World Bulletin / News Desk
The defense chiefs of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed in principle Monday to explore seven measures to maintain security in seawaters between the archipelagoes following a spate of kidnappings by militants.
Since April, at least 18 Indonesians and Malaysians were abducted in the Sulu and Celebes seas by groups suspected of ties to the Abu Sayyaf militant network, based in the Philippines’ southern Mindanao island region.
The sailors were released in intervals after being held captive on the island province of Sulu for several weeks.
The state-run Philippines News Agency reported that during Monday’s meeting in Manila, the defense ministers reiterated the commitment they expressed alongside the three countries’ foreign ministers during a meeting in Indonesia last month, when joint patrols had been discussed.
They further “agreed in principle” on seven coordinated activities between their security forces focusing on maritime security.
The potential measures include the establishment of joint military command posts at designated locations, trilateral maritime and air patrols in areas of common concern, and the setting up of a trilateral Maritime Patrol Working Group to determine the operational directions of the patrols.
A transit corridor would also be set up to designate sea lanes for those operating in the concerned waters, where each of the three countries would establish Maritime Command Centers to maintain overall responsibility over the deployment of their respective assets.
The sides would also engage in information and intelligence sharing and maintain a trilateral database sharing mechanism.
According to the agency, the ministers -- Voltaire Gazmin of the Philippines, Hishammuddin Tun Hussein of Malaysia and Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia -- expressed hopes to hold another trilateral meeting in the near future, as their countries’ armed forces and relevant agencies work to draft relevant Standard Operating Procedures.
They also concluded that the practices of Malaysia and Indonesia in conducting patrols in Strait of Malacca -- which separates peninsular Malaysia from Indonesia’s Sumatra island -- could be adopted as a model for trilateral cooperation.
Kidnap-for-ransom gangs frequently operate in the Philippines’ southern Zamboanga Peninsula and the island provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan.
They are known to hand over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the group.
The kidnappers use isolated sea-lanes and coastal areas to grab their victims, who are then held captive in isolated villages in Mindanao.
Last week, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded a second Canadian hostage after a deadline set by the group for the delivery of a 600 million peso ($13 million) ransom was missed.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles-- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.Last Mod: 20 Haziran 2016, 13:44