Wed, 22 Jan 2003

Cirebon fishermen back at sea after fuel price cut

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon, West Java

Thousands of fishermen in Cirebon, West Java, returned to sea to fish following the government's decision to lower the fuel prices that had only recently been raised.

The fishermen had been on strike over the past two weeks in protest over the government decision to raise fuel prices, power and telephone rates.

Secretary of the Cirebon chapter of the Association of Indonesian Fishermen (HNSI) Karsudin said that the majority of fishermen in the regency had resumed fishing after the government finally bowed to increasing protests against the hike in automotive diesel fuel to Rp 1,890 per liter.

The price of diesel fuel was later lowered to Rp 1,650 per liter.

"The fishermen went to the sea soon after the automotive diesel fuel was lowered," he said.

Millions of fishermen in other provinces resumed their daily activities following the government's decision to lower the price of automotive diesel fuel.

Karsudin said that only a small number of the 2,200 fishermen who are members of the local HNSI chapter went fishing over the past two weeks while a greater number joined the strike.

The fishermen docked some 2,000 fishing boats along the coastal areas of Samadikun, Cangkol, and fishing port Kejawanan, Cirebon in protest over the fuel price hike.

The simultaneous price increases triggered weeks of protests involving people from all walks of life. The government then announced on Monday a reduction in fuel prices and discounts for certain electricity users in a response to the nationwide protests.

Karsudin said that most of the fishermen in Cirebon did not own motorized fishing boats as they were still too poor.

"Fishing companies have barred their employees from fishing to protest the increase in automotive diesel fuel," he said.

Nurjaman, 47, a fisherman from Cangkol village, Lemahwungkuk district, Cirebon, said that he and his associates were relieved with the reduction in the price of diesel fuel.

"We cannot afford to go fishing if the fuel price is increased as it increases our overhead," he said.

Nurjaman said that he had to spend between Rp 5 million and Rp 8 million per month.

He said that 70 percent of the operational costs was to buy diesel for the boat and ice for storing the fish while the rest was for fishermen's needs.

"I hope the price of other goods will go down in line with the reduction in fuel prices so that fishermen's income will improve," he said.