Philippines and Indonesia eye launch of coordinated maritime patrols against piracy, terrorists soon

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (left) with Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte after their bilateral meeting in Manila on April 28, 2017, ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (left) with Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte after their bilateral meeting in Manila on April 28, 2017, ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to step up efforts to combat terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking.

"We recognised the need to address both traditional and emerging threats and express readiness to step up cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, piracy at sea, and transnational crimes including the trade of illicit drugs,"Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday (April 28) in a news conference shortly after holding bilateral talks with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo.

Mr Joko said in the same briefing he and Mr Duterte hope to "launch the Indomaphi trilateral maritime patrol as soon as possible".

Mr Joko said the two sides will also convene a "joint working group on counter-terrorism" this year.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed in May last year to conduct coordinated sea patrols and establish a hotline to combat piracy and kidnappings in waters bordering the three nations.

The waters surrounding the Philippines' Sulu archipelago, where dozens of tourists, traders, fishermen and sailors have been kidnapped by the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, include the Sulu Sea and the northern limit of the Celebes Sea. Indonesia and Malaysia share a land border on Borneo Island, south-west of the Sulu Sea, and the three countries have sea borders in the region.

Mr Joko said he and Mr Duterte also reached an agreement to ratify this year a historic pact that draws a boundary between the two countries' overlapping exclusive economic zones, and push for the early conclusion of talks on continental shelf boundary.

Aside from concerns over terrorism and piracy, Mr Duterte and Mr Joko signed a "joint declaration" on starting a ferry route linking the cities of Davao and General Santos in southern Philippines with the city of Bitung in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province.

The two leaders will travel to Davao, Mr Duterte's home city, on Sunday to inaugurate the service.

"This will facilitate trade and movement of goods. This deserves full support from both our governments," said Mr Duterte.