MANILA—Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts agreed to cooperate further in curbing down criminality, piracy, kidnapping and smuggling in the Sulu Sea border area of the three countries.
Gazmin, Malaysian Defense Minister Hashimudin Hussein and Indonesian Defese Minister Riyamizard Ryacudu made this commitment during the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Vientiane, Laos last May 26.
All three officials agreed to ensure timely sharing of relevant information and to this end direct their respective intelligence units to be more open in sharing databases of criminals.
Indonesia proposed to have joint posts of coordination within our countries’ respective borders.
They also agreed to use existing platforms in undertaking joint patrols. The Philippines regularly conducts coordinated patrols with Indonesia while the Philippines has anti-smuggling agreement with Malaysia.
The idea of coordinated patrol is in accordance with the Joint Declaration on Immediate Measures in the Maritime Areas of Common Concern which was signed by the three countries’ foreign ministers and chiefs of defense forces last May 5.
A framework and subsequently a standard operating procedure are currently being crafted among our respective technical level officers.
The ministers also agreed to pursue joint training, with Indonesia proposing to have joint exercises at least twice a year although Gazmin reminded the two other ministers that since the Philippine does not have a status of visiting forces agreement with either Indonesia and Malaysia, the Philippines could only conduct exercises with them in the high seas and not within its territorial waters.
To sustain high-level ministerial dialogue regarding this matter, the three ministers agreed to once more have a trilateral meeting this coming June, with Manila slated to host the said meeting.