"This concerns Indonesia`s sovereignty and the fate of the people whose livelihood depends on the maritime area. Hence, we must fight through better-planned ways," Basilio Dias Araujo said.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government will file a civil lawsuit against PTT Exploration and Production Company (PTTEP) Australasia in April over the oil spill incident in Timor Sea, East Nusa Tenggara.

The Thailand-based company was not willing to take responsibility for the sea pollution caused due to an explosion in its Montara oil field in 2009, Basilio Dias Araujo, assistant to the Deputy in Charge of Security, Resilience of Maritime of the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, noted in a statement, here, Saturday.

"The government has demanded compensation from PTTEP through the non-litigation way, but the negotiations had reached a deadlock in 2012, thereby resulting in no agreement," he pointed out.

He said PTTEP Australasia, the operator of the Montara oil field in Timor Sea, harbored no good will of providing compensation to the victims of the oil spill and even denied polluting the Timor Sea.

The government is currently preparing a plan to sue the company, he revealed.

"This concerns Indonesias sovereignty and the fate of the people whose livelihood depends on the maritime area. Hence, we must fight through better-planned ways," he affirmed.

The government is currently collecting evidence and has called 50 experts to support the efforts.

Since February 2017, several meetings were organized by the office of the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs by inviting the relevant officials of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry, Attorney Generals Office, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, and National Institute of Aeronautics and Space.

By the end of March, they plan to conduct a field visit to East Nusa Tenggara.

In 2016, some 13 thousand seaweed farmers from East Nusa Tenggara, represented by a lawyer from the Maurice Blackburn legal firm, filed a class-action lawsuit in an Australian federal court.

They claimed that the Montara oil spill had damaged the seaweed and affected their health.

The class-action lawsuit was accepted by the court five months later.

The explosion that occurred in the Montara oil field on August 21, 2009, was caused an oil pipe burst and resulted in an oil spill that contaminated the Timor Sea.

Following the incident, fishermen in Oesapa in the district of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, found thousands of dead fish floating in the Timor Sea.

During the August-November 2009 period, the Montara well leaked uncontrollably for more than 70 days, destroying fish stocks in the Indonesian territory.

As a consequence, 40 million liters of crude oil were released into the Australian waters and eventually spread to the Indonesian maritime area. Some 70,341.76 square kilometers area of the Timor Sea that borders the East Nusa Tenggara Province was polluted.

In mid-January of 2010, the leak was finally plugged and secured permanently. However, during the first year of the Montara oil spill-triggered pollution, fish catches from the Timor Sea waters dropped by 80 percent.(*)

Editor: Heru Purwanto
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