Jokowi consents to shut down Komodo Island: spokesman

Jokowi consents to shut down Komodo Island: spokesman

Kupang (ANTARA) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) expressed approval to the East Nusa Tenggara governor's suggestion to close down Komodo Island to embark on a conservation program, the province's spokesman, Mariius Ardu Jelamu, confirmed in Kupang, Wednesday.

"President Jokowi had given his approval to the proposal after Governor Viktor Laiskodat spoke to the head of state during his open campaign event in Kupang on Monday," he informed ANTARA in response to queries pertaining to the follow-up of Laiskodat's proposal to shut down the island.

As a response to Governor Laiskodat's proposal, President Jokowi had also called on Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to adopt prompt measure to shut down the island, the natural home of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis), he remarked.

Furthermore, Governor Laiskodat had updated local religious leaders of the president's consent to close Komodo Island at a meeting on Tuesday (Apr 9), Jelamu noted, adding that local and foreign travelers can continue to explore other islands.

The Komodo Island will be closed for conservation purposes from next year, and the East Nusa Tenggara provincial government will directly oversee the management to facilitate more comprehensive supervision, he added.

Komodo Island's closure has triggered widespread speculations and reactions in the Tourism Ministry, with its minister Arief Yahya, early this year, unequivocally objecting the plan, deeming it as irrelevant.

Komodo Island is one of the main islands in the Komodo National Park, situated close to Labuan Bajo, one of the 10 priority tourist destinations outlined by the Government as the "New Bali."

The nine other destinations are Borobudur in Central Java; Mandalika on Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara; Bromo-Tengger-Semeru in East Java; Pulau Seribu in North Jakarta; Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi; Tanjung Lesung in Banten; Morotai in the northern region of Halmahera in the Maluku Islands; and Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung, Bangka Belitung.

Both Komodo Island and Labuan Bajo, located in West Manggarai District on Flores Island, support the tourism industry of East Nusa Tenggara Province, in particular, and Indonesia, in general.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Laiskodat had earlier elaborated that his plan to hike the entry ticket fare for foreign travelers to the park to US$500 per visitor was intended to support conservation and drive revenue for the local government.

Merely Komodo Island will be shut down, so tourists can still enjoy their visits to Rinca Island, Padar Island, and others, he clarified.

Tourists will only be permitted touring aboard boats around Komodo Island and to not land on the island, Laiskodat explained.

Minister Yahya believes there is no issue with environmental preservation and conservation plans, though business certainty is a vital area of concern.