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MFA refutes CNN report; no agreement with Indonesia on airspace management

SINGAPORE — Singapore did not agree to relinquish the management of the entire Indonesian airspace to Indonesia, nor did it support Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has clarified today (Nov 26).

A plane flying overhead. TODAY file photo

A plane flying overhead. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Singapore did not agree to relinquish the management of the entire Indonesian airspace to Indonesia, nor did it support Indonesia’s intention to take over the airspace in three to four years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has clarified today (Nov 26).

MFA issued the comments this morning after a report by CNN-Indonesia on Nov 24 which claimed Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean had in discussions with Indonesian ministers, agreed to handover management of the Flight Information Region (FIR) in the Riau Islands – which includes Batam, Tanjung Pinang and Natuna – to Indonesia in the next few years.

The CNN report quoted Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as saying he had spoken to DPM Teo on the matter. Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi also said in the CNN-Indonesia report that Singapore has agreed to assist Indonesia in the preparations.

MFA confirmed that DPM Teo did discuss the issue of the Flight Information Region (FIR) over dinner with Mr Luhut on Nov 23. However, no agreement was reached after the brief informal chat as it was a major issue, MFA said.

The MFA spokesman said: “The report is inaccurate. DPM Teo did not agree to the suggestion. The subject of the Flight Information Region (FIR) came up during the dinner hosted by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on 23 November 2015. DPM Teo did not, and could not have agreed on such a major issue over a brief informal discussion during dinner.”

According to the MFA statement, DPM Teo has emphasised in his meetings with several Indonesian ministers of the issue’s complex technical and operational nature, which falls under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It also involves many other countries and airlines that use the busy airspace covered by the FIR.

MFA noted that the administration of the FIR is not an issue of sovereignty, but rather, “it is based on operational considerations for the provision of effective air traffic control services, with paramount priority on aviation safety”.

MFA said the Indonesian leaders recognised that the management of airspace for technical and operational purposes. They agree, MFA added, that the top concern should be the safety, efficiency and smooth operation of the FIR.

“There are many instances where the territorial airspace of a country is managed by the air traffic authorities in another.”

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