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Philippines signs air patrol accord with Indonesia, Malaysia

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has signed a Trilateral Air Patrol (TAP) agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to allow their respective armed forces to work together in guarding and patrolling maritime areas, especially those in the south where $40 billion in trade passes through annually.

Major Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the new agreement gives birth to joint air patrol operations by the three countries and would complement the Trilateral Maritime Patrol Agreement (TMPA), which allowed joint sea patrols over areas of common concern.

He added that TAP, which is primarily focused on fighting terrorism in the common maritime areas of the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, would allow its air assets to do regular patrols.

“Terrorists have and are now using these areas as transshipment points and avenues of movement. (Threats of terrorism) would be better addressed by common efforts from like minded countries,” Padilla said. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Año signed the agreement and attended the launching ceremony at Subang Air Base in Malaysia yesterday. 

Padilla said the Philippines “needs to maximize and harness soft power approaches to keep (the) region safe,” referring to the Southeast Asian region. “Singapore and Brunei are also here (in Malaysia) as observers.”

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He explained that TAP designated the staging points for air operations – Tarakan for Indonesia, Bongao for Philippines and Tawau for Malaysia – and allowed each country to take turns at leading missions.

A mission commander, he added, would oversee the operations, which would be monitored from a maritime coordinating center that would be provided by the host country.

Padilla stressed that taking turns at patrolling the southern maritime areas would maximize the use of all three countries’ air assets.

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