KOTA KINABALU: The anticipated Malaysia-Philippines-Indonesia joint security patrols in the Sulu Sea will begin in May, says Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.
The first of three operations would be held in Bongao Island in the southern Philippines, followed by Sabah and Indonesia, added the Defence Minister.
The assurance of the joint security initiative under the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) comes after doubts were raised over the last-minute cancellation of the launching in Sandakan on April 11.
This took place after Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Loren Zana could not attend the launch.
“It is quite hard to get all three countries at once to sign and launch the initiative,” said Hishammuddin.
“But we are set to go on with the plans,” he added at the 83rd anniversary of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and the launching of RMN’s Western and Eastern armada commands at the Sepanggar naval base here yesterday.
Hishammuddin said it was necessary for the three nations to work together to fight threats from the Abu Sayyaf, Islamic State (IS) and other cross-border militant and criminal groups.
He said Malaysia was in charge of maritime patrols while Indonesia would handle air security.
“The Philippines will be carrying out both sea and air patrols under the trilateral cooperative.”
Hishammuddin said Sabah’s security was assured with the launching of the Eastern fleet command, which would cover Sabah and Sarawak, while the Western fleet command for peninsular Malaysia would be based in Lumut.
Apart from the deployment of vessels and assets, they have also equipped the navy with Starstreak surface-to-air missiles as part of multiple efforts to strengthen security in Sabah.
The move to set up the fleet commands is intended to give extra focus and attention to maritime security in Sabah and Sarawak.
Previously, it was under the singular command of the RMN from its base in Lumut.
Rear Admiral Datuk Syed Zahiruddin Putra Syed Osman is the first Eastern fleet commander.
Hishammuddin hoped that the people in Sabah understood that the Government was working hard to protect them from threats.
“We hope with all these, we will be able to provide fast response to any situation in Sabah and Sarawak.”