Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Insufficient transportation facilities and electricity supply have become major problems in Southwest Maluku (MBD) district which officially separated from West Southeast Maluku (MTB) district in 2008.
The islands that make up MBD district used to be the remotest and the least accessible with almost no facilities for visitors but now the central government is making efforts to gradually improve the district`s infrastructure.
In an effort to open the isolation of MED district, the Ministry of Transportation is currently constructing a new airport on Moa island.
Moa which is part of the Leti Islands in Maluku province is located close to Australia but it has nothing to do with the Moa island in the Banks Channel of the Torres Strait, Queensland; nor the extinct giant flightless birds native to New Zealand.
John Rante, head of Maluku`s Air Transportation Office, said in Ambon on Wednesday that the Transportation Ministry had allocated Rp25 billion from the 2011 State Budget for the first phase of the airport`s construction in Moa island in MBD district.
"The first phase of the airport project on Moa island includes piling-up and compaction, scheduled to be completed in late December 2011," John said.
He noted the presence of the airport on Moa island which has been chosen as the site of Southwest Maluku district`s administrative center was expected to smooth air transportation to and from the region.
"When completed, the airport will have a 1,400-meter-long runway," John said.
John admitted MED district already had an airport on Kisar island but it was too small to meet the local people`s need for air transportation.
At present, Purpura airport on Kisar island is MED district`s only air link with the outside world. Merpati Air maintains a regular four-times-a-week service between Purapura and Ambon and Kupang in East Nusatenggara.
The only other way one can travel from Kisar island to Ambon and Kupang is by so-called pioneer boats that cover the distance in several days` time.
According to Maluku Transportation Office chief Benny Gaspersz, the runway of Purpura airport was extended from 800 meters to 1,300 meters last year to support the international marine event of Sail Banda 2010 whose peak event took place in Kisar.
Gaspersz said the expansion of Purpura airport`s runway was a strategic measure to step up air transportation service to Southwest Maluku district by operating bigger aircraft than the Cassa 212 planes being operated by Merpati Nusantara Airlines.
But the already existing airport in Kisar was not enough to accommodate the ever increasing number of passengers from day to day.
Therefore, the new airport on Moa island was expected to be completed as soon as possible in order to enable the operation of another airline company such as Trigana Air which has planes with a capacity of 42 seats, besides the Cassa 212 planes of Merpati Airlines.
Besides transportation, electricity is also a major problem for the Southwest Maluku district administration and the region`s residents.
Of the eight sub-districts in Southwest Maluku, only four are linked to the local power grid, namely Kisar, Serwaru, Tepa and Babar Timur, but not all villages in those sub-districts have been linked to the power line.
Therefore state power company PT PLN Maluku branch is building a 1.5 megawatt power plant (PLTD) in Moa island.
Energy and energy resources division head of MBD district administration Ronny Kakerissa said in Ambon recently that he had coordinated with PT.PLN to build the PLTD in September 2011.
He said they had already prepared the land for the facility, so that construction work could be started.
"Thus by the end of December 2011 the project could be operated as some kind of Christmas and New Year`s present to the district administration as well as the people of MBD which had been expanded from Southwest Maluku on September 16, 2008," Ronny said.
He said electricity has been posing a problem in boosting development, administration and social services in MBD which is geographically close to Timor Leste and Australia.
Moreover, power is only provided for 12 hours a day.
"Imagine that government activities and public services are certainly affected because power is only supplied 12 hours daily, and that is only during the night when the offices are idle," Ronny pointed out.
He said the PLTD would boost the activities of the administration of Tiakur as MBD capital.
The activities of government, building and social services were still carried out in Kisar.
"Therefore the MBD district head Barnabas Orno and his deputy Johanes Letelay who had been instilled by the Maluku Governor in Kisar on April 26, 2011 had decided that in 2011 government activities are carried out in Tiakur so that the PLTD should have started operations by the end of December this year," Ronny said.
He admitted that the infrastructure and climate changes had been posing a problem in optimizing the potential of natural resources, especially oil/gas and minerals in the district.