Palace backs call for joint patrols vs piracy
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang supports Indonesia’s call for joint patrols against piracy and kidnapping on a shipping route along its sea border with the Philippines.

The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet in Jakarta to discuss the possibility of joint patrols.

Indonesian chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the armed forces chiefs of the three countries would also hold talks in Jakarta on May 3.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said “there is the intention for the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to meet together to find ways to work together because dangers to the security of any sailor, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian or anyone, is a common threat to us all.”

“This is a sign that there’s a serious issue. But it is a challenge for all three governments and their respective citizens to work together to stamp out this crime,” he said over dzRB yesterday.

The Palace official explained the Philippines is open to joint patrols for this is in accordance with the principle adhered to by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that there must be free and open navigation in the region.

Up to 18 Indonesians and Malaysians were kidnapped in three attacks on tugboats in Philippine waters by groups suspected of ties to the Abu Sayyaf rebel network.

The Abu Sayyaf, posting videos on social media pledging allegiance to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, has demanded P50 million or $1.1 million to free the Indonesian crew.

“We don’t want to see this become a new Somalia,” Pandjaitan said, referring to the Sulu Sea.

Analysts say the route to the Sulu Sea carries $40 billion worth of cargo each year. It is taken by fully laden supertankers from the Indian Ocean that cannot use the crowded Malacca Strait.

Concerns over maritime attacks by suspected Islamist militants are disrupting the coal trade, with at least two Indonesian coal ports suspending shipments to the Philippines.

Piracy near Somalia’s coast has subsided in the last few years mainly due to shipping firms’ hiring private security details and the presence of international warships.

The Indonesian Navy has instructed all commercial vessels “to avoid piracy-prone waters around the southern Philippines.”

The Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center has also warned ships sailing in the Celebes Sea and northeast of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo to stay clear of suspicious small vessels.

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