The government is meeting with ambassadors and representatives of various international organizations that have offered assistance following last week's deadly earthquake and tsunami in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi, officials said on Monday (01/10). (Antara Photo/Jojon)

Indonesia Weighs Foreign Aid Offers; Resists Declaring National Disaster in C. Sulawesi


OCTOBER 01, 2018

Jakarta. The government is meeting with ambassadors and representatives of various international organizations that have offered assistance following last week's deadly earthquake and tsunami in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi, officials said on Monday (01/10).

The government has established a team headed by Chief Security Minister Wiranto to coordinate the matter, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said.

"We are accepting but we are not asking... We are only accepting what we really need, and from countries that have offered," Sutopo said.

He added that the team has identified several priority needs so far, including aircraft that can land on less than 2,000 meters of runway, generators, water treatment equipment, water pumps, tents, medical supplies and personnel, and specialized equipment to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Wiranto said in a separate statement that Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir was scheduled to meet on Monday with the ambassadors of countries that have offered assistance.

These include Australia, the United States, Morocco, South Korea, the European Union, China, Singapore, Turkey, the Philippines, Switzerland, France, the Czech Republic, Norway, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan and India, among others.

Wiranto said Indonesia carefully selects which international aid to accept, with special focus on countries that have made offers and which have the capacity to provide timely assistance in Central Sulawesi.

The European Union said on Sunday that it has released €1.5 million ($1.7 million) in emergency aid for victims of the earthquake, while the South Korean Embassy in Jakarta said the country would send aid worth $1 million to the affected areas.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also announced on Monday his country's readiness to assist Indonesia during the ordeal.

"... We are ready to provide aid in whatever form, whether it is emergency relief items or anything else. Japan will be by Indonesia's side during this difficult time," Abe said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe.

Sutopo said the BNPB had learned valuable lessons from the devastating 2004 Aceh tsunami and the 2009 Padang earthquake, which resulted in the agency being more selective in accepting aid to ensure that it is well-organized, transparent and accountable.

"At the time of the Aceh tsunami, we didn't have a system. We accepted [international aid] without being selective, and we received aid from 117 countries but were unaware of the nature of the assistance," Sutopo said.

Under Indonesia's 2007 Disaster Management Law, the government must provide security personnel to assist aid workers and guarantee their safety.

National Disaster

The government has so far resisted declaring the earthquake and tsunami in Palu and Donggala a national disaster, as it would imply that the local government was unable to function and undertake disaster mitigation and recovery efforts.

"I don't think it's necessary to declare it a national disaster. What we are doing now is already more than enough," Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Panjaitan said on Monday.

"I am sorry for the people affected by the disaster, but we should not be too drawn into sadness. We move on and the next thing is recovery and infrastructure development," Luhut said.

Under the 2007 law, the president can declare a national disaster after taking into consideration the number of victims, size of the affected region, economic impact, infrastructure damage and material losses. The last time Indonesia declared a national disaster was after the 2004 Aceh tsunami.

Friday evening's magnitude-7.4 earthquake, which caused a tsunami of up to 3 meters high, displaced 48,025 people in Palu alone.

The latest BNPB data put the death toll at 844, with 632 injured and 90 people still missing. However, the full extent of the damage remains unclear. The agency has yet to determine the exact number of displaced people in other areas, such as Donggala, Parigi Moutong and Sigi, which were also affected by the quake and tsunami.