The Jakarta Post
No longer in his usual daily routine, fisherman Romli just sat and relaxed on his old, rotten boat at Muara Gembong beach in Bekasi, West Java. He had been repairing it since morning.
'I have not been sailing these last few days because [subsidized] fuel is hard to find. The price is also more expensive,' he said.
A fuel shortage has severely affected fishermen in Muara Gembong. They used to buy unsubsidized fuel for the price of Rp 7,000 (59 US cents) per liter but the wholesaler had increased the price to Rp 9,000 per liter.
The residents still enjoy a fixed price of Rp 6,500 per liter for Premium and Rp 5,500 per liter for diesel, as both are subsidized by the state budget.
'The fish is cheaper than the fuel. It is better to find another job,' Romli said, adding that fish was only tagged at around Rp 8,000
He said that while waiting for fuel prices to return to normal, many fishermen found side jobs as, for example, public minivan drivers and construction laborers.
Muara Gembong is a district in the coastal area of Bekasi regency. It takes two hours by car to reach Bekasi municipality and four hours to reach the capital of the regency.
'If the price remains high until the end of the week, I will be forced to find an alternative job in the city. I may become a public minivan driver as I have received an offer,' he said.
As of Aug. 18, Pertamina decided to cut the amount of subsidized diesel and Premium gasoline at gas stations in an effort to keep within this year's subsidized fuel quota. The policy had led to panic buying and long queues at gas stations nationwide. The scarcity had left many fishermen across the country unable to sail.
Last week, the firm lifted the restrictions to eradicate the long queues. However, its effect has not faded in the fishing villages.
Romli colleague, Hamdani and other fishermen, for example, have had to become construction laborers for a few days. 'I prefer fishing to doing other jobs, but I have no choice as the fuel is too expensive,' he said.
Hamdani said he could earn Rp 70,000 in a day by becoming a construction worker. 'Although the job is harder, that is the only job I can do to feed my family,' he said.
According to Hamdani, fuel shortages often occur in his area. He said he often reports the situation to the subdistrict or to regency officials. 'However, they take no action,' he said.
Hamdani said fishermen once proposed that the government build a fuel station in order to resolve the fuel shortage. However, the proposal had never gotten any response.
The fisherman hoped that the government would pay more attention to him and his friends. 'Besides high tide, the fuel price always becomes a problem. I hope the government becomes more aware,' he said.
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