PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia to cooperate on enhanced security measures, intel exchange

By on May 5, 2016

Flags of each country member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  (Photo from ASEAN's website)
Photo: ASEAN

MANILA—Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Rene Almendras today concluded a successful visit to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where he discussed with Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts enhanced security measures among the three countries to ensure unimpeded trade and commerce, particularly the safe movement of commercial shipping, goods, and people.

The Secretary went to Yogyakarta upon the invitation of the Indonesian government, which organized a trilateral meeting with the Philippines and Malaysia to tackle immediate maritime and security challenges affecting the three countries.

These include armed robbery against ships, kidnapping, transnational crimes, and terrorism in the region, particularly within maritime areas of common concern of the three countries.

The Secretary’s trip saw him meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi.

“In meeting with civilian and military leaders of both Malaysia and Indonesia, I expressed the Philippines’ firm commitment to cooperate with them toward curbing lawless elements in maritime areas of common concern. I conveyed the message of President Benigno S. Aquino III of our openness to implement enhanced security measures to protect our people’s welfare and livelihood and ensure the continuation of commerce, trade and economic development in that region,” Secretary Almendras said.

Secretary Almendras added, “I am very pleased that, at the conclusion of the trilateral meeting, the three countries have come to an agreement and were able to issue a ‘Joint Declaration on Immediate Measures to Address Security Issues in the Maritime Areas of Common Concern among Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines’,” stating further that, “with this commitment to enhanced cooperation, I have been assured by Indonesia that vital shipping operations between our countries would soon be normalized.”

Indonesia is a vital source of coal for the Philippines’ energy needs, accounting for 96 percent of the country’s imports of said commodity.

Said Joint Declaration affirmed the commitment of the three countries to implement such measures as conducting patrols using existing and agreed-upon mechanisms, rendering immediate assistance for the safety of people and ships in distress within the maritime areas of common concern, facilitating timely sharing of information and intelligence, as well as establishing a hotline to facilitate coordination during emergencies and security threats.

The relevant Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian agencies have also been instructed to meet as soon as possible and, subsequently, convene on a regular basis to implement and periodically review said measures and to formulate the Standard Operating Procedure for the cooperation among the three countries.

For this visit, the Secretary was accompanied by Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad AFP, representing the Acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the AFP, Philippine National Police, National Mapping Resource and Information Authority, and the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta.

Highest officials from Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Armed Forces attended the trilateral meeting.

Finally, Secretary Almendras also reassured the Indonesian and Malaysian governments that the Philippines continues intensified law enforcement operations on the ground in order to ensure the safe release of the remaining four Indonesian and four Malaysian abductees.