RI considers ban on granite exportsPublished by MAC on 2007-03-15
RI considers ban on granite exports
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
After banning sand exports, Indonesia is discussing the possibility of prohibiting granite exports, a step that could further sour ties with neighboring Singapore, which depends heavily on Indonesian sand and granite for its construction sector.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said here Monday that so far the government has only banned sand exports, but added that discussions on the possibility of expanding the ban to include granite were taking place in the Cabinet.
"According to a decree from the trade minister, exports of granite chips are not banned ... (but) discussions on the possibility of banning granite chips are taking place in the Cabinet," he said.
Hassan's remarks echoed those of State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar and the Navy, who both hinted at a possible ban on granite exports.
Rachmat said Sunday his office was studying the environmental impact of granite mining and exports to determine if an export ban, similar to the earlier one slapped on sand, was necessary.
The Navy said Saturday it had proposed the government ban granite exports because granite mining was causing environmental damage in a number of areas in Riau Islands province, including on Bintan and Karimun islands.
Riau Islands Governor Ismeth Abdullah, however, said the province would oppose any restrictions on granite exports, which would further slash provincial revenue following the central government's ban on sand exports.
"However, a ban would not affect the border negotiations with Singapore, because from the beginning I have said that the sand export ban, for instance, is more motivated by environmental damage," Foreign Minister Hassan said.
Meanwhile, Singapore's Foreign Ministry has summoned Andradjati, charge d'affaires ad interim at the Indonesian Embassy in the city-state, to seek clarification on a recent report in the Batam Pos that quoted the environment minister as saying Indonesia would ban granite exports to Singapore.
""We are baffled. It is all rather perplexing. Just a week or so ago Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and Trade Minister Mari Pangestu categorically told us that there was no ban on the export of granite. Now Minister Witoelar directly contradicts them," the ministry said in a statement.
This was the second time that Singapore has summoned Indonesian diplomats, after last week seeking clarification from Ambassador Wardana over remarks by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi that the ban on sand exports would continue until Singapore settled its border disputes with Indonesia.
Jakarta's ban on sand exports applies to all countries and came into effect in early February. Singapore was hit the hardest by the ban, being by far the largest importer of Indonesian sand for use in its booming construction sector.
Because of the sudden rise in sand and granite prices, many parties have attempted to smuggle the materials abroad. The Navy says it has detained 18 barges carrying sand, covered by granite, to the city-state. Singapore has questioned moves to detain the barges, saying granite exports are legal.
The country said it was releasing some granite aggregate from its stockpile to make up for any immediate shortfall in the supply of granite to the construction sector while seeking alternative sources of granite.