SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Piracy in the Sulu Sea has put on hold international shipping to Polloc Port in Parang, Maguindanao, the main gateway for foreign trade in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Lawyer Ishak Mastura, ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) chairman, told The Manila Times that this was revealed in reports reaching their office from the port management.
“While we mourn the tragic loss of life and empathize with those abducted, we are deeply concerned that the bane of piracy in the Sulu Sea has affected our international trade leading to revenue losses for the ARMM regional government, which owns and operates Polloc Port,” Mastura said in reaction to the latest piracy incident.
He cited the latest sea attack on a Vietnamese cargo ship – Giang Hai – by armed pirates in the Sulu Sea, about 20 nautical miles north of Pearl Bank in Tawi-Tawi that happened this week.
The vessel was carrying 4,500 tons of cement, destined for Polloc Port from Indonesia, when approached by a motorboat with heavily armed men on board. One crew was killed while seven sailors – Indonesian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Dutch, German and Japanese – were abducted.
The Philippines Coast Guard rescued 17 of the 25 crew of the bulk carrier.
Hexan Mabang, Polloc Port manager said this latest act of piracy caused several shipments of cement and other cargos to be suspended as shippers refused to charter vessels passing through the Sulu Sea headed for Polloc Port and other ports in Mindanao.
Christopher Lu, a local investor registered with RBOI-ARMM who is expecting a cargo shipment of wood chips and sundry bulk cargo from Malaysia and Indonesia, said their shipper refused to proceed after learning of the latest attack.
Meanwhile, Haron Bandila of the ARMM Business Council is worried about the effects of piracy in the Sulu Sea on the ongoing peace process.
Bandila noted that the main peace process involves the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based in Central Mindanao and whose leadership and forces are composed mostly of the Maguindanaon tribe.
On the other hand, the pirates in the Sulu Sea are from the Sulu archipelago composed of the Tausug and other island tribes distinct from the Maguindanaons.
“I am afraid that talking with just the MILF cannot stop piracy in the Sulu Sea. The MILF leadership and [its]followers are not Tausugs so how can they understand what the Tausug pirates want and bring them to the fold of the peace process?” Bandila said.
“We hope that the increasing [pirate]raids in the Sulu Sea including the abductions of sailors do not cause a severe setback to the peace process, because it seems the peace process cannot address such security risks like this,” he added.