Unveiling Sorong’s Potential to Find Alternative for Economic Empowerment in the West Papua Province

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(Photo Credit: Sustainabletrade.com)

Masyithoh Annisa Ramadhani — December 2020

Sorong is considered the strategic hub in the West Papua Province. Besides its potential in the industry, trade, and service sectors, Sorong is also surrounded by other regencies with their magnificent natural resources, attracting both national and international investors. Sorong is located in four regional frontiers; the Philippines, Australia, Moluccas Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

Given this strategic point, Sorong becomes the gate for domestic trade in Indonesia’s eastern regions with their Port of Sorong and Domine Eduard Osok Airport. Port of Sorong is used as the main gateway to West Papua Province. Therefore it has great potential for connecting Eastern Indonesia to the other regions.

As a maritime nation located between the Indian and Pacific oceans, Indonesia possesses both opportunities and challenges in maritime connectivity.

On one side, it can be a valuable chance to boost regional trade through the existing hubs; on the other hand, some issues such as maritime security and poor maritime infrastructure remain critical.

In response to this situation, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has launched such an ambition vision through “Global Maritime Fulcrum” in 2016. The concept was motivated by the idea that the vast archipelago turned its back on the sea for too long — in which one of them was the dream of establishing sea toll.

However, after four years, this vision has not run as expected due to a lack of political will on accelerating the sea connectivity, especially in Indonesia’s frontier, outermost, and least developed regions or Daerah 3T (Terdepan, Terluar, Tertinggal).

In Sorong, the primary commodities are agricultural resources, plantation, and services, with cacao, coconut, and clove are among the main agricultural products. This potential can be exerted effectively to boost the local economy. Moreover, Sorong is also well-known for its tourism, culture, and tradition, which becomes the city’s pearls.

Sorong’s eco-tourism potential is one of the sectors that can be developed to support realizing the community’s welfare, especially those living near the tourism attractions. Bird watching activity, usually done in the morning and evening, is one of Sorong’s gems that visitors can enjoy with the aim of education, research, and recreation.

Besides, the potential of a waterfall with a cliff height of 5 meters, coupled with a good diversity of vegetation, flora, and fauna that had not been disturbed, should also be considered the Sorong’s most tremendous potential. These gems can become an alternative for economic empowerment for the surrounding community and contribute to Sorong’s sustainable economic development.

To this end, Central Government has launched Government Regulation no. 31/2016 about the Action Plan of Sorong Special Economic Zone (KEK) Development, which has been inaugurated in 2019. The regulation targets some activities like nickel and palm oil processing, forest products, plantations, and logistics warehousing.

It is expected that this economic zone could become the new center of economic growth in Indonesia’s eastern part — as highlighted in Indonesia’s Nawacita, emphasizing the vision to realize a national development plan from Indonesia’s frontier, outermost, and least developed region.

This special zone is located in Mayamuk District, which is strategically positioned in the international trade hub between the Asia Pacific and Australia. This region can be further developed into the basis of the shipbuilding industry, agro-industry, mining, and logistics and is projected to attract an investment of Rp 32,2T.

The development of Sorong special economic zone has also been included in the Regional Medium Term Development Plan 2017–2022.

West Papua Province Dominggus Mandacan expected that this economic zone could boost the regency’s economy with a projected increase in Gross Regional Domestic Revenue of approximately Rp 10,64 trillion by 2030. And for the long term, a drinking water supply system will be built using water sources from the Klasafet River (Klamono) with a capacity of 500 liters per second.

While Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning also projected Sorong, Jayapura, and Merauke to be the main hubs of Papuan export activities to foreign countries such as those in East Asia like China, South Korea, and Japan. In general, the industrial zone is expected to drive Sorong’s economy, with a gross regional domestic product projected to reach Rp10.64 trillion in 2030.

With the local community’s active participation, all of these strategic potentials can be a means to boost regional economic development and become an alternative for the economic empowerment of West Papuan. (*)

This piece fully represents the writer’s idea. It does not express any ideas or stances of specific institutions or organizations she/he works at or is affiliated with.

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.

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