Golkar Party backed the company, saying the improvement of the locals' welfare was the government'sobligation.
""We cannot expect the firm to give too much to the locals; it's not theirobligation,"" Ali said.
He said in the future, the city administration should focus more attention on improving the welfare of locals from the expected revenue fromthe oil sector.
According to Law No. 25/1999 on fiscal balance between the central government and local administrations, the latter will receive 15 percent ofoil revenue, while the central government will keep the remaining 85 percent, he said.
Currently, the city only receives income from a number of taxes, including property and building permit taxes, for the use of Pabelokan Island by the oil firm, Ali said. (jun)