Jakarta. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched joint sea patrols off the shores of Tarakan, North Kalimantan, on Monday (19/06) as part of efforts to enhance regional security amid increasing threats of terrorism and transnational crime.
"I hope that this joint patrol will be the historic beginning to increasing the quality and extent of defense cooperation to preserve stability and security in the region," Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said.
Islamic militants have held parts of Marawi City on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines for more than four weeks. The area can be reached by boat in just five hours from Indonesia's Morotai Island in North Maluku province.
Ryamizard added that the defense pact can be further strengthened through enhanced cooperation in land and air patrols with other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
"Preserving ocean security in Asean is the responsibility of member countries. I’m certain we can all preserve the security and sovereignty of our respective territories," Ryamizard said.
The defense minister officiated the joint sea patrols with Malaysian Defense Minister Dato Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Philippine Defense Minister Delvin Lorenzana.
Military Command Center
The three Southeast Asian nations also inaugurated a military command center in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, to serve as a center for intelligence exchanges. Similar centers will be built in Tawau, Malaysia, and Bongao, the Philippines.
"We hope that the establishment of the military command centers in the three countries will minimize the incidents that may occur in the territorial waters that are within the borders of our three countries," Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said.
The inauguration was also attended by the chief of the Malaysian army, Raja Mohamed Affandi, and Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) chief of staff Eduardo M. Año.
According to Gatot, the centers are a follow-up from a joint declaration by participating nations in May 2016 in Yogyakarta, which aimed to increase security in the Sulu Sea and surrounding areas in a show of solidarity between the neighboring countries.
The three Southeast Asian countries agreed to implement strategic preventive methods to meet security demands in the region, including by conducting coordinated sea patrols, providing immediate rescue to vessels in emergency situations and establishing a communication network to simplify coordination in emergencies.