The Jakarta Post
Transportation operators have pledged to support the government’s plan to ban mudik [exodus] during the Idul Fitri holiday this year to curb the spread of COVID-19 but have said that policies are needed to protect small-scale transportation businesses.
The managing director of intercity bus service provider Eka Lorena Transport, Dwi Rianta Soerbakti, said the company would support whatever decision the government made on mudik.
“The decision to ban mudik must be followed by other policies that can help us, transportation operators, to survive. [This could be] in the form of incentives, as all employees and stakeholders will be affected by this decision,” he said on Friday.
“[If mudik is not allowed] Lorena might still be able to operate, but what about smaller operators? If there is no support for them, they will be prone to closure and layoffs,” he added.
Such government support could come in the form of vehicle ownership tax and income tax exemptions, fuel subsidies, as well as waivers for Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS) premium payments for workers, among other things.
Transportation Ministry Land Transportation Director General Budi Setyadi said on Friday that the ministry advised the government to ban or restrict mudik this year to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, with a final decision to be made at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.
The pneumonia-like illness had infected more than 1,400 people and killed 122 in the country as of Monday.
Budi said the ministry along with other stakeholders, such as the National Police Traffic Corps (Korlantas), were now preparing scenarios regarding the technical matters of the plan, including how it will be enforced. Budi also said the Transportation Ministry had considered providing support to affected operators if the policy was put in place.
Every year, millions of Indonesians travel to their hometowns to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Idul Fitri. The tradition brings increased demand for all kinds of mass transportation.
In 2019 alone, around 18.3 million passengers used mass transportation services for mudik in the seven days before and after Idul Fitri.
National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia president director Irfan Setiaputra told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the company would support any policy implemented by the government even if it would hurt the airline’s business.
“We will always support the government’s decisions, but of course we will give them input and recommendations too,” said Irfan.
Even without the mudik ban, Garuda has already been forced to cancel 30 to 40 percent of its flights as demand for air travel decreases amid COVID-19 fears. In February, Irfan said the COVID-19 outbreak was projected to affect the company’s revenue significantly, as the airline has also been forced to cancel flights to various countries.
State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said in March that the ministry was in talks with the airline to restructure its sukuk worth US$496.8 million due in June as Garuda had been severely affected by the suspension of umrah (minor haj) and Australia's decision to close its borders.
Meanwhile, state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) spokesperson Yuskal Setiawan said the company was ready to support whatever decision the government made on mudik. KAI has independently started reducing its trip schedule in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
PT KAI has canceled 19 trips scheduled between March 23 to April 1. Meanwhile, the company will cancel 103 of its 532 daily trips beginning April 2, said Yuskal.
Some 264,719 train tickets have also been canceled by passengers for journeys between March 23 and 30. The number of cancellations is 12 times higher than normal, he said in a statement on Monday.
State-owned ferry operator PT ASDP Indonesia Ferry has also voiced support for the government’s plan to ban mudik.
“Mudik is an important tradition, but in a time like this, our health is the most important thing,” ASDP planning and development director Christine Hutabarat said. “We are ready to face the consequences [of the mudik ban].”