Riani Sanusi Putri, Jakarta – The environmental watchdog the People's Coalition for Fishery Justice (KIARA) aimed criticism at the government's latest decision to lift the 20-year-old ban against sea sand exports, which KIARA secretary general Susan Herawati perceives as an act of dishonesty.
She highlighted the government's reasoning behind the lifted ban, which is meant to tackle the rampant sea sand smuggling.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo officially opened the door for sea sand exports by signing the Government Decree (PP) No. 26/2023 overseeing sea sedimentation management on May 15.
According to Susan, the narrative built behind the rule's issuance is the utilization of sea sedimentation for reclamation development materials. She said the actual legal basis behind the decree's issuance has never been issued publicly.
"Can Jokowi answer honestly as to the main basis for issuing this PP," said Susan to Tempo on Sunday, June 4.
If the government's reason is to put an end to sea sand smuggling, Susan asserted, law enforcement should strengthen instead of reopening exports. Opening the export faucet would not present itself as a solution to the smuggling problem and is feared to increase the exploitation or dredging of sea sand and will be costly for the environment.
Thus, she assessed that the smuggling cases that occurred were the result of weak state supervision. "The major narrative to become the world's maritime axis is still very far away and the discourse is only for a political basis," said the environmental activist.
The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry (KKP) initially made it clear that the government decree was not to regulate sea sand but sea sedimentation.
KKP Public Communication Special Staff, Wahyu Muryadi insisted that the state's duty is to clean up marine sedimentation as if left unchecked it would actually hamper the sustainability of marine biota such as coral reefs and the sea, he implied to Tempo when contacted on May 29.
Muryadi mentioned the rampant sea sand smuggling is due to a lack of stringent regulations. "If someone uses it, otherwise if it is taken it will benefit the country," he said when contacted by Tempo Monday evening, May 29, 2023.
He reasserted that sea sand in Indonesian waters is able to meet domestic and international demands and every request to extract the commodity will be supervised by a study group that consists of environmental-related government ministries and agencies.
Sea sand export was initially banned to prevent environmental damage and the sinking of small islands. The law was introduced after smaller islands in Indonesia's outer regions at the Riau Islands were starting to disappear due to sea sand mining.
The ban was introduced in February of 2003 under the Presidency of Megawati, which was based on the environmental damages caused by sea sand extraction that was rampant at the time.