Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang
Fuel smuggling has been widespread over the Batam-East Kalimantan border and also over the border of West Timor regency and the neighboring country of Timor Leste, causing hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars in losses to Indonesia.
A senior Army official alleged that the fuel was smuggled via both sea and land transportation into the neighboring country. The diesel fuel is allegedly smuggled out by tanker from South Sulawesi province, while kerosene and premium are dispatched to the neighboring country over the border between West Timor regency and Timor Leste.
The illegal export of fuel has been on the rise due to the price disparity between Indonesia and Timor Leste. The price of premium, kerosene and diesel fuel is lower in Indonesia as it has been heavily subsidized by the government, while the price of fuel is higher in the neighboring country as there is no government subsidy.
Due to the higher prices in Timor Leste, irresponsible parties in Indonesia, with the help of their Timor Leste counterparts, have smuggled fuel and gasoline into the neighboring country as other smugglers have done over the border between Batam and Singapore.
In Timor Leste, the price of kerosene is Rp 7,500 a liter, premium Rp 10,000 a liter and diesel fuel Rp 7,500 a liter, or approximately five times the Indonesian price.
The Indonesian Army claims to have fought smuggling for years, but the illicit activity has continued unabated.
""The surveillance by Timor Leste Police and the Army has been weak. As an example, along the Motaain and Nunura border, there are six Indonesian Army posts but no Timor Leste Police or military outposts,"" said Lt. Col. Yul Aviandi, the chief of an Indonesian task force assigned to secure the Indonesian and Timor Leste border.
The Indonesian Army has foiled several smuggling attempts into Timor Leste but still the illicit operations continue. Yul estimated that in a month some 2,000 liters of gasoline and fuel had been smuggled into Timor Leste, causing huge losses to the state.
Belu Police chief overseeing West Timor regency Adj. Sr. Comr. Ekotrio Budhiniar claimed the smuggling was organized by West Timor residents who cooperated with their relatives in Timor Leste.
The rampant smuggling over the Indonesian and Timor Leste border has also been confirmed by local residents. Fuel and other basic necessities have been smuggled into East Timor via unmapped routes that are infrequently used. ""It's hard to stop the smuggling because the illicit activities have allegedly been backed by security personnel,"" said Mundus Sako, quoted as saying by Antara news agency.
The antismuggling operations have targeted petty traders who are caught with five to 10 liters of fuel, while the big traders are left untouched, said Mundus.
Fuel smuggling hit media headlines in the past week after reports surfaced of Pertamina officials' alleged involvement in fuel smuggling in Batam and East Kalimantan.