Indonesia goes extra mile to protect livelihoods of local fishery

The omnibus law is estimated to generate at least one million new jobs in the fishery industry alone.

The Indonesian government is making sure that the controversial omnibus law will not marginalize the local maritime community. 

By Diana M, Indonesia correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade

Back in 2020, a series of demonstration took place in many regions in Indonesia; for months, thousands of protesters flocked to the streets to rally against the omnibus law on job creation. 

The government’s self-proclaimed good intention seemingly failed to address the concern and apprehension among Indonesians that the Law would, in fact, harm labor rights and worsen working conditions in the future.

Among several points highlighted by experts to have the potential of bringing negative implications for local workers is the one regulating the fishery industry. 

The Law states that Indonesia will open access for foreign fishing vessels to operate within its exclusive economic zone (EZZ), but bypassing the previous regulation that required foreign vessels to employ at least 70 percent Indonesian nationals. This is alarming and has serious consequence for local fishermen.

After the Law was passed in October 2020, the government came under pressure as several organizations and the public at large continued to voice concerns.  The government is keen to ensure that the omnibus law will not hurt the livelihoods of the local maritime communities.

Speaking to Maritime Fairtrade, an official from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said that even though the Law states foreign fishing vessels are allowed in Indonesian waters, the derivative regulations will ensure otherwise.

“Among some of the requirements regulated by the derivatives, be it the government or ministerial regulation, is one for the vessels to be Indonesian-flagged, which means no foreign vessel will be allowed,” the Acting Director General of Capture Fisheries at the Ministry, Muhammad Zaini, explained.

He said the government will follow what has been mandated in a 2016 presidential regulation on a ban on foreign vessels.

With the ban on foreign fishing vessels remaining in place, Zaini added the public shouldn’t worry about the big number of foreigners taking over the livelihoods of local fishermen. 

One million new jobs expected

In regards to job opportunities, Zaini said he expects the Law to generate at least one million new jobs in the fishery industry alone. He said the Ministry has been working on several projects, including the national fish barn program in the eastern part of Indonesia, which are expected to create new jobs.

However, he admitted that the success of these programs depends heavily on investment, and with the omnibus law, the government hopes to attract private investors to take part by providing a stimulus plan and supporting facilities.

“The government has been building key facilities, and we will ease (the requirements for) permits to attract new investments. We are hoping to create up to one million (new jobs),” Zaini said.

While this estimation is only for the fishery industry, he added that other sectors in maritime including aquaculture and even tourism, are also expected to create job opportunities for the millions of Indonesians.

Other benefits of the omnibus law

Previously, the government, through the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, had released a statement detailing all the benefits for the maritime societies from the new Law. 

The first point is the simplified licensing process, particularly for fishers whose fishing boats are over 10 GT. Prior to the Law, these fishers were required to have several different permits from different ministries, but now the licensing is only done through the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

On the statement, Zaini said the Law also puts more emphasis on the welfare of seafarers and dock workers. They are now classified as small-scale fishers, and therefore are entitled to receive government aid given to fishers, such as training aid.

The next point is environmental protection. The Ministry said the only major change from the previous regulation is that now the Environmental Agreement is tied to the issuance of the Business License. 

However, the reduced participation of experts on the drafting of the environmental impact assessment has been cited by many as a signal that the government is putting aside environmental protection for the sake of new investment, something that the government has repeatedly denied.

Image credit: Affendy Soeto / Shutterstock.com

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Diana M

Diana M

Diana M, our Indonesia correspondent, is based in Jakarta. She is a former reporter from The Jakarta Globe. Through her writings, she hopes to bring awareness to important maritime security and trade issues.

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