Indonesia hopes fishermen can net its South China Sea claims


A fishing boat motors back to shore on the east coast of Natuna Besar July 8, 2014. Picture taken July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

A fishing boat motors back to shore on the east coast of Natuna Besar July 8, 2014. Picture taken July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Indonesia wants to send hundreds of fishermen to the Natuna Islands to assert its sovereignty over nearby areas of the South China Sea to which China says it also has claims.

President Joko Widodo has launched an unprecedented campaign to bolster fishing, oil exploration and defense facilities around the island chain after a series of face-offs between the Indonesian navy and Chinese fishing boats.

“We are aware that if we don’t do this there could be many claims that disrupt the integrity of Indonesian territory,” Chief Maritime Minister Rizal Ramli told reporters on Wednesday.

The announcement of the plan came a day after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague rejected China’s historic claims to almost all of the South China Sea and said it had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

Indonesia is not part of the broader dispute over claims in the South China Sea and it has remained neutral following the ruling, calling for peace and stability.

But Indonesia objects to China’s inclusion of waters around Natuna being included within its “nine-dash line”, a demarcation on China’s maps to show its claims.

Ramli said he would seek cabinet approval this month for the relocation of fishermen from the crowded island of Java to Natuna.

Under the plan, the government would move about 400 wooden boats of 30 tonnes or more to Natuna by the end of October. Fishermen who go could get subsidized housing, while the island’s ports, power supply and internet will be upgraded.

The program is expected to boost fishing in Natuna waters from 9.3 percent of sustainable catchment levels to 40 percent in less than a year.

“We will build cold storage there. We hope this will become the biggest fish market in Southeast Asia,” Ramli said.

Ramli, who also oversees energy as part of his portfolio, said he also would review oil and gas concessions in Natuna and revoke permits from companies that are not developing their blocks.

ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and PTT Exploration and Production are among foreign oil companies with stakes in Natuna, which holds one of the world’s largest untapped gas reserves.

Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, said no one wanted conflict in the South China Sea and she called on all parties to avoid raising tension.

“We are sure that if all sides respect international law, then it will be easier to achieve regional and global peace and stability,” she told reporters.

(Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters “Indonesia hopes fishermen can net its South China Sea claims”

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7 Comments on “Indonesia hopes fishermen can net its South China Sea claims”

  1. Peter Lavalle says:

    When will Beijing realize that where territorial matters are concerned, it’s WAR if any country tries unilaterally to annex or grab another’s territory. The role of the armed forces is to expel such intruders and adversaries forcibly. The Natuna islands were originally Chinese but grabbed illegally by the Indonesians. Perhaps it’s time to take it back. Sink the Indonesian navy if need to. They started the war. Let them pay for the consequences. No “Georgia” business here!

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  2. Simon says:

    With so many Muslims nations around SCS with potential extremist Islamic groups, some have already exist, there is potential for groups like IS to spring up in the SCS area once America interferes. America will once again sowing dicord by selling arms to Muslims which will get passed on to extremist groups to start trouble like what happen in the Middle East.
    The Phillippines already has extremist Islamic militant which is more of a concern to the country yet America does nothing about it but only put its full weight in its dispute with China over fishing rights.

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  3. Fre Okin says:

    Indonesia is acting more and more like a pariah nation, small minded people. Are they deaf to the Taiwan-Japan fishery agreement? That is a very sound agreement considering historical rights. Natuna islands in fact was populated by more Chinese before until Suharto bring in more Muslims to make the Chinese a minority. So we can see Indonesia is actually practising creeping Muslim population of Natuna and now she want to creep in with more fishermen! If China was strong back then, Natuna could well be a Chinese enclave, territory.

    China should go about her business as usual in the Natuna EEZ but with much bigger fishing boats given the distance involved and with more Coast Guard ships to protect them. Maybe fish till no fish left, so be it. Meanwhile China should work hard with VN, Thailand, Malaysia, PH, Myanmar, all countries with fishing boats sunk there to condemn Indonesia’s behavior. Drag her to UN General Assembly to shame her. There is not a single country in the world that behave like Indonesia and it is time to shame her in UN.

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  4. Steve says:

    Beijing and Jakarta really need to have a dialogue and solve the maritime problems. Its important to strengthen ties with the two muslim neighbours of Malaysia and Indonesia.

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    • Fre Okin says:

      Not likely. Indonesia is still populated by backward nationalists people, much like Philippines. China should simply wait out for new Indonesian president, much like she wait out Aquino, hoping the next one is more realistic and settle with all countries that fished in Natuna EEZ, giving them fishery quotas. As I mentioned above, Natuna was actually Chinese majority before and not really Indonesia until Suharto bring in Muslims to turn the islands into Muslim Indonesia. So Indonesia actually steal Natuna from China, or at least the Chinese there who may wish to be part of China back then if China was strong at that time.

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      • Steve says:

        Yes, I do agree with your historical point, but Suharto did the ‘right’ thing for his muslims back then which now cannot be reversed, similar to Xinjiang with Han Chinese. Because it is a Muslim minded nation, it will be difficult for China to wait for another President elect who is a non Muslim. Like Malaysia they are All Muslim Malay Presidents. The situation is quite different to Philippines.

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