National

Foreign firms interested
in managing islands near
Batam

The Batam Industrial Development Authority (BIDA) is being swamped with plans by foreign investors to manage parts in Riau Islands province.

Foreign investors have expressed interest in managing the islands around Batam exclusively for industrial and tourism purposes, but the BIDA says it cannot grant full management rights without undermining its own authority.

To date, only one island in the area is managed exclusively by the private sector on the basis of a policy issued during the New Order administration.

BIDA spokesman Dwi Djoko Wiwoho told The Jakarta Post recently that many foreign investors had submitted applications to manage islands around Batam exclusively.

However, BIDA, which also acts as the Batam Free Trade Zone management agency, has been unable to grant most of the applications because they sought sole rights over the islands' management.

"Many investors have submitted applications to manage islands around Batam for business purposes, but we can't just give them the exclusive rights without violating guidelines," Djoko said.

"We can only allow 60 percent of the area to be managed by foreign investors, and the rest for public access."

He added most foreign investors were eager to develop the islands around Batam and set up shipyards and tourist resorts, given their deep bays and strategic location close to Singapore and Malaysia, overlooking one of the most vital maritime straits in the world.

"Their representatives come here often to tell us they're ready to make the investment, but they balk at the condition we lay down, which is that they can't manage the islands exclusively," Djoko said.

Of the numerous islands around Batam, he went on, only Bulan Island, also known as Babi Island, was managed exclusively by a private company.

The entire island, spanning around 100 hectares, is managed by PT Indo Tirta Suaka, a subsidiary of the Salim Group.

The company runs a pig farm to meet demand for pork in Singapore, as well as a crocodile farm and an orchid farm.

The island is heavily guarded and totally off-limits to the public.

"The management permit for Bulan Island was issued by the New Order government," Djoko said.

"Such a permit could never be issued now because it'd violate the law."

Riau Islands province is made up of 1,795 islands, only 394 of which are inhabited.

Nineteen are listed as outlying islands that border neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Previously, Riau Islands provincial administrative bureau head Reni Yusnely said naming the islands was one way to prevent them from being sold illegally and to facilitate supervision.

Naming the 1,795 islands in Riau Islands commenced from 2006 until the end of 2007.

"All the islands in the province have been named and reported to the Home Ministry, which then forwarded the list to the United Nations to have recognize them as part of Indonesian territory," she said.

"We also conduct routine patrols and surveillance."

Reni added that under a law on islands and coastal areas, the management of islands could not be carried out exclusively by a single party, while space for the community and other parties must also be available.

"Islands that have been or will be managed by foreign parties must provide space for the local community and must not dominate them exclusively," she said.

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