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Philippines, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime patrols along porous borders

Philippines, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime patrols along porous borders
ELLIE ABEN | 10 January 2018

MANILA: The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to intensify patrol operations amid the threat of terrorism in the region.
This was the consensus reached during the 36th Republic of the Philippines–Republic of Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference held in Davao City Jan. 8-9.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, chief, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), led the Philippine delegation, while Rear Admiral Didik Setiyono, commander of the Eastern Fleet Command, headed the Indonesian one. The Committees deliberated on matters of common concern to both countries.

The conference was held days after President Rodrigo Duterte met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Davao City. During their meeting, the Philippine leader said he wants to intensify maritime security cooperation with Indonesia as terrorists continue to enter and exit the country through its southern waters.

A joint statement by the two countries’ border committee chairmen said that in support of the Philippine leader, they have agreed to strengthen coordinated patrols to ensure security and maritime control in their common borders.

“It also aims to prevent the utilization of our respective territorial waters as an avenue for the proliferation of terrorism and other transnational crimes,” the statement read.

“Similarly, the committees agreed to look into measures to ensure the safe passage of our respective nationals, to include fisher folks, in the border areas. This effort will contribute to uplifting the economic wellbeing of our respective countrymen while assuring their protection en route to the fishing grounds at high seas,” it added.
Considering the porous shorelines of the two countries’ archipelagic domains, both committees also looked into increasing the number of Border Crossing Stations (BCS) at common border areas and, to further strengthen the operational functions of the existing BCSs.

This effort will provide a systematic scheme in closely monitoring the entry and exit of the nationals of both countries with the hands-on involvement of each country’s immigration, quarantine and customs bureaus.

Further, the committees decided to include other concerned military units and government agencies in the border committees, and to establish a definitive hotline between their naval commanders to immediately address developing situations and other challenges.

Both committees also intend to jumpstart the review of the 1975 Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements that will seek to recommend amendments of its provisions to improve maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

Last week, Marsudi paid a courtesy call on Duterte at the presidential guest house in Davao City. Duterte and the Indonesian Foreign Minister agreed to elevate cooperation on trade, maritime security, education, and in eradicating terrorism.

Duterte also expressed interest in the resumption of the Philippines-Indonesia routes to further strengthen trade between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated on Tuesday that the military continues to verify reports that more foreign terrorists have entered Mindanao.

“We are trying to confirm reports that there are foreign terrorists inside the country, especially in Mindanao,” Lorenzana told reporters, adding there are reports from other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia indicating an increase of foreign terrorists coming into the country through the southern backdoor.
“We haven’t confirmed anything, though,” said the defense chief.