Indonesia eyes Riau airspace

Indonesia eyes Riau airspace
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Indonesia has plans to take over control of the airspace above the Riau Islands from Singapore, reported the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

But it remains unclear if the changes have been discussed with Singapore, or approved by global aviation authorities.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters on Tuesday that the existing arrangement - wherein Singapore controls part of the airspace "beyond our borders and over Sumatra, but the fees collected for that are handed over to the Indonesian government" - has been sanctioned by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

He was quoted by Channel NewsAsia (CNA) as saying that a takeover by Indonesia would impact the Singapore's aviation industry.

The Jakarta Globe reported that the proposed takeover follows complaints by the Indonesian military about Singapore's "alleged violations with its fighter jet drills and its protests against Indonesian military aircraft presence in the area".

The airspace issue was brought up at a Cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday after lawmakers called on the government to speed up efforts to tackle it.

The Globe quoted Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan as saying: "The president has instructed us to prepare better equipment, better personnel over the next three or four years so that we can take over the management of our own airspace, which has been hitherto delegated to Singapore."

Mr Ignasius said that Singapore had been in control of flights in the airspace above some areas in Indonesia's Riau Islands, including Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands, since 1946.

KALIMANTAN AIRSPACE

According to the Globe, Indonesia is also looking into taking over control of the airspace above its regions bordering Malaysia in North Kalimantan.

"We will (also) talk with Singapore and Malaysia. And when we're ready, we'll take over (the airspace)," said Mr Ignasius.

In response, Mr Shanmugam said that the current arrangements were negotiated "in the best interests of Singapore and our neighbours including Indonesia", reported CNA.

"If there is any change to the agreement... There are implications for our position as an aviation hub," he added.

"We are one of the busiest airports in Asia... Tens of thousands of jobs are dependent on our position as an aviation hub."


This article was first published on September 10, 2015.
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