ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will allow its counterparts from Indonesia and Malaysia to enter Philippine waters to track down Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command said allowing the presence of Indonesian and Malaysian military forces in maritime areas of common concern is provided under the trilateral agreement.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia entered into an agreement last year allowing the three countries to conduct patrols in the waters off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
“Based on the agreement, we can allow the hot pursuit to neutralize the threat provided there is prior coordination with the concerned countries,” Galvez said.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are also planning to designate an area for the deployment of navy and air force multi-forces on rotational basis.
Galvez said the defense ministers of the three nations would discuss the finalization of the standard operating procedure, which will be signed by their respective security leaders.
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“There will be communication exercises, exchange visits and command post exercises among the three countries,” Galvez said.
He said the Philippines and Indonesia have an existing agreement but they have to expand it to include Malaysia, considering the area exploited by the pirates are the Celebes and Sulu seas covering Lahad Datu, Sabah and Indonesian waters.
Galvez said the AFP did not terminate its agreement with Malaysia after Philippine troops rescued the three remaining Malaysian captives from their Abu Sayyaf captors in Sulu on Monday.
“In fact, we are strengthening it because the threat is still there,” he said.
The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur welcomed the rescue of all Malaysian kidnap victims.
Fandy Bakran, Mohd Jumadil Rahim and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail were flown to Manila on Tuesday prior to their return to Kuala Lumpur.
Prior to this, two Malaysians – Abd Rahim Summas and Tayudin Anjut – were rescued by the military in Sulu. All five are crewmembers of Serundung 3.
The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveyed its gratitude to the Philippine government for their efforts in rescuing the kidnapped Malaysian victims.
“The embassy reaffirmed the Philippine government’s resolve to prevent further kidnappings and piracy in the Sulu Sea and to hold the Abu Sayyaf and their affiliates to account for their crimes,” the embassy said. – With Pia Lee-Brago