Joint PH-Malaysia drive vs Abus eyed
The Philippines and Malaysia could share experience to strengthen their military ties, a visiting Malaysian prince who is also a general in his country’s army said on Wednesday after President Duterte said he will likely discuss possible joint military and police operations between the two nations against the Abu Sayyaf.
Brig. Gen. Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail, the Crown Prince of Malaysia’s state of Perlis and the Commander of the 504th Regiment of the Malaysian Territorial Army, said “there are possible avenues for collaboration” between Malaysia’s Reserved Officers Training Unit and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserved Command (AFPRescom).
“It is significant for both countries to work out avenues or areas for future engagements as well as keeping in touch through various medium available, either via informal or formal means,” Faizuddin said during his visit to the AFP headquarters and the AFPRescom at Camp Aguinaldo.
Mr. Duterte told reporters late Tuesday that addressing the “deteriorating peace and order” in waters between the two countries will top the agenda of his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other top officials in Malaysia next week.
“There is a need for us, the three countries Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, to talk about this seriously and to put a stop because it has somehow paralyzed the trade and commerce in that area,” he said.
He said his talks will cover border control, border crossing, “and, maybe, joint military and police operations.”
During a recent visit to Indonesia, Duterte said he discussed possible security strategies with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the Indonesia leader was “OK with everything.” Duterte did not specify the security steps.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen and allied militants have continued attacks at sea this year, kidnapping Malaysian and Indonesian crewmen of slow-moving tugboats mostly pulling coal barges.
The security talks are complicated and tricky because the Philippines and Malaysia have had territorial issues and questions have arisen, for example, on how far Malaysian authorities chasing fleeing militants can go as they approach Philippine territory. In initial talks, the countries have considered establishing a more secure sea lane for commercial vessels as well as coordinated law enforcement actions, including sea and air patrols.
Indonesia has restricted coal shipments to the Philippines because of the danger.
The Abu Sayyaf has survived through the years mainly from ransom kidnappings. A Philippine threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press showed that the militants pocketed at least $7.3 million from six ransom kidnappings involving 21 people in the first six months of the year.
The report said the payoffs enabled the group to procure firearms and ammunition.
The President has ordered the military to destroy the Abu Sayyaf. The Philippine military said on Tuesday it has killed 70 Abu Sayyaf militants and captured 32 others since July.
The Philippines and Malaysia established diplomatic relations in 1959. Their defense cooperation is conducted through the Philippines-Malaysia Military Cooperation Working Group (MCWG).
Both armed forces agreed last year to curb smuggling, piracy, and terrorism in the waters between the two countries. —With a report from AP