Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed on holding a planned joint land patrol exercise next month aimed at tackling security challenges in the waters between Borneo and the southern Philippines, an Indonesian Cabinet minister said Wednesday.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the one-month, trilateral exercise would be held in the Indonesian town of Tarakan in East Kalimantan Province, the Indonesian part of Borneo island, as the three Southeast Asian countries band together against Islamist militancy.
Asked whether the exercise will be followed by the formation of a joint patrol force comprised of three countries’ militaries, Ryamizard replied, “We’ll do the exercise first and let’s see what happens.”
Currently, the three countries have maritime command centers in various locations around the region that serve as centers of information and intelligence sharing.
Since early 2017, dozens of Indonesians and Malaysians have been abducted in the Sulu Sea, a body of water in the southwestern area of the Philippines, by armed men linked to the notoriously violent Abu Sayyaf rebel group.
Abu Sayyaf advocates an independent Islamic state comprising part of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. In addition to kidnappings-for-ransom, it has engaged in bombings, assassinations and extortion, making it one of the most serious security threats faced by the Philippines.