The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) has clarified that no new decision has been made regarding the closure of Komodo Island, with research to assess the situation and determine what needs to be done still pending.
The East Nusa Tenggara government this week released a statement saying the island would be closed next year.
In response, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Minister of Environment and Forestry, told TTG Asia: “At the moment, the integrated team is still conducting research until August, and we will stick to (the earlier decision) to wait for the results (before making any new announcements).”
In the meantime, the ministry and its team will continue to carry out steps to improve the sustainability of Komodo National Park, she added.
The ministry also issued a press statement to clarify the matter yesterday. Wiratno, director general of Natural Resources Conservation and Ecosystems at KLHK, reiterated that the closure of the Komodo National Park or Komodo Island must be based on scientific considerations.
Wiratno said: “We understand that we need to give certainty to tourism stakeholders, both local or international, as this could potentially affect of the country’s foreign exchange income, tourism business, and local economy.
“(However), Komodo National Park is managed with the principle of caution. To determine such a decision like closing the park, there must be scientific studies and discussions with relevant parties.”
The ministry held a coordination meeting between the director general of KLHK, the East Nusa Tenggara Provincial Government and the West Manggarai Regency Government last February 2019.
A team represented by the local government, KLHK, tourism stakeholders, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the Ministry of Tourism, and civil society organisations, is scheduled to work together until July, before providing recommendations to KLHK in August.
Until the integrated team completes its research, tour operators can still sell tour packages to Komodo Island. However, rules around tourism activities, such as tracking, snorkelling and diving have been tightened to ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem.
Commenting on news that confirmed the park’s closure, Ng Sebastian, managing director of Incito Vacations said: “KHLK has to be firm (and warn) the regional government that they have no right to make (such announcements) as policies with regards to national parks are the jurisdiction of the central government.”
And in making the final decision, he urged for KLHK to take into consideration cruise ships that have been set to arrive two years in advance.
He said: “Cruise ships are probably the most affected (should the island be closed), because at this moment only Komodo Island can be visited by larger cruise ships.”
Ng pointed out that Rinca Island cannot be used as an alternative destination because the open area for tourism is only in the north, where many small islands are located and this will make it difficult for a cruise ship to pass, while the area south of Rinca Island is restricted for tourism activities.