Results of The Meeting between Jokowi-PM Singapore: Indonesia Does Not Completely Control the Natuna Airspace

Singapore Changi International Airport traffic controller tower with airplane taking off in the background. The unique airport tower is one of the most recognizable icons of Singapore.

Last Tuesday (25/2), President Joko Widodo officially announced that Indonesia took over control of the airspace (FIR) in the Riau Islands, including Natuna, which has been managed by Singapore when he met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Bintan.

Quoted from the Presidential Secretariat’s YouTube channel, Jokowi said, “During the signing of the FIR (air control room) the scope of the Jakarta FIR will cover all Indonesian territories, especially Natuna and Riau.”

This is considered a proud achievement because Indonesia has been asking for airspace control in the region since the 1990s.

Illustration of Natuna airspace taken over by Indonesia

However, an international law expert from the University of Indonesia, Hikmahanto Juwana, said that the agreement to take over the FIR from Singapore was not an achievement to be proud of.

This is because Indonesia is still providing flight service delegations to certain areas in the Riau Islands at an altitude of 0-37.00 feet to the Singapore aviation authority. This is quoted from a statement from the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Indonesia only controls airspace from 37,000 feet and above in the region. This is not considered a major feat since most commercial flights operate at altitudes of 31,000 to 38,000 feet.

This Indonesia-Singapore FIR agreement, based on an official statement from the Singapore Government, will last for 25 years and can be extended according to the agreement of the two countries.

The true effective goal

On the other hand, Spokesperson for Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Jodi Mahardi explained that the provision of air services to the Singapore aviation authority for flights to Singapore in certain areas around Changi at an altitude of 0-37,000 feet has nothing to do with Indonesia’s capabilities.

He emphasized that Indonesia is ready and capable if given the authority to provide flight services in the agreed FIR area. The agreement on the delegation of flight services is more due to aviation security and safety factors.

This agreement is purely so that air traffic controllers in Singapore can prevent fragmentation. Moreover, they can effectively coordinate air traffic that will fly to and from Singapore at certain altitudes.

He added that the main purpose of this adjustment is to ensure certainty, security, safety, and effectiveness of flight services in the flight information area of ​​the two countries which is a shared responsibility.