Indonesian Coast Guard wards off a foreign fishing boat in the North Natuna Sea in February last year. (Photo courtesy of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry)

Gov't to Speed Up Construction of Sanctuary for Indonesian Fishermen in North Natuna Sea

BY :DIANA MARISKA

JANUARY 07, 2020

Jakarta. The government is speeding up the construction of a sanctuary for Indonesian fishermen in the North Natuna Sea, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Tuesday. 

The government has been working on the plan for the past three years, but a fresh territorial dispute with China last week has made it more urgent for Indonesia to prop up its presence in the area.

Luhut said the sanctuary will allow local fishermen to occupy the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North Natuna Sea, also known as the South China Sea.

"The plan has always been to relocate fishermen – who are willing to be relocated – from Java and to build a base there. They would be able to catch fish in our own exclusive economic zone," Luhut said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Luhut refused to name the parties responsible for the delay in the project and only insisted that it should be completed – and soon. "This is not a new program. From now on, we will work on it faster," he said.

The base would also house the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) that under the planned omnibus law on maritime affairs would become the country's sole coast guard. 

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto is also said to be preparing tankers to be stationed in the base. 

Previously, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M.D. called for Indonesian fishermen to sail to North Natuna Sea to increase Indonesia's presence in the area.

Mahfud made the call after several Chinese fishing boats sailed into waters off Riau Islands accompanied by China's Coast Guard.

"The president has ordered us to beef up security in Natuna and assert our presence there. There are two things we can do: first, increase maritime patrols; second, send our fishermen there," Mahfud said on Monday.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo flew to Riau on Tuesday to visit the Natuna Integrated Marine and Fisheries Center (SKPT Natuna) in the Lampa Strait to check its facilities and meet local fishermen.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry's head of public relations and foreign cooperation Agung Tri Prasetyo said the visit was a direct response to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's order to improve communication between the government and local fishermen.

Agung said Edhy will also meet regional government officials and fish farmers during his visit to Riau.

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