PH, Malaysia, Indonesia OK joint Sulu Sea patrols
TO BEEF up regional security and thwart criminal activities at sea, defense officials of the Philippines Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to conduct trilateral maritime and air patrols in the three countries’ maritime areas of common concern, particularly in the Sulu Sea.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin met with his two counterparts on Monday to discuss security concerns in the three nations’ common maritime borders.
The high-level dialogue between Gazmin, Malaysia’s Hishammuddin Hussein and Indonesia’s Ryamizard Ryacudu was a follow-up to last month’s meeting of Southeast Asia defense ministers.
A working group will be established to identify the operational directions of the trilateral maritime patrol among the three countries’ military forces.
In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Gazmin, Hussein and Ryacudu raised concerns over recent kidnappings and armed robberies at sea in the areas of common concern.
“(They) reaffirmed the need, commitment and collective responsibility of the countries to address such threats that undermine peace, security and prosperity in the region,” DND said.
Aside from a trilateral maritime patrol working group, each country would put up a maritime command center and would retain overall responsibility for the deployment of their military assets.
Common border crucial
During the three ministers’ informal meeting in Vientiane, Laos, last month, the Sulu Sea was seen as a crucial concern since it is a maritime border common to the three nations.
They agreed to step up collaborative efforts against rising criminality, piracy, kidnapping and smuggling in the sea.
The Sulu Sea is a popular route for cargo and passenger ships, with some vessels falling prey to pirates and kidnappers, while others use the route for smuggling.
Gazmin and his counterparts agreed to adopt the best practices of Malaysia and Indonesia in their joint Malacca Straits Patrol as a model for their trilateral maritime patrol.
The three officials pushed for the coordination of military activities concerning maritime security, and the establishment of joint military command posts in specific locations.
The DND said the defense ministers also approved the establishment of a transit corridor which would serve as designated sea lanes for mariners entering the maritime area of common concern.
The three countries will also set up a trilateral database sharing mechanism, as well as information and intelligence sharing pertaining to the maritime areas of common concern.
“The ministers also agreed for the military or relevant agencies of the three countries to expedite the crafting and finalization of relevant standard operating procedures,” the DND said.
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