Manila, Philippines, 15 Dzulqa’dah 1437/18 August 2016 (MINA) – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related meetings in Laos next month, but Malacañang is hoping he will visit Malaysia and Indonesia first to further strengthen the country’s security agreement with Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta to address terrorism and other transnational crimes, particularly in Mindanao.
In a press briefing yesterday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte would rather skip the official visits to the ASEAN countries but was aware of the “tradition” for a new president.
Abella said they were also preparing for the country’s chairmanship and hosting of the ASEAN summit and related meetings next year.
“After Laos we’ll be taking over,” Abella said.
In case Duterte visits Malaysia and Indonesia, Abella said the Philippines would reiterate its commitment to keep “porous points” safe from terrorist groups, including passages in the sea borders shared by the three countries.
Speaking at the weekly afternoon coffee at Manila Bay, Manila, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said regional cooperation among the three countries was discussed by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak early this week.
Securing common borders
In Malaysia, Dureza pointed out the significance of the recent trilateral meeting of the defense ministers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to deal with the security situation in the common borders.
Citing the close proximity between Malaysia and Sulu, Andanar said security concerns would always pose dangers to economic growth and other possibilities for trade if not addressed.
Andanar, who was also part of the entourage that went to Kuala Lumpur last weekend for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said security issues, along with the need to revitalize the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), were among the major concerns raised by Najib in the meeting with Dureza.
“The Prime Minister also reiterated (the need) to establish (secure) sea lanes between Philippines and Malaysia, and Philippines and Indonesia… anything outside those sea lanes will be deemed hostile seas,” he added.
Andanar cited the strength and defense capabilities of the Indonesian and Malaysian naval forces, which could also help boost the country’s defense in the waters of Mindanao where members of the Abu Sayyaf had been conducting kidnapping operations.
The Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped Indonesians and Malaysians crossing common maritime borders.
“We know how superior is the Royal (Malaysian) Navy and the Navy of Indonesia so with (their) cooperation… we will have a trilateral agreement… which will make it easier for us to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.
In his report, Dureza said Najib stressed the importance of Mindanao’s economic development to ensure long-lasting stability and the need for regional cooperation to address the growing threat of the Islamic State (IS) extremist elements, kidnap-for-ransom groups and transnational crimes. (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)