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Jakarta Post

Chinese vessels not in Natuna anymore: Minister

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam, Riau Islands   /   Thu, January 16, 2020   /   09:26 am
Chinese vessels not in Natuna anymore: Minister Indonesian Navy vessels sail across Natuna waters off Riau Islands. (Antara/-)

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD claims that all Chinese vessels have left Indonesia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in Natuna as authorities plan to deploy more patrol ships in the area.

To anticipate similar tensions over China’s controversial naval maneuvers in the maritime region in the past few days, the government also plans to build more business centers in Natuna.

“Generally, everything is safe. [The Chinese vessels] are not in Natuna anymore; they have left the EEZ area. Hopefully it will stay safe like this,” Mahfud said when he was inspecting Natuna waters on Wednesday.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo said that the Japanese government promised to give three of its surveillance ships to Indonesia. The second-hand ships are to undergo repairs for a year in Japan before being sent to Indonesia.

“We have seen the ships and Japan has committed to giving the ships to us, but they need to repair them first. It takes a year for them to repair one,” Edy said.

“We will maintain the functions and the authority of the security units [in Natuna] and we will strengthen coordination,” Mahfud said.

On Wednesday Mahfud also led a coordination meeting with several ministries and institutions in Natuna. Mahfud said he was in Natuna to follow up on the instructions President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo issued when he visited the area last week.

“The main point is the President said that the nation’s sovereignty is not something to bargain with. We are not maintaining the nation’s sovereignty; we are maintaining our sovereign rights over the sea. So it's different; it’s not war. Therefore, the first instruction from the President was to increase the numbers of patrols. Then we will build coordination regarding the management of Natuna with ministries and institutions, as well as central and regional relations," Mahfud said.

As a part of developing business centers in Natuna, Mahfud said they plan to increase the number of fishermen and ships, bringing them from northern coastal Java to Natuna.

“But don’t misunderstand, as if by bringing in fishermen from outside of Natuna then we will not pay attention to fishermen in Natuna. The priority will be given to local fishermen in Natuna. After this meeting there will be technical coordination between the maritime affairs and fisheries minister and local government,” he added.

The acting governor of Riau Islands, H. Isdianto, said he welcomed the central government’s plan to develop the fishery industry in the area. He also recommended Natuna become a special zone for tourism and fishing.

“We could only hope that the central government would make Natuna a special zone, for tourism, or fisheries, or a defense zone. In short, anything for people’s welfare,” he said.

He said the whole province relied, among other things, upon the fishery industry and he hoped that with government help for Natuna’s fisheries, other regions in the province would benefit from a domino effect. (evi)