Indonesia, Malaysia agree on travel corridor for businessmen, expedite talks on maritime borders

Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah (left) and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta, on Oct 18, 2021.
Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah (left) and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta, on Oct 18, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to allow those conducting essential business to resume travelling between the two countries.

This was disclosed by the foreign ministers of the two countries at a joint press conference after a meeting on Monday (Oct 18) in Jakarta.

They told newsmen that they also agreed to expedite negotiations on their maritime borders and shared views on Asean's firm stance against the military regime in Myanmar.

"We have agreed to push for a travel corridor for those on essential business from both countries and this will be among the issues that will be discussed ahead of a visit by the Malaysian Prime Minister," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. No date was given for the visit.

"The framework of this agreement will indeed complement the implementation of the Asean travel corridor arrangement framework which will be launched soon," Ms Retno added.

Bilateral trade between Indonesia and Malaysia reached US$13 billion (S$17.6 billion) between January and August this year, and this was US$4 billion more or a 44 per cent jump from the same period in 2020.

"Even amid the pandemic we could still increase bilateral trade… To keep the momentum and boost economic recovery in both countries, we see it is important to facilitate the mobility of business travellers safely," Ms Retno said.

Her Malaysian counterpart, Mr Saifuddin Abdullah, said: "We will gradually reopen... the travel from one point to another point, moving towards normalcy."

He added that both countries wanted to encourage business travellers first and this would be followed by academics and then tourists.

"We agree that this has to be an important agenda item in the upcoming Asean summit between Oct 26 and Oct 28 so, if we may, expand it region-wide," he added.

On maritime borders, Mr Saifuddin said boundaries between the two countries on the southernmost point of the Malacca Strait and on the Sulawesi Sea had yet to be resolved.

Both sides had agreed to allow technical teams to begin advanced talks on these matters, he said.

Indonesia reopened Bali and the Riau Islands to foreign visitors from 19 countries last week in a bid to revive its tourism industry.

Singapore and Malaysia were not among the approved countries, which Jakarta said were selected because they had low levels of transmission of Covid-19 based on World Health Organisation guidelines.

The airports in Bali and the Riau Islands - where popular tourist islands Batam and Bintan are located - reopened on Oct 14.

Bali and the Riau Islands have among the highest vaccination coverage in Indonesia and, even with the reopening, visitors will still need to serve quarantine on arrival, but for a shortened period of five days.

Previously only foreigners with diplomatic or employment visas were allowed to enter Indonesia by air at two points in Jakarta and North Sulawesi.

Medical workers on humanitarian missions and shipping cargo crew were also among those granted the special dispensation to enter on arrival.