The small island of Morotai in North Maluku has this year re-emerged into the spotlight as the venue for the “Sail Morotai 2012” in the annual three-monthly Sail Indonesia Yacht Rally.
Sail Indonesia involves hundreds of yachts from many countries. This year’s Sail Indonesia was flagged off from Darwin, Australia, at the end of August, to sail across the Indonesian seas visiting many remote, often exotic and uninhabited, islands, including Alor, Komodo, Karimunjawa, Ternate, Salayar, Tanjung Putting, and more. For route details, go to http://indonesia.travel/en/news/detail/729/sail-morotai-2012-journey-back-in-history-to-world-war-ii-battle-of-morotai .
This year, the island of Morotai, lying north of the island of Halmahera, was the chosen highlight. Morotai made its name in World War II when it became the base from where General McArthur made his counter attacks against the Japanese invasion on the Philippines and the Indonesian islands.
Held on Saturday, September 15, Sail Morotai 2012 was attended in person by Indonesian President Yudhoyono. Also invited were war veterans from the USA, Japan, and Australia who had fought on Morotai. Present were ambassadors and representatives from the USA, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines, as well as government ministers and watched by thousands of the local population.
Sail Morotai 2012 officially opened with the “Soya soya dance,” a Maluccan war dance of heroism, followed by welcome dances from local districts in the Moluccas. Then came the heart stirring “sail past” comprising tens of yachts participating in Sail Morotai 2012 and a number of warships. On the occasion, President Yudhoyono also opened the Morotai World War II Museum containing artifacts and memorabilia of the war around Morotai.
Facing the Economic Era of the Asia-Pacific
In his speech, President Yudhoyono warmly welcomed all participants to Sail Morotai 2012, war veterans present, and foreign delegations.
Sail Morotai, said the President, was evidence of Indonesia’s commitment to develop the rising economy of the Asia-Pacific. For this purpose, both Morotai and the harbor of Bitung in North Sulawesi, both directly facing the Pacific, will be developed, from which islands Indonesia will meet future demands from and connectivity with the fast-rising economy of the Asia-Pacific region.
Morotai will be developed considering its large potentials in marine resources, fishery, and tourism – bases on which this plan is implemented. As a first step, the Morotai region has been established as a Special Economic Zone (KEK) in Indonesia’s accelerated Economic Development Plan. The government will also allocate budgets for infrastructure development while pushing investors to further develop this region.
The first project undertaken, also in conjunction with and in support of Sail Morotai, was the restoration of the harbor and extension of the pier at Daruba, Morotai. Taiwanese investors will also develop fisheries here.
Meanwhile, Committee Chairman Agung Laksono, who is Coordinating Minister for Public Welfare, reported that Morotai, which covers an area of 1,800 square kilometers, has large potentials in marine resources, fisheries, and tourism. The area is earmarked to become one of Indonesia’s economic growth regions bordering the Philippines.
The Morota seas contain at least 160 species of fish which are in great demand in the international markets producing 150,000 tons per year, while until now only 50% of its potential is used. Morota’s strategic location in the Pacific will surely attract many investors.
The islands also hold potentials in the production of pearls and seaweed. While Morotai’s unique role in World War II, the island’s beautiful beaches, underwater life, and many wrecks to dive will certainly make Morotai a potential tourism destination.