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Dispute between Indonesia Malaysia over Ambalat Block

By: Resistensia Kesumawardhani


Abstract
The dispute over Ambalat Block has not been resolved until now. Until this essay is written,
Indonesia and Malaysia is still doing the negotiation regarding the Ambalat Block. The idea of
Joint Development Zone (hereinafter referred to as JDZ) like in Timor Gap between Australia
and Indonesia which rises in the negotiation may possibly a good option to resolve the dispute.
Unfortunately, JDZ is most likely will not resolve the maritime boundary issues over Ambalat
between Indonesia and Malaysia. This essay will examine the overlapping maritime boundary
claims between Indonesia and Malaysia over Ambalat in the east coast of Kalimantan (Borneo),
and the possibility of JDZ between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Keywords: maritime disputes, maritime boundary, ambalat block.

I. Introduction
This research paper will attempt to investigate continental shelf disputes over Ambalat
block between Indonesia and Malaysia. In March 2005, bilateral relationship between Malaysia
and Indonesia deteriorated due to dispute over part of the Celebes (Sulawesi) Sea off the east
coast of Borneo. The dispute emerge as a result of the issuing of exploration licenses for two
deep-water oil concession blocks (which Malaysia calls ND6 and ND7) by Malaysias national
oil company Petronas, which in partnership with international oil giant Shell Group on 16
February 2005.1 The Malaysian blocks largely overlap with a brace of Indonesian blocks, which
is referred to by Indonesia as Ambalat block and East Ambalat block (see appendix A). The
Ambalat and East Ambalat block had been licensed in 1999 and December 2004 to Italian oil

Resistensia Kesumawardhani, S.H., LL.M., alumni of Airlangga University Faculty of Law and graduate from
Master of Laws (coursework) Program - The Univeristy of Sydney, Australia. Writer can be reached at:
teen_she@yahoo.com
1
Dr Clive Schofield and Dr Ian Storey, Energy Security and Southeast Asia : The Impact on Maritime Boundary
and Territorial Disputes, Harvard Asia Quarterly.

major ENI and American oil multinational Unocal respectively. 2 Due to the dispute, the oil and
gas exploration in Ambalat block is stopped.
Malaysia claim Ambalat block based on the two grounds. First, based on the 1979
Malaysian Map and second ground, as the result of the International Court of Justice (hereinafter
referred to as the Court) award regarding Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan to Malaysia in 2002
whereas Indonesia solely claim Ambalat block based on the 1891 Convention between Great
Britain and the Netherlands.3 The dispute over Ambalat has tremendous effect especially in
Indonesian society point of view. The reactive response regarding Ambalat case has increase the
tension of the bilateral relationship between two countries. Undoubtedly, the reason for this is the
trauma for the lost of the Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia in 2002. Most of Indonesian citizens
are disappointed with the fact that Sipadan and Ligitan is no longer belong to Indonesia. Public
insist the central Government to seriously pay attention to maritime boundary delimitation.
It is reasonable that Malaysia partially claim the Ambalat Block due to the Court award.
Nevertheless, although the Court decides sovereignty over Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia, no
maritime boundary was defined.4 Hence, both islands maritime boundary should be considered
from a different perspective under the International law.5 It is worth noting that in the Eritrea v.
Yemen case, the award provides that Yemens outermost island is not given the full effect. As a
consequence, Yemen draws their baseline from their main island (see appendix G).
The dispute over Ambalat Block has not been resolved until now. Until this essay is
written, Indonesia and Malaysia is still doing the negotiation regarding the Ambalat Block. 6 The
2

