President Joko Widodo and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the leaders' retreat at the Sanchaya Resort in Bintan, Riau islands on January 25, 2022. (Twitter @Jokowi)

Indonesia Reclaims Control of Natuna’s Airspace from Singapore

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JANUARY 25, 2022

Jakarta. Indonesia and Singapore on Tuesday agreed to realign their respective flight information regions or FIRs, thus enabling Indonesia to finally reclaim its control of the airspace above Natuna and Riau islands.

Singapore had been managing the airspace over the said islands since 1946. After many decades, the two countries inked an agreement to realign the boundaries between Jakarta and Singapore FIRs during the leaders’ retreat in Bintan on Tuesday.

Signing the agreement were Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi and his Singaporean counterpart S. Iswaran.

“With this signing, Jakarta FIR’s scope will cover all of Indonesia’s territorial airspace, in particular, around Riau and Natuna islands,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told the joint press conference at the leaders’ retreat.

Jokowi added, “it is hoped that the bilateral cooperation in law enforcement, aviation safety, as well as defense and security can continue to be strengthened based on the principles of mutual benefit.”

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the FIR had been among the long-standing bilateral issues between Indonesia and Singapore, making its resolvement a major step forward for their bilateral ties.

“When implemented, the FIR agreement will meet the civil aviation needs of both countries, uphold the safety and efficiency of air traffic in a manner consistent with ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] rules,” Lee said.

According to Skybrary, the Eurocontrol ATM Lexicon defines FIR as airspace of defined dimensions, within which flight information service and alerting service are provided.

At a 1946 convention in Dublin, the ICAO granted Singapore control of the Natuna and Riau islands airspace. Singapore, which was still under British rule at the time, was considered to possess more advanced technology and manpower. Indonesia had just declared independence and was unable to attend the meeting, news outlet Bisnis Indonesia reported on Tuesday.

FIR was not the only long-standing bilateral issue that Indonesia and Singapore managed to address during the leaders’ retreat.

Both nations also signed a treaty on the extradition of fugitives, as well as a defense cooperation agreement. They have exchanged letters to bring the three agreements into force simultaneously. 

“What remains will be for both countries to complete our domestic processes to ratify and bring the set of agreements into force,” Lee said.

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