Three Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, have reached an agreement for trilateral maritime cooperation to launch joint sea patrols in regional waters in an effort to deal with the rising number of kidnappings and pirate attacks.
Under the agreement signed on August 1, the countries’ maritime security personnel would accompany commercial vessels through the Sulu archipelago to decrease security risks in the area.
Furthermore, the maritime forces would be allowed to enter another nation’s waters in order to pursue suspected criminals.
The deal comes on the back of a spate of kidnappings and armed robberies at sea by Filipino pirate groups, believed to be linked to Islamist extremists, the Abu Sayyaf.
The latest kidnapping involved three Indonesian crew members who were taken from their tugboat by armed pirates off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia, in early July.
The incident was preceded by another kidnapping in the southern Philippines, in June, when seven seafarers were taken from an Indonesian tugboat, which was underway towing a coal barge.
Due to a rise in hijackings of ships in the area, Indonesia started restricting coal shipments to the Philippines in April, when the country’s ports of Banjarmasin and Tarakan in Kalimantan stopped issuing shipping permits to vessels taking coal to the Philippines.
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