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Jakarta Post

Mentawai wants to tap surf money

  • Syofiardi Bachyul Jb

    The Jakarta Post

Padang   /   Fri, April 10, 2015   /  06:20 am

Mentawai regency and legislative council are preparing three new bylaws aimed at tapping revenue from its world famous surfing and tourism players, which the administration claims has created zero income for the regency.

Mentawai Islands Deputy Regent Rijel Samaloisa said tourism had not contributed anything to the regency'€™s annual revenue, including from the surfing business, because of a lack of local ordinances.

'€œWe only get the name, garbage and environmental damage. There is no regulation that allows us to collect tax,'€ said Rijel on Thursday.

Mentawai is considered one of the best surfing locations in the world and has been visited by about 5,000 foreign surfers annually since the 1990s. Last year, more than 7,000 surfers visited the islands.

Last month, Mentawai Islands regency submitted three draft bylaws on tourism, management and promotion of surfing attractions and sports, and recreation tax collection, for approval by the regency council.

Once approved, the bylaws, Rijel said, would regulate tax collection on cruise ships berthing in Mentawai, surfers, restaurants and home stays. They were adopted from the bylaws implemented in marine tourism paradise Raja Ampat regency in West Papua.

'€œBased on estimates, we can earn at least Rp 35 billion [US$2.7 million] annually from taxes regulated by the ordinances,'€ said Rijel.

The ordinances are expected to be effective as of 2016. The implementation of the bylaws would be followed by the construction of supporting facilities at a number of surfing locations, such as jetties, moors, health facilities and roads, as well as transportation modes and security.

Mentawai Islands have pristine beaches with sunbaked sands and has consistently been a popular surf destination.

There are about 400 surf spots in Mentawai, with 13 of them offering international competition-scale waves as high as 6 meters, such as around Nyang Nyang, Karang Majat, Karoni, Mainuk and Katiet islands.

Rijel said that in addition to surfing spots there were also 33 diving locations. Currently, 15 resorts can be found in the regency, some of them managed by foreigners. They operate in the midst of loose regulations, such as by building resorts by working with land owners.

Mentawai Islands Council Speaker Yosep Sarogdok said the three draft bylaws were being deliberated and were expected to be approved by the end of the month. However, councilors had met obstacles in the regulation on tax collection from surfing and diving.

According to Law No. 23/2014 on regional administrations, Yosep said the provincial administration had the right to collect tax related to marine territory from 0 to 12 miles offshore, but not the regency administration.

'€œWe are consulting the matter with the Tourism Ministry. We must also discuss the matter with the provincial administration,'€ said Yosep.

West Sumatra Cruise Ships and Surfing Association (AKSSB) head Aim Zen has asked the regency administration and council not to hastily pass the bylaws. According to him, the regulations have the potential to enable home stay owners to monopolize the surfing spots near them.

'€œThat'€™s why we proposed special discussions between the provincial administration, Mentawai Islands regency administration and us as tour operators in Mentawai, so the bylaws will be effective,'€ said Zen.

He added that the Mentawai Islands regency administration had implemented similar bylaws in 2012, but the AKSSB had objected to them as they enabled a monopoly by five companies. He also claimed the AKSSB had once paid tax of nearly Rp 800 million.

'€œHowever, the use of the money that we paid remains unclear. The regent and tourism office head were then imprisoned for corruption. The central government then revoked the ordinances,'€ said Zen.

According to Zen, each surfer pays an average of $2,500 per trip to Mentawai. '€œIf the amount is multiplied by 5,500 surfers annually, the amount would reach $13.7 million,'€ he said.

'€œObviously, we don'€™t want the profits not to be enjoyed by the regency administration and residents in Mentawai. But operators should be treated as partners and the regulations must be fair,'€ said Zen.

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