JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Russia’s state-owned oil and gas firm Zarubezhneft through its subsidiary ZN Asia Ltd is planning to invest in the Tuna Field in Natuna Island near Riau.
ZN Asia Ltd officially controls 50 per cent of participating interest in Premier Oil in the Tuna Block, Bisnis Indonesia reported last Friday (23 October).
Head of the Special Task Force for Upstream Oil and Gas Business Activities (SKK Migas) Dwi Soetjipto said that the block is in the exploration stage for the submission of the plan of development (PoD).
Besides the block’s economic aspect, Dwi added that the Tuna Block plays a significant geopolitical role, as it borders Vietnam and is near the disputed South China Sea.
The official also claimed that the operation of the Tuna Block would boost Indonesia’s sovereignty in that region.
The potential of Natuna: Why is the island lucrative to many?
Based on data from the Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries as cited by CNN Indonesia, the Natuna Waters has pelagic fish potential reaching up to 327,976 tonnes, demersal fish 159,700 tonnes, squid 23,499 tonnes, and lobster 1,421 tonnes per year.
It also potentially includes other types of fish such as tuna, yellow-tailed fish, and many more.
Natuna’s gas potential is also attractive. The most significant potential is in the East Natuna with 46 trillion cubic feet (TCF), said Head of Program and Communication at SKK Migas Wisnu Prabawa Taher as cited in Tempo in January.
Last week, SKK Migas stated that the oil and gas cooperation contract holder (KKKS) Medco E&P Natuna had discovered commercial gas reserved to be developed in the working area of the Block B of the South Natuna Sea, CNN Indonesia reported.
Natuna is also one of the most attractive tourist spots. The region’s exotism and natural beauty are suitable for those who want to escape from a city’s busy life.
However, limited flights to Natuna has hampered the development of the tourism sector there, Hamid Rizal, Natuna Regent, told Merdeka on 8 October.
Chinese vessels in the waters annoy Indonesia
At the end of last year, the presence of China’s fishing and coast guard vessels at the Natuna waters upset Indonesia.
The said vessels have been declared to have violated Indonesia’s Economic Exclusive Zone (ZEE) by entering the area, in addition to conducting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
China’s claim is based on its unilaterally-claimed Nine-Dash Line, which is the mainland’s territory border. It stretches from the north, covering the Philippines Sea, goes to the South, and occupies half the Natuna Waters.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Politics, Law, and Security (Menkopolhukam) Mahfud MD confirmed that such an incident would not disrupt Jakarta-Beijing ties.
Some experts also echoed the minister’s statement, adding that Indonesia is one of the most important countries in ASEAN.
China may also feel the urgency to maintain a good relationship with Indonesia to avoid escalating existing tensions.
As tensions in the disputed South China Sea have risen for the past few months, Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi stated that Indonesia is committed to protecting the Natuna Waters.