PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia ink trilateral deal to heighten war vs terror

THE Philippines on Monday forged a trilateral maritime patrol with Indonesia and Malaysia in the Sulu Sea to bolster the region’s war against terrorism and transnational crimes.

In a news briefing, Military Spokesman Restituto F. Padilla Jr. said the deal will improve the monitoring of each country’s border waters.

“We are keen on preventing abduction in the high seas. Aside from this, [we are trying to thwart] the movement of personnel bound from one country to another, who are fugitives of their own laws and seeking haven in [the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia],” Padilla added.

The joint patrol comes in the wake of the conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, where government troops and Islamist militants have been fighting for four weeks now.

Padilla said the trilateral maritime patrol allows Philippine security forces to cross Indonesian and Malaysian border waters in cases of hot pursuit, and vice-versa. “In the event of hot pursuit, our troops will be permitted to go beyond our territory until our counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia approach and accost the criminals,” Padilla said.

According to the military spokesman, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia will have an exchange of liaison officers and sharing of assets, such as patrol ships, under the agreement.

Padilla added personnel manning the operations will be stationed at command centers mutually agreed upon by defense ministers and army chiefs of the three countries. He added the joint patrol will also bolster intelligence sharing between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“The end objective of the trilateral maritime patrol is to reinforce the security in this common area [of Sulu Sea] and put an end to the movement of potential armed elements, any Jihadist organizations and any armed groups,” Padilla said.

The joint patrol is expected to foil terror attacks and activities of the Maute and Abu
Sayyaf groups based in Mindanao, which are known for kidnapping tourists, fishermen and sailors in the Sulu Sea. Indonesian authorities have earlier warned there are about 1,200 Islamic State  (IS) militants operating in the Philippines.

The collapse in security in Mindanao has raised alarm among Southeast Asian nations, as IS-linked groups are on the verge of establishing a caliphate in the region.