Ibid.
I Made Andi Arsana, Ambalat : A Spatial Perspective, 9 April 2005, retrieved in 1 st of May 2008, (http://geoboundaries.blogspot.com/2005/04/ambalat-spatial-perspective1.html).
4
ICJ, Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indonesia/Malaysia), 2002.
5
Ibid.
6
Interview with Mr. Sora Lokita, staff from National Coordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping
(BAKORSUTANAL) Indonesia.
3

idea of Joint Development Zone (hereinafter referred to as JDZ) like in Timor Gap between
Australia and Indonesia which rises in the negotiation may possibly a good option to resolve the
dispute. Unfortunately, JDZ is most likely will not resolve the maritime boundary issues over
Ambalat between Indonesia and Malaysia. In fact, JDZ between Malaysia and Thailand in Gulf
of Thailand hitherto not resolve the delimitation problem. Thus, the main issue raises in this
essay is which country has the sovereignty over Ambalat.
In addition, this essay will also discuss about the history of Malaysia-Indonesia maritime
boundary which in particular, will include briefly about the Courts award of the Sipadan and
Ligitan to Malaysia. Subsequently, this essay will examine the overlapping maritime boundary
claims between Indonesia and Malaysia over Ambalat in the east coast of Kalimantan (Borneo),
and the possibility of JDZ between Indonesia and Malaysia.

II. The History of Indonesia and Malaysia Maritime Boundary


The Indonesia and Malaysia maritime delimitation was set up back in the colonial of the
Great Britain and the Netherlands over Borneo Island (Kalimantan) many years before the
independence of Malaysia and Indonesia.7 The Great Britain and the Netherlands divide Borneo
Island into two parts, first part, which is the southern part was the Netherlands and the northern
part belong to the Great Britain. This agreement is under The 1891 Convention.8 Since the
independence, Indonesia has been continuing the Netherlands legal regime and Malaysia has
been the successor of Britains regime.9 Thus, in defining their boundary, both Indonesia and
Malaysia have to refer to the 1891 convention agreed by the Great Britain and the Netherlands.

I Made Andi Arsana, Ambalat : A Spatial Perspective, 9 April 2005, retrieved in 1 st of May 2008, http://geoboundaries.blogspot.com/2005/04/ambalat-spatial-perspective1.html
8
Ibid.
9
Ibid.

The maritime delimitation between Indonesia and Malaysia has established many years
before. In fact, the agreement between them was the first that Indonesia has negotiated with its
neighboring State.10 It is worth noting that a treaty regarding the maritime boundary between the
two countries have established and came into force on 7 November 1964.

11

The Government of

Malaysia and the Government of Indonesia signed an agreement on the delimitation of the
continental shelves on 27 October 1969.

12

This agreement has been ratified by Indonesia under

Presidential Decree No.89 Year 1969. Furthermore, in 17 March 1970, both countries established
a treaty relating to the delimitation of the Territorial Seas in the Strait of Malacca. 13 This treaty
has been ratified by Indonesia under Law No.2 Year 1971 and Presidential Decree No.20 Year
1972.
It is known that there are three locations of maritime boundaries between both countries,
Malacca Strait, South China Sea, and Celebes Sea, where the Ambalat block located (see
Appendix C, D, and E).14 The boundary in Malacca Strait is going down to close to MalaysiaSingapore boundary with total distance of 400,8 nautical miles whereas the boundary in South
China Sea is in the eastern side of Singapore Strait going up to South China Sea. 15 The last
boundary, where the Ambalat block located, is the continuation of land boundary in Tanjung
Datu, the northwest part of Borneo.16
Both Malaysia and Indonesia has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of
the Sea in 1982 (hereinafter referred to as LOSC). Indonesia ratified the LOSC under Law No.17

10

Ibid.
Ibid.
12
Indonesia <http://www.un.org/Depts/los/LEGISLATIONANDTREATIES/STATEFILES/IDN.htm>, retrieved in
1st of May 2008.
13
Ibid.
14
Viktor Prescott, Maritime Delimitation in Southeast Asia : The Case of Indonesia.
15
Louis Forbes, Conflict and Cooperation in Managing Maritime Space in Semi-Enclosed Seas, University of
Hawaii Press, at 76.
16
Ibid.
11

Year 1985. By ratifying the LOSC, pursuant to Article 47 (9) LOSC, both of them are required to
define its international boundaries and illustrate them in a sufficient scale nautical chart to
strengthen its position and after that the map must be submitted to the UN Secretary General in
order to get legal recognition.17 However, Indonesia has not finished all of the ten potential
maritime boundaries with neighboring state.18 The Indonesia neighboring states are Australia,
Malaysia, the Philippine, Singapore, Palau, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and
East Timor.

III. Dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia over Ambalat Block


Indonesia and Malaysia dispute over part of the Celebes (Sulawesi) Sea off the east coast
of Borneo (Kalimantan) emerged in February-March 2005. Ambalat is a block located in the area
with coordinates of 1181521 - 1185115 E and 2347 - 34750 N.

19

The overlapping

claims of territorial sea boundary, Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) boundary and Continental
Shelf boundary around Ambalat block in Celebes Sea have not been agreed by Indonesia and
Malaysia.20
Ambalat block lays athwart from North to South at a distance of 65 km and 135 km from
West to East.

21

It is noted that Ambalat Block locates bellow the border line crossing Sebatik

Island.22 One of the strengths for Malaysia to claim Ambalat is the Courts award to grant

17

Article 47 (9) of the LOSC.


I Made Andi Arsana, Ambalat : A Spatial Perspective, 9 April 2005, retrieved in 1 st of May 2008, <http://geoboundaries.blogspot.com/2005/04/ambalat-spatial-perspective1.html>.
19
I Made Andi Arsana, Ambalat : A Spatial Perspective, 9 April 2005, retrieved in 1 st of May 2008, <http://geoboundaries.blogspot.com/2005/04/ambalat-spatial-perspective1.html>.
20
Ibid.
21
Ibid.
22
Ibid.
18

Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia which may change the configuration of Malaysias baseline. 23
Therefore it is very likely for Malaysia to claim larger maritime zones southward to Indonesia.
The dispute involved in having rival naval vessels in close proximity between the two
countries.24 Both disputants engaged in patrolling what they consider as their maritime space.25
The Ambalat Block, though in deep water, is undoubtedly very potential, especially in a
commercial environment driven by record crude prices.26 Furthermore, the Ambalat Block is also
essential regarding navigation security, as it lies athwart the Sea Lanes of Communication
(SLOC) running from the Lombok Strait between Bali and Lombok islands northwards via
Indonesia designated Archipelagic Sealanes through the Makassar Straits between the Molucca
Islands in the Celebes Sea and the east coast of Borneo.27
In 1979 Malaysia issued an official map illustrating the extent of Malaysias jurisdiction
over territorial sea and continental shelf.28 The map was created unilaterally and its claim
excessively discount third countries maritime zones.29 Thus, Indonesia and other Malaysias
neighbor countries have rejected the 1979 Malaysian Map.30 In February 1980, Indonesia sent
protest note regarding the Sipadan and Ligitan islands. This protest was followed by the
Philippines and China regarding the reef southern of the Spratly Island.31 In April 1980,
Singapore sent their protest referring to the Pedra Banca.32 Protest was also sent by Thailand.

23

Ibid.
Dr Clive Schofield and Dr Ian Storey, Energy Security and Southeast Asia : The Impact on Maritime Boundary
and Territorial Disputes, Harvard Asia Quarterly.
25
Ibid.
26
Ibid.
27
Ibid.
28
Ibid.
29
Ibid.
30
Ibid.
31
Ibid.
32
Ibid.
24

Subsequently, UK sent their protests on behalf of Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam.33 In addition,
the 1979 Malaysian Map that they used to assert Ambalat has not been submitted to the UN
Secretary General pursuant to Article 47(9) of LOSC. Hence, the 1979 Malaysias map regarding
their territorial water is not legitimate.
On the other hand, Malaysia objection to the Indonesian protest regarding the Malaysian
Map and claimed that they have jurisdiction over Ambalat due to the ICJ award in 2002
concerning Sipadan and Ligitan islands.

IV. Implication of the Sipadan and Ligitan Case


Malaysia claims over Ambalat partially based on the fact that in 17th December 2002 the
Court awarded that sovereignty over the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia. The islands
of Sipadan and Ligitan (Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan) are two very small islands located in
the Celebes Sea, off the north-east coast of the island of Borneo near the Ambalat block.34 Both
of them are lie approximately 15, 5 nautical miles apart.35 Ligitan is lying at the southern
extremity of a large star-shaped reef extending southwards from the islands of Danawan and Si
Amil.36 Its co-ordinates are 4 09 latitude north and 118 53 longitude east.37 The island is
located some 21 nautical miles from Tanjung Tutop, on the Semporna Peninsula, the nearest part
on Borneo. It is not permanently inhabited.38

