Foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed at a meeting today to conduct additional sea patrols and establish a hotline to combat piracy and kidnappings in waters bordering the three countries.
The new efforts will build on existing cooperation between the three nations and will utilise military forces in order to render “immediate assistance” to vessels in distress within the pirate-infested waters, according to a joint statement from the foreign ministers and chiefs of defence forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
A national focal point is to be established among the three countries through which information and intelligence will be shared and responses to emergency and security threats will be coordinated. The communication hotline will play a role in this and aims to improve the way response efforts are deployed.
Maritime security agencies from the three countries have also resolved to meet “as soon as possible” and to convene regularly to review the new collaborative measures and to formulate a standard operating procedure (SOP).
The Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA) has advised its members to travel in convoy when transiting anywhere near Mindanao in the far south of neighbouring Philippines.
In late April, Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf reportedly beheaded a Canadian hostage after they failed to obtain a $6.5m ransom. The crew has attacked a number of vessels over the past two months, taking over 20 seafarers hostage. Ten Indonesian seafarers were released by the group on May 1 after a month in captivity, but around eight hostages from Malaysia and Indonesia remain.
Today’s meeting in Jakarta was attended by Indonesia’s minister for foreign affairs, H.E. Retno L.P. Marsudi; Malaysia’s minister of foreign affairs, H.E. Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman and the Philippines’ secretary of foreign affairs, H.E. Jose Rene D. Almendras.
The military was represented by Indonesia’s commander-in-chief of the armed forces, General Gatot Nurmantyo and Malaysia’s chief of defence, General Tan Sri Dato’ Sri (Dr) Zulkifeli bin Mohd. Zin, plus the Philippines’ flag-officer-in-command, vice-Admiral Caesar C. Taccad AFP, who represented the country’s acting chief of staff of the armed forces.