The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Thursday (Nov 26) refuted a CNN Indonesia report that said Singapore had no objections to Indonesia’s intention to manage its entire airspace, and that the Republic supported Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years.
The report, published in Bahasa Indonesia on CNN Indonesia's website on Tuesday, quoted Indonesian ministers as saying that President Joko Widodo had affirmed to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean – who was on a working visit to Jakarta – that Indonesia will take over the Flight Information Region (FIR) in Riau Islands.
Singapore has been in control of the airspace over some areas in Riau - such as Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Bintan and the Natuna islands - since 1946.
“The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion,” MFA said in a statement released on Thursday.
The subject came up during a dinner hosted by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan. MFA said Mr Teo “did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner”.
The ministry reiterated that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but based on “operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.
DPM Teo had emphasised that the issue was a complex one under the ambit of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and involves many other countries and airlines which use the busy airspace covered by the FIR. These points were reiterated in meetings with several Indonesian leaders during Mr Teo’s visit, MFA said.
“The Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes is not an issue of sovereignty. They also agreed that the paramount concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR,” it said.
“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another. For example, Indonesia also provides air traffic services in airspace which belongs to other countries.”