The Indonesian Air Force has urged the government to take over control of the Flight Information Region (FIR) over the Riau and Natuna islands, currently under the supervision of Singapore, to help achieve President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s maritime-axis vision.
“It is time for the Air Force to back supremacy in Indonesian airspace,” Agus said.
FIR is a specified region of airspace in which flight information and alert service (ALRS) is provided.
The atmosphere is divided into specific blocks of FIR. Smaller countries’ airspace is encompassed by a single FIR and larger countries’ airspace is subdivided into a number of regional FIRs.
Singapore controls airspace of up to 110 nautical miles in radius, encompassing Batam, Natuna until Dumai in Riau. Singapore has been controlling part of Indonesia’s territory since 1946 or a year after Indonesia gained its independence.
As the airspace is included in Singapore’s FIR, Indonesia does not have absolute authority over the airspace, depriving the country of income from route charges imposed on aircraft passing through the airspace.
Patrols conducted by the Indonesian Air Force and Navy in the territory must also be guided by Singapore. Moreover, the city-state has set its air traffic control (ATC) based on its own interests, thereby hampering Indonesia’s activity in the area.
“We encourage the government to take over FIR and of course Indonesia should prepare the necessary infrastructure to ensure that it can control FIR above the Riau and Natuna islands,” Agus said, adding that Natuna, for instance, was a very strategic area for Indonesia because it was an outer border between Indonesia and the South China Sea.
Agus said the idea to take over was in accordance with several existing laws; Law No 1/ 2009 on aviation, articles 1 and 2 of the 1944 Chicago Convention on FIR, the 1982 convention on international sea law and Law no. 43/2008 on the state authority.
Law No. 1/2009 on aviation stipulates that airspace above Indonesia must be controlled by the Indonesian government.
The Law mandates that Indonesia take back airspace dominated by a foreign party, but the law has yet to be followed up with government action.
According to the directorate general of civil aviation, Indonesia should control all air space above its territory by 2024, but the takeover could happen sooner.
Defense Ministry spokesperson Brig. Gen. Djundan Eko Bintoro acknowledged that FIR above Natuna and Riau was still under the supervision of Singapore.
“We indeed need to report or coordinate when we want to pass the area,” said Djundan.
However, he believed that Indonesia would take over FIR for the sake of Indonesian territory.
“We will take over when we are ready,” Djundan said.
It was reported that Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia had discussed the issue a number of times since 1993, but Indonesia had failed to take over the airspace due to weak lobbying on the part of the government. (The Jakarta Post)