Govt defends Freeport, orders Garuda to resume flight to Timika

The Jakarta Post

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi has ordered national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia to resume its Timika route, saying the government would ask state oil and gas company PT Pertamina to secure fuel supplies for the route.

Freddy said Tuesday the government could not blame US-based gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia for refusing to supply fuel for Garuda – which is the government’s responsibility – at the Freeport-run Moses Kilangin Airport in Timika.

Freeport indefinitely suspended fuel supplies for Garuda, reportedly in retaliation at the carrier’s refusal to take Freeport executives from Jayapura to Timika over the weekend, Garuda spokesman Pudjobroto said. In response, Garuda halted flights to Timika, citing passenger safety as the reason.

Freeport spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan, however, refuted Garuda’s claim. He said the airport stopped supplying fuel for Garuda because stocks had run low following the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Freddy said Garuda and sister company Merpati Nusantara should continue flying to Timika while the government sought to resolve the fuel crisis.

“We’re trying to find solutions, including the possibility of Pertamina building a fuel depot in Timika to serve Garuda and other carriers,” he said.

The government, Freddy added, thanked Freeport for providing air transportation to remote areas and sparing its fuel stock for planes transiting at Mozes Kilangin Airport.

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