• PH, Indonesia, Malaysia to boost Sulu Sea security

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    THE Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia have agreed to enhance cooperation to curb piracy, kidnapping, and smuggling activities in Sulu Sea.

    Meeting at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Defense Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and the defense ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia made a pact for the sharing of information and tighter cooperation among the countries’ intelligence units.

    Indonesia, meanwhile, proposed the institution of joint posts of coordination within the countries’ respective borders.

    The defense chiefs committed to use existing platforms in undertaking joint patrols in the Sulu Sea.

    At present, the country regularly conducts coordinated patrols with Indonesia while maintaining an anti-smuggling pact with Malaysia.

    The defense chiefs noted that the notion of coordinated patrols is in accordance with the Joint Declaration on Immediate Measures in the Maritime Areas of Common Concern which was signed by the three countries’ respective defense ministries on May 5.

    Guidelines to implement the said Joint Declaration are currently being drafted by the respective technical officers of the countries’ defense ministries.

    The defense chiefs also agreed to have the countries’ respective security forces undergo joint training.

    Indonesia’s defense ministry, for its part, proposed to conduct the said joint training at least twice a year.

    Gazmin, however, reminded Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s defense chiefs that the Philippines can only participate in joint exercises if they are conducted in the high seas.

    The absence of a status of visiting forces agreement with either Malaysia or Indonesia prevents the Philippines from hosting military exercises with foreign troops within its territorial waters, Gazmin explained.

    To sustain the high level ministerial dialogue regarding the conduct of joint exercises, the three defense chiefs of the cited countries agreed to hold a trilateral meeting in June in Manila. FERNAN MARASIGAN

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