SANDAKAN: The much-anticipated signing of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol of Sulu and Sulawesi seas agreement here on Tuesday has been postponed as Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will not be able to attend the ceremony.
The ceremony was to be attended by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (pic), Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Lorenzana at the Malaysian naval base KD Sandakan.
Hishammuddin issued a media statement late on Sunday saying that the event had been postponed indefinitely.
"This is because he (Lorenzana) has been directed to accompany Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on an official visit to the Middle East from April 10 to 16,” Hishammuddin said.
Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to postpone the signing to a date when all three defence ministers can attend, he added.
At the Bali meeting in August last year, the three countries reached an understanding on trilateral maritime cooperation on the standard operating procedures (SOP) for securing regional waters.
The joint sea patrols would cover piracy and other crimes such as terrorism, human trafficking and drug smuggling in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.
It was also proposed that the security forces of the three countries conduct joint navy and army exercises, including the setting up of a military post to enhance coordination and intelligence sharing.
Security officials at the Bali meeting also discussed the deployment of security personnel to guard commercial ships passing through Sulu waters, including a system to allow naval vessels to enter another nation’s territory.
They also discussed efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by the Abu Sayyaf group.