DAVAO CITY — The governments of the Philippines-Republic of Indonesia (RP-RI) Border Committee are strengthening intelligence cooperation in addressing border issues against smugglers, sea pirates, human traffickers, among others, but admitted there remains a potential danger in detecting the entry and exit of terrorists through other points.
“Terrorists are clever and smart,” Indonesian Consulate General Eko Hartono said in a press conference after the June 25 Border Crossing Committee meeting at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here.
Hartono emphasized that suspected terrorists do not go through the regular border crossing stations in both the Philippines and Indonesia like in Bongao, Caraga, Tibanban, Maruri and Miangas.
He added that it is even difficult to capture them because they unlikely use big boats but small motorboats to hide their identities. And, “they are smart to mingle with the communities,” he said.
Hartono said terrorists go through alternative path to slip out or into the respective Indonesian and Philippine territories without being detected by authorities. He admitted that it is difficult to effectively monitor them to ensure that they do not bring in guns and ammunition.
However, he said the commitment of both governments detailed in the border crossing agreement like strengthening of intelligence cooperation and patrol will help detect movement of terrorists and criminals in the sea.
Hartono also recommended the optimization of all border crossing stations to improve ability to detect movement of terrorists.
Hartono and Commodore Joel Dela Cruz, Vice-Chairman Philippine Border Committee and Commander, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao, however ,noted they already achieved some results in the border crossing agreement.
In particular, Cruz said the sharing of intelligence information is working. In fact, they were able to monitor movement of the members of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI), an Indonesia-based clandestine terrorist network formed in the early 1990s, entering Central Mindanao from Indonesia.
Hartono said it was also in the context of the border crossing agreement that they were able to detect terrorists such as the perpetrators of the Bali bombing. He said that sometime in 2008 and 2001 they were able to detect movements of the “big guys” who were using the routes to slip into the Philippines transiting to Mindanao.
Cruz said they have been reviewing protocols and how to operationalize the protocols to help monitor movement of the citizens of both countries. He said they have been conducting border patrol operation at the common border areas; intelligence monitoring operations.
In their meeting, the Border Crossing committee further strengthened mutual commitment for a peaceful resolution of issues arising at the border of the two neighboring countries.
Among the items tackled were the Joint RP-RI search and rescue operations at the border seas; Information sharing between the Philippine Navy Naval Operations Center and Indonesian Navy Command Control Center and between the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Operations Center and the Eastern Fleet Command of the Indonesian Navy; Expansion of activities during coordinated patrol (Philippines-Indonesia) such as Humanitarian Assistance Disaster and Relief (HADR) assistance.
They also reviewed the standard operating procedure such as on mandatory equipment onboard vessels crossing the border seas like advising border crossers to pass through border crossing stations prior to their final destination; optimizing personnel in border post to minimize undocumented border crossers; and use of aircraft in border patrol.
The Philippines-Indonesia Border Crossing System was designed to regulate the movement of the inhabitants within the border areas in order to prevent violation of laws of both countries.
The meeting was attended by Hartono, Cruz, members of the Unified Staff and concerned government officials, Philippine Consul Jose Burgos, Vice Chairman of the Republic of Indonesia Border Committee Commander of Naval Main Based in Manado Laksma (Commodore) TNI Raja Morni Harahap, and military officers and concerned Indonesian government officials.
The Philippines and Indonesia are both signatories of the United Nations on the Convention of the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which later created the Regional Fisheries Management Organization and thereafter created the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission aimed of developing resolutions, conservation and management measures relating to fishing operations in the high seas at the Pacific Ocean.