33

Ibid.
International Court of Justice, Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan
(Indonesia/Malaysia), 2002.
35
Ibid.
36
Ibid.
37
Ibid.
38
Ibid.
34

Although bigger than Ligitan, Sipadan is also a small island, having an area of
approximately 0, 13 sq. km.39 Its coordinates are 4 06 latitude north and 118 37 longitude
east.40 It is located 15 nautical miles from Tanjung Tutop, and 42 nautical miles from the east
coast of the island of Sebatik.41 Sipadan is a densely wooded island of volcanic origin and the top
of a submarine mountain some 600 to 700 m in height.42 Similar to Ligitan, Sipadan is not
inhabited on a permanent basis until the 1980s, when it was developed into a tourist resort for
scuba diving.43
Indonesias claim the sovereignty over Sipadan and Ligitan is based primarily on the
1891 Convention between Great Britain and the Netherlands. Indonesia claims that Convention
established the 4 10' north parallel of latitude as the dividing line between the British and Dutch
possessions in the area where Ligitan and Sipadan are situated.44 Indonesia also relies on a
series of effectivites, both Dutch and Indonesian, which it claims confirm its conventional
title.45In addition, at the oral proceedings, Indonesia claims sovereignty over the two islands as
successor to the Sultan Bulungan, because he had possessed authority over the islands.46
Malaysia argues that it acquired sovereignty over the disputed islands following a series
of alleged transmissions of the title originally held by the former sovereign, the Sultan of Sulu.47
Furthermore, Malaysia claims that the title subsequently passed, in succession, to Spain, to the
United States, to Great Britain on behalf of the State of North Borneo, to the United Kingdom of

39

Ibid.
Ibid.
41
Ibid.
42
Ibid.
43
Ibid.
44
ICJ, Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indonesia/Malaysia), 2002.
45
Ibid.
46
Ibid
47
Ibid.
40

Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and finally to Malaysia itself.48 Malaysia argues that its title,
based on this series of legal instrument and it is confirmed by a certain number of British and
Malaysian effectivites over the disputed islands.49
Indonesia relies essentially on Article IV of the 1891 Convention in order to support their
claim over the islands.50 Article IV of the 1891 Convention provides:
From 4 10 north latitude on the east coast the boundary-line shall be continued
eastward along that parallel, across the Island of Sebatik: that potion of the islands situated to the
north of that parallel shall belong unreservedly to the British North Borneo Company, and the
portion south of that parallel to the Netherlands.51
Indonesia maintains that this Article contains nothing to suggest that the line stops at the
east coast of Sebatik islands.52 Whereas Malaysia claim that the 1891 Convention, in a context
clearly shows that Great Britain and the Netherlands sought by the Convention solely to clarify
the boundary between their respective land possessions on the islands of Borneo and Sebatik,
since the line of delimitation stops at the easternmost point of the latter island.53 Furthermore,
according to Malaysia, across the islands of Sebatik is to describe, a line that crosses Sebatik
from the west coast to the east coast and goes no further. Unfortunately, the Court finds that the
Convention does not constitute a title on which Indonesia can found its claim to Ligitan and
Sipadan.54

48

Ibid.
Ibid.
50
Ibid.
51
Ibid.
52
Ibid.
53
Ibid.
54
Ibid.
49

The major reason that the Court awarded sovereignty to Malaysia is that Malaysia able
demonstrating effective exercise of authority over the two islands. 55 In particular, Malaysia
regulates and controls the collection of turtle eggs in both islands.56 Furthermore, Malaysian
authorities have been maintained lighthouses in Sipadan and Ligitan since their independence.57
Concerning the Ambalat case, Malaysia is likely to assert that the maritime boundary
should be established on the basis of equidistance, as the Court concludes that sovereignty over
Sipadan and Ligitan belongs to Malaysia. However, although the Court decides sovereignty over
Sipadan and Ligitan to Malaysia, no maritime boundary was defined. 58 To the extent of the
maritime boundary, the Court provides that the delimitation of the continental shelf over the
islands should be considered from a different perspective.59 The regulation regarding the
delimitation of the continental shelf is set out under Article 83 of the 1982 LOSC calling for an
equitable solution.60
The boundary delimitation between adjacent States like Indonesia and Malaysia,
according article 83 of LOSC, the delimitation shall be affected by agreement on the basis of
international law.61 In terms of continental shelf delimitation, the boundary shall be determined
by agreement between concerned states. Furthermore In the absence of agreement, and unless
another boundary line is justified by special circumstances, the boundary shall be established
by a median line, which is, the principles of equidistance from the nearest points of the
baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of each state is measured.62

