The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo ordered officials on Tuesday to start working to improve human resources and technology so that in the next three years the country could take over the management of airspace above Riau and Riau Islands provinces from Singapore.
Jokowi gave the instruction during a limited Cabinet meeting with a number of officials including Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo to discuss the flight information region (FIR).
The meeting was also to discuss the TNI's efforts to reassert the country's control over its airspace.
'The President instructed us to prepare better equipment and human resources so that in three or four years we can manage our own airspace,' Jonan told a press conference after the meeting, adding that Indonesia would hold talks with Singapore, as well as Malaysia, about the issue.
A FIR is a specified region of airspace in which flight information and alert services (ALRS) are provided. Singapore has been managing the FIR over the area since 1946 and Indonesia's efforts since 1993 to take over the airspace have been fruitless.
The city-state controls airspace up to 110 nautical miles from its position, covering Batam, Dumai and Natuna. The Singapore-controlled airspace is divided into three sectors: Sector A covers Batam airspace, Sector B covers Tanjung Pinang and Karimun and Sector C covers Natuna.
This arrangement deprives Indonesia of authority over the airspace. As a consequence of the arrangement, patrols conducted by the Indonesian Air Force and Navy in the territory must also seek guidance from Singapore.
The planned takeover was in line with Law No. 1/2009 on aviation, which stipulates that airspace above Indonesia must be controlled by the Indonesian government and that the country must take back airspace controlled by foreign parties within 15 years after the law was enacted.
In his efforts to assert supremacy over Indonesia's airspace, Gatot warned Singapore not to conduct air force training in the FIR area without permission from Indonesia, saying that Singapore had only the authority to manage operational air traffic navigation, in line with the 1944 Chicago Convention on FIR.
'If it is a military training conducted without Indonesia's permission, then it has entered Indonesia's authority and violates the international convention,' Gatot said. 'Therefore, Indonesia's Air Force keeps on patrolling. If there are military aircraft there conducting military training, it is the duty of the Air Force to remind them and drive them out of there.'
Gatot said he had also briefed Jokowi on the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Singapore, which amended the already expired Military Training Area (MTA) agreement, but had yet to be ratified by the House of Representatives.
'Therefore the areas in the DCA and are still under our territory of NKRI [the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia]. Thus, [our] military aircraft passing through the DCA have no obligation to report to Singapore. I'd like to underline this because there is still confusion,' Gatot said.
Gatot said the planned takeover was essential because Indonesia was now capable of managing the airspace and the 'country's sovereignty must be respected', adding that the international framework on aviation allowed such a takeover if the two countries agreed.
Gatot made a similar statement on Monday night after a meeting with lawmakers from House Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs. 'We will be firm and if they don't obey our order, we will force them to leave our air territory,' Gatot said.
It was reported that jet fighters from Singapore continued doing military exercises above Indonesia's territory, assuming that the agreement on an MTA between the countries was still effective although it expired in 2001.
Based on the Indonesian Air Force report, Singapore was still using Indonesian airspace located above Riau Islands as a training area.
Singapore previously protested to Indonesian authorities when Indonesian Air Force jets entered the airspace to undertake security measures in the area, which is rampant with piracy.
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