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Philippines, Indonesia hold joint naval patrols in Celebes Sea

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The naval forces of the Philippines and Indonesia will jointly patrol the Celebes Sea this week to stop Islamist militants from reaching Mindanao and to strengthen security of their common boundaries.

The coordinated patrol was set following reports that more than 200,000 boat trips between the Philippines and Indonesia were unchecked by border-crossing authorities from both countries. 

“The coordinated patrol… is intended to strengthen the security of the Davao gulf and the common boundary of the two countries in the southern archipelago, particularly along the Celebes Sea,” said military spokesman Maj. Ezra Balagtey.

Regional governments fear fighters sympathetic to the Islamic State group will cross maritime borders from Malaysia and Indonesia to join rebels who seized Marawi City six weeks ago.

About 300 militants, 82 members of the Philippines’ security force and 44 civilians have been killed in the fighting.

According to the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, the coordinated patrol is part of the existing joint border patrol cooperation between the two countries that has been going on for several years. 

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Indonesian delegates are expected to arrive today at Sasa wharf, Davao City. They will be accorded with an arrival ceremony by the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao.

The coordinated patrol will start tomorrow morning at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City. It will formally be kicked off with a sendoff ceremony on July 6 also at Sasa wharf.

A medical mission will be conducted by military medical personnel aboard the patrolling vessels in a stopover at Balut Island, Sarangani, Davao Occidental on July 7 with the participation of the local government unit of the municipality.

The coordinated patrol is expected to culminate in a closing ceremony at Manado, Indonesia on July 12.

The coordinated patrol is the third in the region in a month as pirates and militants step up attacks on commercial shipping.

The Philippines was joined by the United States on Saturday to patrol southern Philippine waters. Two weeks ago, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines jointly patrolled their common maritime borders in the Celebes Sea and Sulu Sea.

The latest patrol will end next week in the Indonesian city of Manado on Sulawesi island. – Edith Regalado, Reuters

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