Singapore willing to return
Riau Islands airspace

Indonesia’s efforts to take control of the airspace above Riau Islands, controlled by Singapore since 1946, have been unsuccessful since 1993. Singapore says it is willing to hand over control of the airspace above Riau Islands, provided that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) gives the green light.

The Singaporean consul general in Riau Islands, Raj Kumar, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that Singapore had no qualms with Indonesia managing the airspace over the province, as long as the ICAO consented to the matter.

“There’s no problem, if the ICAO agrees to the matter, please do so,” Kumar said during the ground-breaking ceremony of the Bintan Resort Airport on Bintan Island, Riau Islands, on Wednesday.

According to Kumar, Singapore is also ready to assist in the transfer of technology if Indonesia is trusted by the ICAO to control its airspace.

Transportation Ministry secretary-general Afianti Samad said that Law No. 1/2009 stipulated that the airspace above Indonesia must be controlled by Indonesia.

In the law, Indonesia, or in this matter the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has been given 15 years to take control of any airspace managed by another nation.

“Indonesia has sovereignty over its airspace, Singapore is just the party which manages it. However, in accordance with Law No. 1/2009, we will manage all of the airspace by the next 15 years, or by 2024, but the takeover could happen faster than the specified time,” said Afianti.

Earlier, a source at the Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, said that Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia had discussed the issue a number of times since 1993, but still failed to takeover the airspace due to weak lobbying on the part of the Indonesian government.

Singapore controls airspace of up to 110 nautical miles in radius, which encompasses Batam, Natuna until Dumai in Riau. The airspace is also included in Singapore’s Flight Information Region (FIR), which should have been included in Indonesia’s FIR.

As the airspace is included in Singapore’s FIR, Indonesia has no absolute authority over the airspace, which has deprived the country of income from route charges imposed on aircraft passing through the airspace. Patrols conducted by the Indonesian Military (TNI) Air Force and Navy in the territory must also be guided by Singapore.

Law No. 1/2009 on aviation mandates that Indonesia take back airspace dominated by a foreign party, but the law has yet to be followed up with government action.

Pressure for Indonesia to take over the airspace from Singapore has also been expressed by various other parties. The Riau Islands provincial administration has also conveyed the matter to the central government.

Indonesia has entrusted Singapore with the management of the airspace for the safety of civilian and military aviation in the province.

Singapore, in this matter acts as an authorized party in providing take off and landing instructions in the area, as well as guiding aircraft through the airspace.

Riau Islands Regional Representatives Council (DPD) member Zulaikah Nasution said that Indonesia should take control of the airspace immediately for the sake of national interests.

“We should be able to manage what we own, and enhance human resources. We should have sovereignty over our airspace, as the area’s economic potential is also huge,” said Zulaikah.

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