The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to enhance maritime cooperation amid a territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
On Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte met with Indonesia President Joko Widodo at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, where they signed a joint declaration of cooperation to ensure maritime security.
Duterte was in Indonesia for a working visit after joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summits in Laos, his first international engagement.
“We agreed on the implementation of a cooperative framework to address security issues,” Duterte and Widodo said in a joint press statement.
“We expressed commitment to take all necessary steps to ensure security in maritime areas of common interest, as two of the largest archipelagos in the world recognized the value of maritime cooperation,” the statement added.
Duterte and Widodo expressed serious concerns over recent developments in the region, including the South China Sea dispute.
“We called on parties to respect the rule of law and welcome the support of partners and efforts to ensure the security and stability of the region, especially in the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law,” he said.
The Philippines on Wednesday released photos showing a number of Chinese vessels near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), an area within the country’s exclusive economic zone that was seized by China in 2012.
The Department of National Defense said some of the boats could be capable of dredging and indicated that China was looking at building structures and reclaiming land at the shoal.
Both leaders likewise expressed concern over terrorism and violent extremism, following last week’s blast in Davao City that killed 14 people and wounded 70 others.
In an issue of common interest—illegal drugs—Duterte and Widodo promised intensified cooperation to fight illegal drug trafficking.
“We share the deep concern on the trade in illicit and illegal drugs and its impact on our society. We will seek to intensify cooperation on the campaign against this menace,” the statement said.
“We’ll also do our part in contributing with the aim of a drug-free Asean community,” it added.
Duterte thanked Widodo for the warm welcome, saying it was an honor to be in Jakarta. “Indonesia is not only a friend but a brother [to us],” Duterte said.
“Certainly, the ties that bind the Philippines and Indonesia are long and enduring. The Philippines holds its relation with Indonesia as one that is truly valued,” he said.
“I look forward to reciprocating Widodo’s hospitality when he visits the Philippines in a mutually convenient time. I look forward to working closely with my friend and brother,” Duterte said.
Hot pursuit in PH seas
Speaking before members of the Filipino community in Jakarta, Duterte said he would work with the Indonesian President to craft measures that would solve piracy in the high seas between the Philippines and Indonesia.
The President said he would authorize Indonesian forces to enter the Philippines’ “jurisdictional waters” while on hot pursuit of pirates being chased out of Indonesian territory.
“They [Indonesian forces] can go ahead and blast them off. That’s the agreement,” Duterte said, noting that Philippine forces would be given the same courtesy should the chase start within the Philippines’ jurisdiction.
“When you are a pirate, you can be arrested by any nation because piracy is a crime against humanity,” he added.
In the event that hostages are on board a hijacked ship, Duterte said authorities could opt to arrest and execute the pirates.
“Maybe there are sharks around. I’ll just feed them to the sharks,” the President said.
Duterte also said he intended to forge the same agreement with Malaysia.
“I hope we can hammer out and craft something that is useful and functional to control crime in the area,” Duterte said.
“It’s only Malaysia and Indonesia that can help us, nobody else,” the President added.