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Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia kick off joint patrols in Sulu Sea

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana joins Indonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu and Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein during the launch of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol in Tarakan, Indonesia. Hishammuddin Hussein's Communications Team/Released

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated 5:54 p.m.) The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday announced that the launching of a trilateral agreement for patrols is ongoing in the trilateral border areas in Indonesia, Sabah area and the Philippines.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the AFP, said the protocols have already been covered and the agreement signed.

“Bahagi 'yan ng pagpapatibay nitong ating mga lagusan at daanan ng mga nationals from the different countries that are involved in this partnership,” Padilla said during a press briefing at Malacañang.

In a meeting, the three countries from Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia and the Philippines (BIMP)-East ASEAN Growth Area have agreed to take measures against kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf.

Padilla said the joint naval patrols aim to address the porous borders and ensure organized patrols to prevent abductions at high sea.

“The end objective of the trilateral border agreement is to reinforce the security in this common area,” Padilla said in a chance interview in Malacañang.

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“These abductions at sea are put to and end and the movement of potential armed elements, any jihadist organizations or any armed organizations will not go through all these porous borders because of that heightened security,” he added.

Patrols can help countries capture fugitives

Padilla said the joint patrols would also allow the three countries to capture fugitives seeking haven in their porous borders and those who are providing assistance to Islamic extremists.

He said the cooperation between the three Southeast Asian 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,” the military spokesman said.

Padilla said Indonesian and Malaysian Navy personnel can enter Philippine waters if they are in hot pursuit or are chasing a terrorist or fugitive. 

“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.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attended the launch in Tarakan, Indonesia together with Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein and Indonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu.

 

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte warned that extremist group Islamic State would target Southeast Asian countries after wreaking havoc in the Middle East.

The Philippines is now grappling with the threat posed by Maute group, local terrorists believed to have links with the IS.

The militants launched attacks in Marawi City last May 23 to shield Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon from security forces, prompting Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law. 

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