55

Ibid.
Ibid.
57
Ibid.
58
Ibid.
59
Ibid.
60
Ibid.
61
Article 83 (1) of the LOSC.
62
Ian Brownlie, The Principles of Public International Law at 215.
56

10

However, the establishment of a median line is not always regards as an equitable


solution. The judgment of the ICJ in the North Sea cases affirms that one of the aspects that
should be considered in delimitation is the element of a reasonable degree of proportionality,
which a delimitation in accordance with equitable principles ought to bring about between the
extent of the continental shelf areas appertaining to the coastal State and the length of the coast
measured in the general direction of the coastline, account being taken for this purpose of the
effects, actual or prospective, of any other continental shelf delimitations between adjacent States
in the same region.63
Refer to the principles of international boundary, Sipadan and Ligitan should not be given
the full effect. Meaning that Sipadan and Ligitan as very small islands are having no full right to
establish the breadth of its maritime zone under LOSC. The element of a reasonable degree of
proportionality in a North Sea cases must be also consider in this case.
It is worth noting that, in the case concerning Bahrain vs Qatar (see appendix F) the ICJ
states that considerations of equity require that the maritime formation of Fasht al Jarim should
have no effect in determining the boundary line.64 International law naturally also has to be
considered in maritime delimitation. In the case of islands, international law has a general rule
formulated in terms of a presumption according to which sovereignty over the islands wholly or
partly in the territorial sea of a given State belongs to that State unless a full case to the contrary
is established by another State.65 This rule has recently been applied by an arbitral tribunal to
groups of islands in the Red Sea (Eritrea/Yemen) case (see appendix G).

63

Ian Brownlie, The Principles of Public International Law at 218.


ICJ, Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain.
65
Ibid.
64

11

The Award of the Arbitral Tribunal of the Eritrea vs. Yemen case, the Tribunal also
considered the relevant proportion of the Eritrean coast66 The Tribunal believes that the
proportionality is demonstrated by comparison of areas with the relevant coastal lengths.67 The
Tribunal also provides that the potential relevance of other factors, including fishing and
navigational interests are acknowledged but, given the methodology adopted, they did not
influence the construction of the line. 68
V. Sovereignty over Ambalat Block
Regarding the maritime delimitation aspect of the case, Article 47 of LOSC provides that,
An archipelagic state may draw straight archipelagic baselines joining the outermost points of
the outermost islands and drying reefs of the archipelago provided that within such baselines are
included the main islands and an area in which the ratio of the area of the water to the area of
the land, including atolls, is between one to one and nine to one.69 Thus, Indonesia as the
archipelagic state entitled to draw straight archipelagic baseline joining the outermost points of
the outermost islands.70 Refer to article 47 of LOSC, Ambalat has located in Indonesia Economic
Exclusive Zone. In addition, under article 48 LOSC, the breadth of the territorial sea, the
contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf shall be measured from
archipelagic baseline drawn in accordance with article 47.71
Regarding the Ambalat case, Indonesia draw straight archipelagic baseline from their
outermost points in East Kalimantan, that is Karang Unarang.72 Karang Unarang is a low tide

66

Permanent Court of Arbitration, Award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the Second Stage - Maritime Delimitation,
Eritrea vs Yemen, December 17, 1999.
67
Ibid.
68
Ibid.
69
Article 47(1) of the LOSC.
70
Article 47(1) of the LOSC.
71
Article 48 of the LOSC.
72
Arif Havas Oegroseno, Penetapan Batas Maritim Laut Sulawesi, Sutisna Sobar (ed), Pandang Wilayah Perbatasan:
Aspek Permasalahan Batas Maritim Indonesia, Pusat Pemetaan Batas Wilayah, BAKOSURTANAL, 2006.

