TARAKAN (North Kalimantan): There will be few safe harbours on the Sulu Sea for militants, pirates and kidnappers from here on.
With the official establishment of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP), Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines’ militaries have agreed to step up joint patrols and surveillance in the area.
“The main objective is to ensure militant threats such as Daesh/Islamic State do not turn the Sulu Sea into their laluan tikus (hidden route) to gain entry into our countries,” Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said at yesterday’s launch of TMP on board the KRI Dr Soeharso in Indonesia.
“The TMP was also launched to combat sea piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery. It’s quite significant.”
Hishammuddin added that the idea of Daesh or IS setting up base on local shores was “a very real possibility”, judging from the Marawi incident.
“Even if the situation in Marawi settles, it is possible for Daesh to set up base in other countries in the region. For Malaysia, the most obvious target is Sabah or Sarawak,” he said.
Hishammuddin was joined by his Indonesian and Philippine counterparts, Ryamizard Ryacudu and Delfin Negrillo Lorenzana respectively, as well as the top military leadership of all three countries.
Hishammuddin said the trilateral security operation was just the beginning.
“Immediately after the launch, we had a meeting with representatives from Singapore and Brunei. We hope to expand the TMP to five countries,” he said.
He was especially proud of how the initiative brought the Malaysian, Indonesian and the Philippine military forces together.
“Three independent countries and their militaries sitting and working together sends a very strong signal to the world that is so divided right now. That in itself is a success story,” said Hishammuddin.
The conclusion of the launch saw a joint force performing a hostage rescue at sea.
The TMP has established set procedures that have been agreed upon by the three countries, which includes information sharing and improved communications in addition to joint sea and air patrols.
The agreement states that air patrols will be done on a rotational basis, while ships on patrol are required to be at a constant state of readiness.
Hot pursuits into each other’s waters will also be streamlined via Maritime Command Centres (MCC) set up to facilitate the implementation of the TMP.