The Philippines finally secured a deal to patrol the disputed West Philippine Sea with two other ASEAN nations.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines on Monday signed a document on standard operating procedures (SOP) for trilateral maritime cooperation, marking the official start of coordinated joint sea patrols to secure regional waters.
The signing of the framework was the result of a two-day trilateral defense ministers’ meeting held in Bali from Aug. 1 to 2, where the ministers discussed follow-ups from a joint declaration on maritime security made in Yogyakarta in May.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu asserted the importance of the immediate implementation of the joint sea patrol to his counterparts, especially to tackle piracy and transnational crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking and drug smuggling.
“The cooperation will be of great significance to overcome security challenges in the countries’ border sea areas, which have been rife with threats in recent months,” Ryamizard said in a statement released by the Defense Ministry on Tuesday.
At the occasion, Ryamizard suggested that Malaysia’s Hishammudin Hussein and the Philippines’ Delfin Lorenzana conduct joint navy and army exercises, including establishing a military post to intensify coordination as well as intelligence sharing.
The officials discussed deploying security personnel to guard commercial ships passing through Sulu waters in the Philippines, including a system to allow naval vessels to enter another nation’s territory. They also mulled joint efforts to secure the release of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors held hostage by Abu Sayyaf splinter groups in the Philippines.
The push for joint patrols came on the heels of the abduction of three Indonesian sailors in Malaysia’s Sabah waters in early July, less than a month after the kidnapping of seven Indonesian crew by Filipino militants in southern Philippine waters. The July incident marked the fourth abduction of its kind this year.
China was not invited on the planned joint patrol but it is expected that Beijing would react, especially if the three nations build military outposts as suggested.
Source: The Jakarta Post