JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Except for some remaining shortcomings, all basic requirements and conditions for the operation of the long-awaited Lombok International Airport are considered to have been met. As a result, the airport is now scheduled to be officially inaugurated on October 1, 2011 without any more delays.
The completion of the airport project and necessary complementary infrastructure such as a highway connecting it with the city of Mataram had previously delayed the inauguration of the new airport several times. It was planned to be operational by July 2011, but then it was delayed again because of the expansion of the airport’s terminal area from 14,000 square meters to 21,000 square meters.
But West Nusa Tenggara Information, Communication, and Transportation office chief Ridwan Syah said in Mataram on Thursday that despite various shortcomings, the airport would become operational on October 1, 2011 as scheduled.
"Admittedly there are still some shortcomings but all the basic requirements and conditions for it to function have been met so that the airport can start operating on October 1, 2011," Ridwan Syah said.
He said various airport-related compulsory aspects had been met and thus there was not sufficient reason to continue delaying the operation of Lombok International Airport, capable to accommodate wide-body high capacity Airbus 330, Boeing 767 airliners as well as smaller aircraft such as Boeing 737 and Airbus 319-320.
According to him, a number of related ministers, including Coordinating Minister for Economy Hatta Rajasa, had voiced the need for the immediate operation of the airport. Ridwan said even Vice President Boediono had asked that the airport be operated on October 1 and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had also expressed readiness to dedicate the international aerodrome in Lombok on October 3, 2011.
"Related ministers and even the president and vice president have supported the operation of the airport and that there is no doubt we can do so," Ridwan said.
He added that certain parties in West Nusa Tenggara still doubted that the airport could be operated on October 1 because of several shortcomings. They doubted the operation of the airport on October 1, because several supporting infrastructures had yet to be completed, and supporting armada such as airport buses from Transportation Ministry had yet to arrive in Mataram.
"But in reality there is nothing to be doubted, and therefore we want all parties to be optimistic that BIL will be operated on October 1 and the shortcomings can be overcome in two-week time," Ridwan said.
The Indonesian government is actively promoting both Lombok and neighboring Sumbawa as Indonesia’s number two tourism destination after Bali. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Ministry of Cultural and Tourism and the regional Governor have made public statements supporting the development of Lombok as a tourism destination and setting a goal of 1 million visitors annually by the year 2012 for the combined destination of Lombok and Sumbawa.
Therefore the new Lombok International Airport is a cornerstone of this tourism destination development initiated by the Government of Indonesia and West Nusa Tenggara regional stakeholders. But the construction of this airport has been delayed and the opening date has been re-scheduled several times because of many issues contributing to the delays.
The issues are among others related to site security, thefts of construction materials and equipment from the site, land disputation and tensions with some of the local community over compensation and employment on the site. Since the new international airport is located in Lombok Tengah Distrcti, district head Suhaili F.T. said he would encourage the local people to support the operation of the airport and to ensure security and stability around it.
"I will certainly continue to encourage the local people to help ensure the security and stability around the new airport to make its operation a success," Suhaili said in Lombok Tengah early this week.
He made the statement to counter various parties who doubt about the security guarantees at and around the Lombok International Airport. Suhaili asserted that the security at and around the airport should absolutely be ensured because it will have a direct impact on regional development.
"We fully realize it, and that we will continue to maintain and ensure the security around the airport in an effort to take positive benefit from its existence," Suhaili noted.
Therefore, Coordinating Minister for Economy Hatta Rajasa has encouraged the immediate completion of the Lombok International Airport at Tanak Awu so that it can be operational on October 1, 2011.
"Unfinished parts of the airport should be resolved as soon as possible so that it can start operating as scheduled," Hatta said when inspecting the site last Sunday.
Hatta made the statement after listening a report from airport management company PT Angkasa Pura-I President Director Tommy Soetomo and technical and operation director Harjoso Tjatur Prijanto during the inspection. On the occasion Tommy reported to the economic minister that the construction of the airport was 90 percent ready, and certain parts have yet to be completed but it will not hamper its operation schedule on October 1, 2011.
Meanwhile, West Nusa Tenggra Deputy Governor H Badrul Munir said in Mataram recently that starting from October 1, all flight activities to and from Selaparang airport in Mataram would be halted and diverted to Lombok International Airport.
"PT Angkasa Pura-I has reported that Selaparang Airport in Mataram will be closed starting on October 1, 2011 coincides with the operation of the the Lombok brand new airport," Badrul said.
According to him, PT Angkasa Pura-I has made every effort to realize its commitment to operating the new international airport on October 1 in Lombok. Lombok has grown in popularity for its pristine beaches at Kuta and Senggigi and wonderful underwater life at the Gili islands with Mount Rinjani, the third highest mountain in Indonesia, also a favorite area for trekkers.
West Nusatenggara plans to hold the Visit Lombok-Sumbawa Year 2012 and with the operation of the new airport, Lombok hopes to welcome 1 million direct international tourist arrivals within the next few years. ANTARA