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PH, Indonesia, Malaysia launch joint sea patrols

By: Reuters and Genalyn D. Kabiling

TARAKAN, Indonesia – Warships from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia yesterday held maneuvers near a naval base in northern Borneo to mark the launch of coordinated patrols to beef up security in waters plagued by insurgencies and banditry.

Helicopters and surveillance planes flew overhead as ministers and army chiefs from the countries attended ceremonies to launch the patrols and as regional security takes on added urgency after Islamist militants attacked Marawi City.

The Philippine military has said that some of the Islamist militants, who were made up of local insurgent groups, including the Maute Group, that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State but also some foreign fighters, may have mingled with evacuees to slip away during the battle for Marawi that has raged for almost four weeks.

“We need to watch out for the 500 to 600 terrorists there, 257 of whom have been killed already. The rest, based on information we are getting, are blending in with refugees to get out,” said Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo.
The spectacular collapse in security in Mindanao has alarmed neighbors such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indonesia has deployed three Sukhoi fighters to help with security in case militants try to flee southwards towards Indonesia, the head of the Tarakan air base Col. Didik Krisyanto told the state news agency Antara at the weekend.

Indonesia also inaugurated yesterday a maritime command center in the naval base of Tarakan, a town in the province of North Kalimantan on Borneo island, witnessed by defense ministers and army chiefs from the three countries.

Maritime command centers to coordinate the patrols and information sharing will also be set up in Tawau in Malaysia’s Sabah and Bongao in the Philippines.

“We see these (command centers) functioning as a triangle, like a spider’s web, where everything inside the triangle will be monitored,” said military chief Nurmantyo.

Meanwhile, Malacanang said the country will allow Indonesian and Malaysian naval forces to pursue Islamic militants entering local waters as part of the new border patrol arrangement.

The trilateral maritime patrol launched in Indonesia aims to combat terrorism, piracy, and other transnational crimes in regional waters, according to Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

“In the event of hot pursuit, puwedeng lumagpas sa mga…pumasok sa teritoryo habang hinahabol hanggat nakuha ng kabilang side iyong paghabol at pag-accost doon sa hinahabol,” Padilla said in a Palace press briefing.

“Ganun din tayo ‘pag may hinahabol tayo, pwede tayong lumagpas sa international waters papunta sa territory nila in pursuit of a threat,” he added.