Quo vadis, FIR above Riau and Natuna islands?

Putro, Yaries Mahardika and Nugraha, Ridha Aditya (2022) Quo vadis, FIR above Riau and Natuna islands? The Jakarta Post, Jakarta.

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The Flight Information Region (FIR) above Natuna Island was granted to Singapore under a decision of the Regional Air Navigation (RAN) meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held in 1946 in Dublin, Ireland. The determination of an FIR must be based on flight safety considerations. Due to the lack of facilities, infrastructure and human resource capabilities, the FIR above the Natuna Islands was delegated to Singapore, which was then under the British government. De facto speaking, there are three sectors, A, B and C. FIR is the airspace on which flight information service and alerting services are provided. All aircraft intending to land at Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Raja Hj. Fisabilillah Airport in Tanjung Pinang, Ranai-Natuna Airport, Matak Airport or Raja Haji Abdullah Airport in Tanjung Balai Karimun, must receive approval and permission from Singapore air traffic control. Clearly, this has encouraged the Indonesian government to take over control of the FIR from Singapore. Since 1993, when the Indonesian government raised the issue of FIR management at the Third RAN meeting in Bangkok, efforts to take control of the FIR have been underway. This meeting decided that Indonesia and Singapore must resolve the issue bilaterally and then report back to the next RAN meeting. As a follow-up to the 1993 RAN meeting, Indonesia sent a delegation to Singapore and vice versa. However, the attempt was unsuccessful, because the two countries did not reach an agreement. In 1995, both governments reached a bilateral agreement on redrawing the boundary between the Singapore FIR and the Indonesia FIR. According to this agreement, Indonesia delegates control and management of its airspace over the islands of Riau and Natuna to an altitude of 37,500 feet to Singapore. Additionally, this agreement stipulates that flights to and from Batam, Tanjung Pinang and Changi airports are provided on a first come, first served basis. In accordance with this agreement, Singapore collects air navigation charges on civil flights in some of the airspace Indonesia delegated to Singapore on behalf of and for Indonesia. The government then enacted Law No. 1/2009 on Aviation in order to provide a legal framework for the process for Indonesia to take over control of the Singapore FIR. Article 458 of the law limits the time to take over navigational control of Indonesian airspace delegated to a foreign nation to 15 years after the effective date of the law. In other words, the government only has until 2024 to take control over the airspace it delegated to Singapore. In 2015, under the leadership of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the government reaffirmed its intention to take control of the Singapore FIR over the Riau and Natuna islands. In a limited Cabinet meeting, the President issued an order for Indonesia to take control of the Singapore FIR within three years. However, the effort failed in 2018. The issue of Indonesia taking control of the Singapore FIR had not been raised in the four years since. But on 25 Jan. 2022, President Joko Widodo and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long met in Bintan to discuss the plan for Indonesia to take control of the FIR over the two island chains. Singapore intends to return control of the FIR to Indonesia in light of Indonesia's readiness as regards facilities, infrastructure and human resources. The two countries have formed an agreement, which contains a provision pertaining to the FIR’s management. Obviously, the FIR case is closely related to flight safety. However, it is impossible to separate the FIR from the issues of sovereignty, safety and commerce (state revenue). Although the FIR’s control does not in any way compromise Indonesia's sovereignty, by delegating it to another nation, the government cannot move freely within its own territory. In an emergency situation, when time is of the essence, the first come, first served policy as outlined in the 1995 FIR agreement could impede law enforcement efforts against blacklisted flights. Additionally, state revenue from the aviation services industry is not insignificant. The airspace above the islands of Riau and Natuna is traversed daily by thousands of aircraft requiring information services. Considering the establishment of Air Navigation Indonesia (AirNav), which has the capacity to manage Indonesian airspace, it is evident that the government is committed to improving its system of facilities, infrastructure and personnel in the process of taking control of the Singapore FIR above Riau and Natuna. Last, but not least, it is often forgotten that law is a result of politics. Negotiation is alive, and this means neither country can win 100 percent. Frankly speaking, the 25 Jan. 2022 result is not perfect for Indonesia, but is better than the status quo. Additionally, incorporating the Bill on Airspace Management into the 2022 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) will affect the takeover of FIR control to some degree. Importantly, starting this year, the government has only two years left to carry out the mandate of Article 458 of Law No. 1/2009 pertaining to the period for taking over flight navigation services that has been delegated to other countries. Therefore, the government must be serious about realizing and implementing its takeover of the Singapore FIR over Riau and Natua this year by drafting a detailed framework. More effort is needed, considering that Indonesia will most likely not participate in the election for the 2022-2025 ICAO Council. The country’s absence could weaken its aviation diplomacy, including encouraging stakeholder approval for new Indonesia FIR boundaries. Indeed, a smart solution is needed to avoid the ongoing deadlock. The 77th anniversary of Indonesian independence delivers one message: carpe diem!

Item Type: Popular Article
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Law > Department of Law
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2022 05:14
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2022 07:20
URI: http://repository.ubaya.ac.id/id/eprint/42671

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