Indonesia is still yet to capitalize on the economic potential of its marine environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi told a seminar in Jakarta on Wednesday.
“We are still restricted by a land-based approach which emphasizes the potential of utilizing land for profit,” the Minister said, adding that such an mindset did not suit Indonesia’s natural archipelagic nature.
Freddy said this path would have a negative impact on the country in the long term and could lead to budget imbalances.
“When the authorities distribute funding, they think in terms of demography and land size, thus small, sparsely populated islands get little out of the budget while development remains concentrated in Java.”
Indonesia is the largest archipelagic nation in the world, with oceans accounting for 70 percent of its territory.
The country has marine territory spanning 3.1 million square kilometers and a coastline of over 95,000 kilometers. Aside from its territorial borders, the country also has an exclusive economic zone extending 200 miles from its borders, which allows special access to marine resources in the zone.
Last year, the Maritime and Fisheries Ministry recorded over 8 million tons in fish production and reaped some US$2.8 billion from fishery exports. Apart from this, the country’s waters also hold immense potential in oil and thermal energy sources.
Freddy said originally Indonesians were seafaring but the colonial occupiers imposed agricultural structures on the land, deeming the sea to be dangerous and lacking potential.
“Sadly, we are still unable to undo this damage and to this day our development plans continue to marginalize the oceans,” he said.
Freddy said an urgent policy shift was necessary to revert the countries development back toward the oceans.
“An ocean policy, made with the cooperation of all stakeholders and representatives from all sectors, such as tourism, technology and mining, will set us on the right course to realize the full potential of our marine resources,” he said.
Freddy said Indonesia was behind in developing this policy compared to continental nations such as the United States and Australia.
“We have many maritime laws. However, they are disorganized and tend to overlap one another,” he said.
Navy Chief Admiral Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, who also spoke at the seminar, said the nation’s marine environments were also occupied by various conflicting security forces, all dealing with their own separate issues.
Currently, the navy shares its duties with seagoing forces from the Police, the Ministry of Fisheries, a Sea Security Coordinating Agency (Bakorkamla) and several others.
According to Tedjo, a unified maritime security force, or a coast guard, is necessary to manage the country’s extensive coastline. (dis)