DPRs Commission I on Defense and Foreign Affairs raised the issue following an incident in which the Indonesian Marine Resources and Maritime Ministrys (KKPs) patrol boat Hiu 11 was attempting to arrest a Chinese fishing vessel caught poaching in the countrys Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) recently.
Commission I Chairman Mahfud Siddiq believes that a military base on the island of Natuna is of key importance as part of the defense system in the central region of the country, which shares its maritime borders with several nations.
"The development of a military base on Natuna Island is important for the defense system in the central region of Indonesia, which shares its borders with many countries in the South China Sea," Siddiq stated in Jakarta on Thursday (March 24).
Siddiq noted that the development of a military base in Natuna will reinforce Indonesias existing regional defense systems in the eastern and western parts of the country. This will help improve the militarys mobility.
The lawmaker remarked that the plan to develop a military base in Natuna had been made since 2015.
"Commission I had once discussed the plan, including its budget," Siddiq pointed out.
This is a strategic defense development plan as Natuna lies in the frontier region of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. It is close to the area in South China Sea where several countries have overlapping claims.
Siddiq, who is a politician of the Prosperous Justice Party, affirmed that the government will require some Rp1.3 trillion in funds to develop a military base on the island. An earlier estimate had pegged the budget to reach Rp400 billion.
"It was earlier planned to be completed in 2017, with the funds allocated from the 2015 revised state budget and the 2016 state budget," he added.
Earlier, a Chinese coast guard vessel had tried to hinder the efforts of KKPs patrol boat, which was trying to escort Chinese fishing vessel Kway Fey 10078 to base. The Chinese fishing boat was poaching in the Indonesian EEZs territorial waters.
"Now, we are proposing that Natuna Island should be developed similar to a warship that will serve as a strong military base for the Navy and Air Force," Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for legal, political and security affairs, stated on Wednesday (March 23).
He noted that President Joko Widodo had adopted a firm stance with regard to the border areas and will not permit any country to breach its sovereignty.
In the meantime, Deputy Chairman of the Regional Representative Council Farouk Muhammad called for reinforcing the fleet that is supervising the Natuna waters to stop fish poaching in the areas.
"Illegal fishing has caused major losses to the country. The government and all related parties need to demonstrate their seriousness to act against fish poachers and to stop illegal fishing activities," Farouk remarked in a written statement on Wednesday.
Farouk pointed out that the fish theft by the Chinese fishing vessel in Natuna waters had not only caused losses to the marine resources but had also violated Indonesias maritime sovereignty as it had trespassed into the nations territory.
Farouk condemned the Chinese coast guard for attempting to protect Kway Fey 10078 that had committed a crime by breaching Law No.43 of 2008 on State Territories.
It violated article seven of the law which states that Indonesia has sovereign and other rights in its jurisdiction region and whose implementation is based on international laws and regulations.
KKPs patrol boat Hiu 11 had detected a Chinese fishing boat poaching fish in the Natuna waters in the Sumatra province of Riau Islands on Saturday (March 19).
At 2:15 p.m. local time, the Chinese boat Kway Fey 10078 was detected at five degrees northern latitude and 109 degrees eastern longitude, which lies in the Indonesian EEZ.
Since the vessel had violated the norms, Hiu 11 had chased it and fired warning shots, but the Chinese vessel tried to evade arrest by undertaking zigzag maneuvers.
At around 3 p.m. local time, the Chinese vessel was stopped, and the KKP officers boarded the ship and arrested the eight crew members.
When the ship was being escorted by KKP officers, a Chinese coast guard vessel suddenly appeared and collided into Kway Fey, thus ensuring that the fishing boat could not be brought ashore.
To avoid a clash, the KKP officers left the Chinese boat and returned to Hiu 11 along with the eight crew members of the Chinese vessel.
"The handling of this case has been taken over by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry," Spokesman of Tanjungpinangs Lantamal IV Naval Base Josdy Damopolii revealed.
Apart from this fishing dispute, Damopolii stated that the Navy and other related institutions continue to secure Indonesias sovereignty in the Natuna waters, but he was reluctant to elaborate on the number of patrol ships deployed and their positions for security reasons.
Indonesia has urged China to respect the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 following its coast guards act of thwarting the arrest of a Chinese-flagged vessel in the Natuna Sea.
"We have sound ties with China. We try to ensure that these good ties help facilitate respect for international laws, including the UNCLOS 1982," Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi noted at the Presidential Office here on Monday.
The minister said Indonesia had lodged three points of objection in its protest note. First, the Indonesian government has objected to the violations committed by the Chinese coast guard against the countrys sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the EEZ and continental shelf.
Second, the Indonesian government has raised a protest regarding violation by the Chinese coast guard against its law enforcement agencies in the EEZ and continental shelf.
Third, the Indonesian government has protested against the violation committed by the Chinese coast guard against its marine territorial sovereignty.
The minister further emphasized that Indonesia was neither a "claimant state" in the South China Sea nor in the South China Sea dispute.
"So, it (our stand) is obvious, and we urge China to clarify the incident, which occurred early Sunday," Marsudi added.