The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are to launch joint sea patrols to intensify the fight against Islamist militants.
The coordinated patrols aim to tighten protection along porous borders and prevent abductions at sea. They are also intended to prevent the movement of fugitives seeking haven in a different country or planning to provide assistance to jihadists.
Armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said: “The enemy we face right now is a different breed, and with the presence of foreign fighters in the area — a matter that we are trying to validate and prove based on whatever we recover from the field — is part of that continuing concern.”
Defence ministers and military chiefs from the three countries announced the patrols in the Indonesian city of Tarakan in Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia, today (Monday, June 19).
Brig. Gen. Padilla added that the cooperation between the three countries would also involve information sharing, the exchange of liaison officers, sharing of assets and the forming of joint headquarters.
“There is no need to intrude into other countries because we’re all sovereign nations. And in that manner, the best weapon we always rely on is these exchanges of information and information sharing about the movements of terrorists and what have you,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Padilla said Indonesian and Malaysian Navy personnel could enter Philippine waters if they were in pursuit of suspected terrorists or fugitives.
“We can also do that. We can go beyond international waters and enter their territory in pursuit of a threat,” he added.
With the launch of the trilateral maritime patrols, the three countries now have a joint mechanism to address security challenges in the Sulu Seas.
Monday’s opening ceremony of the patrols was held on board an Indonesian warship and attended by security officials from Singapore and Brunei, who acted as observers.