Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have finally launched joint sea patrols in the troubled Sulu Sea region as part of efforts to enhance regional security amid increasing threats of terrorism and transnational crime, local media reported.
The patrols were launched from Tarakan in Indonesia’s North Kalimantan province where the three Southeast Asian nations also inaugurated a military command centre which will help to facilitate intelligence exchanges.
“I hope that this joint patrol will be the historic beginning to increasing the quality and extent of defence cooperation to preserve stability and security in the region,” said Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.
The three countries first agreed to conduct coordinated maritime patrols as part of a broader plan to tackle rising security challenges in their maritime border areas amid a spate of kidnappings and attacks on commercial vessels last year.
The joint declaration in May 2016 in Yogyakarta, set out to increase security in the Sulu Sea and surrounding areas.
The attack of ISIS-linked militants on Marawi City in the southern Philippines, which falls within the zone and is uncomfortably close to Indonesian territory, may have added some impetus to initiate the patrols.
The inauguration of the joint sea patrols, dubbed Trilateral Maritime Patrol Indomalphi, was also attended by Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Philippines Defence Minister Delvin Lorenzana.
“The Trilateral Maritime Patrol Indomalphi is a concrete step taken by the three countries … in maintaining stability in the region in the face of non-traditional real threats such as piracy, kidnapping, terrorism and other transnational crimes in regional waters,” said a press statement.
Military command centres will also be built in Tawau, Malaysia, and Bongao, the Philippines. “We hope that the establishment of the military command centres in the three countries will minimize the incidents that may occur in the territorial waters that are within the borders of our three countries,” Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen Gatot Nurmantyo said.