The Jakarta Post
Opposition against the development of the country's first high-speed railway is growing among members of the House of Representatives, who are calling on the government to halt it amid concerns over the state budget and irregularities.
House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah demanded that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo stop the project, citing various disadvantages of the rail connecting Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, which will be developed by Indonesia-China consortium PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC).
'It's expensive and will cause damage to areas around it that are prone to landslides,' he said, adding that the project also lacked permits during its groundbreaking in January.
The House members also proposed forming a special committee to inspect the project and decide whether it could proceed.
House Commission VI overseeing state enterprises head Hafisz Tohir also expressed his concerns over the use of state assets in the project. The assets included 2,900 hectares of land managed by state plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara VIII, as well as managed by state toll operator Jasa Marga parallel with its Cipularang toll road.
If the project failed, the state's assets could be seized to guarantee the consortium's debts.
Jokowi has reinstated his commitment to accelerating the controversial project by including the high-speed railway as a national strategic project in Presidential Regulation No. 3/2016 on the acceleration of national strategic projects, to secure all of the required permits.
An article in the regulation also stipulated that the government could guarantee the project, contradicting his previous regulation on the acceleration of the high-speed railway project, stipulating it would not use any guarantee.
The Indonesia-China flagship project, spanning 142.3 kilometers and requiring investment of US$5.5 billion, sparked controversy following its issuance of permits that had been deemed irregular, with many procedures being skipped, especially for its Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal).
Despite the groundbreaking, the consortium ' which consists of China Railway International Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Railway Group Ltd. and Indonesian state owned firms Wijaya Karya, Kereta Api Indonesia, and Jasa Marga ' has not been able to start construction as the Transportation Ministry has yet to issue a building permit for the train due to a lack of required documents, as well as a disagreement over points in the concession agreement.
Urban analyst Yayat Supriatna criticized the train tracks that would also violate the regional spatial planning (RTRW) of the areas it crossed, including the West Java spatial plan, as conservation areas were required to be maintained, such as Walini.
Public policy expert Agus Pambagio also said that the consortium needed to review its feasibility study, Amdal and strategic environmental assessment (KLHS), if it wished to go ahead with construction.
KLHS is an assessment that regional administrations have to carry out before issuing permits for land or forest management.
Analysts and legislators are also concerned about the Chinese-led consortium's proposal to ask for a government guarantee for the train project.
But, State-owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said Monday that the government would only provide legal certainty for the high-profile project. The consortium had never requested financial guarantee, she said, adding that it only asked for the issuance of a legal basis for the long-term operation of the train.
Rini said it was normal for investors to request legal guarantees for long investment projects to guarantee their permits would not be revoked.
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