12

elevation which located in Sebatik waters, 9 nautical miles from Sebatik coastline (see appendix
E).73 Under Article 13, LOSC define low tide elevation as area of land which is surrounded
by and above water at low tide but submerged at high tide. Where a low-tide elevation is situated
wholly or partially at a distance not exceeding the breadth of the territorial sea from the
mainland or an island, the low-water line on that elevation may be used as the baseline for
measuring the breadth of the territorial sea.74 According to this Article, Indonesia is entitled to
draw their straight archipelagic baseline from Karang Unarang, and thus, Indonesia has the
sovereign rights over Ambalat block since it is located in Indonesia EEZ.
The role of the low tide elevation in the law of the sea was summarized in Qatar v
Bahrain as follows:
, the low-water line of a low tide elevation may be used as the baseline for measuring the
breadth of the territorial sea if it is situated wholly or partly at a distance not exceeding the
breadth of the territorial sea from the mainland or an island. If a low-tide elevation is wholly
situated at a distance exceeding the breadth of the territorial sea, it has no territorial sea of its
own straight baselines shall not be drawn to and from low-tide elevation, unless lighthouses or
similar installations which are permanently above sea level have been built on them. 75
Under Article 77 LOSC, the coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign
rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.76 In addition, under
article 81, the coastal state shall have the exclusive right to authorize and regulate drilling on
the continental shelf. Meaning that Indonesia has sovereign rights to explore and exploit the oil
and gas in the Ambalat offshore. However, according to Article 79, all states are entitled to lay

73

Ibid.
Article 13 LOSC.
75
DJ Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law, 2006.
76
Article 77 of the LOSC.
74

13

submarine cables and pipelines on the continental shelf.77 Although the coastal state may not
impede the laying or maintenance of such cables or pipelines, the delineation of the course for
the laying of such pipelines on the continental shelf is subject to the consent of the coastal
State.78
In the 1979 Malaysian map, it is identified that Malaysia draw straight baseline and
archipelagic baseline since they use Sebatik islands, Sipadan and Ligitan as their baselines. 79
However, pursuant to article 46 and 47 of the LOSC concerning the Archipelagic State, Malaysia
is not an archipelagic state. Therefore, they are not entitled to draw straight archipelagic baseline
from Sebatik, Sipadan and Ligitan islands. Thus, Malaysias map is not accordance with the
international law.

VI. Joint Development Zone (JDZ)


Sovereignty disputes especially over islands and maritime territories have complicated
issues and made many conflicting claims hard to resolve. The dispute concerning Ambalat
offshore area is serious since it almost led to an armed conflict. Auspiciously, both Indonesia and
Malaysia are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and signatories
to the organizations 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation; it means that both countries are
officially devoted to the peaceful resolution of disputes.80

77

Article 79 (1) of the LOSC.


Article 79 (2) and 79 (3) of the LOSC.
79
Etty R Agoes, Sengketa Ambalat Dilihat Dari Segi Hukum Internasional Dan Peraturan Perundang-Undangan
Nasional, Sutisna Sobar (ed), Pandang Wilayah Perbatasan: Aspek Permasalahan Batas Maritim Indonesia, Pusat
Pemetaan Batas Wilayah, BAKOSURTANAL, 2006.
80
Dr Clive Schofield and Dr Ian Storey, Energy Security and Southeast Asia : The Impact on Maritime Boundary
and Territorial Disputes, Harvard Asia Quarterly, Volume IX no 4, 2005.
78

