Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia work to secure sea borders

(The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Defense officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are working out an arrangement for the deployment in the Sulu Sea of a combined force of sea marshals to deter kidnapping for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf and other cross-border crimes like piracy.

This was bared yesterday by outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who also revealed the plan was raised at a recent trilateral defense meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo between him and his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts.

“We have to resolve it… it has become a big issue that destroys our image in the international community… They (Indonesian and Malaysian) also need to be part of the arrangement because they are the victims,” Gazmin said.

Earlier, a senior security official said that the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping menace has become an international security concern, as the bandits are now operating in international waters.

Only last week, the bandits on two motorboats intercepted an Indonesian tugboat and abducted seven of the boat’s 13 crewmembers in the waters off the coast of Tawi-Tawi.

The kidnappers later handed over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The bandits are demanding 20 million ringgit for the freedom of the hostages.

“They have become so systematic,” Gazmin said of the terrorists.

He said he and Indonesia’s defense minister, in a meeting last Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo, agreed to make use the 1975 cross border agreement.

The 1975 agreement allows Indonesian and Philippine security forces to conduct pursuit operations against the bandits within each other’s maritime zones.

But he stressed every operation should be coordinated between countries involved.

“They should coordinate with us all their actions, in the way that we will also coordinate with them  our own actions inside their maritime domain,” Gazmin said.

He stressed that foreign troops are not allowed to operate inland. However, under extraordinary circumstances, Indonesians and Malaysians – provided they are unarmed – can be allowed to work together with Filipino troops to serve as interpreters or to provide needed information.          

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