I admit that I did not follow the Pertamina-ExxonMobile dispute over the Cepu block from the very beginning. I also admit that I don't have the perfect information about this controversy. Therefore I won't try to comment on detail about this, nor will I make a judgment on who should be the operator.
I just want to comment on one thing: will 'nationalism' (or similar arguments like 'beware of foreign intervention) make good basis for judgement? For some people, the answer is yes. And I respect that. But would that mean that the people of Banyuurip-Jambaran and Bojonegoro, who prefer ExxonMobile over Pertamina, less nationalistic than they are in the parliament building, or anyone claming to the 'people'?
Talking about nationalism, Kurtubi argued that whoever the operator is, the central government will always have 85% production share, and local government 1.5%.
So if nationalism would not make a good argument, what will? I don't know, frankly. But let me summarize the situation, but please let me know if I'm wrong. We know that oil exploration is a very risky business, and requires a significant amount of investment. And when one started the exploration, it takes some time before your investment start to make return. That's why if you are an oil explorer, you would want a guarantee that you can operate it for a certain period.
The key to the controversy is ExxonMobile wants to extend the exploration contract to another 30 years, from its initial expiration year 2010, after they found that the site have much more potentials. Pertamina argued that the contract can not be extended, and the operation should be transferred to Pertamina when the contract expired.
This can be illustrated by a simple game theory model. From ExxonMobile's perspective, you would 'produce' if you are guaranteed up to period n. If there is no guarantee, or the guarantee is less than n period (in this case beyond 2010), then the Subgame Perfect Nash Equilibrium would be 'not produce' at any period. Means the site would be idle from now until 2010. Even if Pertamina enters the production in 2010, there would be a few years to set up before production starts to be realized. If that's the case, there would be an oil production idle for about a decade. And we are an oil net importer already by now!
Again, I don't really know much about this issue. There is a broader dimension if this controversy, such as the legal aspect. Was Exxon's acquisition of Humpuss legal? And so on. [By the way, was Pertamina not really interested in Blok Cepu before ExxonMobile acquired in from Humpuss, then found out that the site was very prospective?]
What I know is, from the perspective of 'national interests' (whatever that means), clearly no one benefits from the prolonging uncertainty.