14

The dispute over Ambalat, undoubtedly, also concerned with the issues of energy security
in terms of securing seabed hydrocarbon resources for each state. 81 Within the maritime
negotiations context, it is definite that the potential presence of oil and gas has a big role in
negotiating the maritime boundaries.82 In fact, no exploitation and exploration will be performed
without legal, fiscal, and political assurance.83
I Made Andi Arsana, a geodesy expert, in his paper have pointed out the alternative to
resolve the dispute, that is the establishment of JDZ. According to Arsana, both countries have
had experienced establishing JDZ and to some extent have proved successful.84 Indonesia
established JDZ with Australia in the Timor Gap Area (now partly taken over by Timor Leste
post-independence) and Malaysia through two joint developments are agreements with Thailand
and Vietnam.85 Furthermore, according to Schofield and Arsana, there are some benefits of
supporting the idea of JDZ such as, first, it avoids undue delays due to deadlock in
negotiations. Second, it will avoid a time consuming and high costs. 86 Moreover, to some
extents, Joint Development area is flexible. This approach is flexible in terms of area, duration
and resource or function applied to. In addition, it is in accordance with the LOSC. Under
article 74 regarding the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone between States with
adjacent coasts, the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone between States with opposite or
adjacent coasts shall be effected by agreement on the basis of international law , in order to
achieve an equitable solution.87 Additionally, under Article 74 paragraph 3, Pending

81

Ibid.
Clive Schofield and I Made Andi Arsana, Ambalat revised : The way forward?, The Jakarta Post, Opinion and
Editorial, June 09 2005.
83
Ibid.
84
I Made Arsana and Dr Clive Schofield, Ambalat: A Spatial and Technical Perspective.
85
Ibid.
86
Dr Clive Schofield and Dr Ian Storey, Energy Security and Southeast Asia: The Impact on Maritime Boundary
and Territorial Disputes, Volume IX no 4, 2005.
87
Article 74 of the LOSC.
82

15

agreement , the states concerned, in a spirit of understanding and cooperation shall make
every effort to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature and, during this
transitional period, not to jeopardize or hamper the reaching of the final agreement. Such
arrangements shall be without prejudice to the final delimitation.88
On the other hand, although the establishment of JDZ has several benefits, unfortunately
it is shelving the dispute regarding the maritime boundary delimitation. To some extent, JDZ is
the last option when both countries can not reach an agreement and to the extent that the dispute
may lead to the armed conflict. In Ambalat case, as explained above, both countries are member
of the ASEAN. In consequence, both countries are obliged to resolve the dispute peacefully.
To some extent JDZ will disadvantage Indonesia. It is acknowledged that Ambalat is very
potential for the oil and gas. In fact, if both countries delimit their maritime zone in Ambalat,
Indonesia will have bigger proportion (see Appendix A). Hence, in Indonesias perspective JDZ
is not an equitable solution.
This essay proposes both countries to keep continue the negotiation between them. Based
on the interview with Mr. Sora Lokita from National Coordinating Agency for Surveys and
Mapping (BAKORSUTANAL), both countries have established negotiations every three months
since 2005. It is obvious, that the negotiation may take a long time. For instance, it is widely
known that the negotiation relating to the continental shelf between Indonesia and Vietnam took
25 years to reach the agreement.89 Article 83 LOSC provides that the delimitation of the
continental shelf between states parties with opposite or adjacent coasts shall be effected by
agreement. Meaning that the negotiation between Indonesia and Malaysia commensurate with
the LOSC. In the continuing negotiation, it is essential for Indonesia and Malaysia to define their

88
89

Article 74 (3) of the LOSC.


Interview with Mr. Sora Lokita, National Coordinating Agency for Surveys and Mapping ( BAKORSUTANAL)

16

baseline in the Sulawesi (Celebes) Sea. Subsequently, both countries are obliged to define the
EEZ and Continental Shelf Boundary. After both countries have mutual consent, it is essential
for both disputed countries to deposit a copy of each such chart or list with the Secretary-General
of the United Nations.90

VII. Conclusions
Energy security concerns have impacted maritime boundary and territorial disputes in
Southeast Asia, one of the cases is maritime boundary dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia
over the Ambalat Block. Undeniably, the dispute over Ambalat is related with the Court award
concerning Sipadan Ligitan in 2002 to Malaysia. However, the Court decided the impact of the
Courts Judgment on the delimitation of the continental shelf should be considered from a
different angle. The rule concerning the delimitation of the continental shelf is set out in Article
83 of the LOSC calling for an equitable solution. Thus, both countries are required to delimit
their maritime boundary on the basis of International Law.

It is recommended that both

countries keep maintain the negotiation between them in order to settle the dispute and to
achieve equitable solution. Hence, in the Ambalat case, JDZ is considered as the last option.

90

Article 84 of the LOSC.

17

Bibliography

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