The Philippines is tightening border security by cooperating with Indonesia and Malaysia to establish designated sea lanes for vessels.
Besides preventing Islamic militant terrorists from gaining access to Philippine’s restive Muslim areas, secure sea lanes will also serve to combat pirates and international criminals in international water.
“If any sea vessels get out from the required sea lanes linking Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia down south to Australia and New Zealand, it will be strictly inspected and searched” said Philippines Defense Secretary, Avelino Cruz.
According to analysts and security officials, Indonesian militant belonging to the regional Jemaah Islamiah (JI) group have taken advantage of the porous southern border of the Philippines to travel unchecked between the two countries. JI is also believed to have used Mindanao in Southern Philippines as a training base and to forge informal alliances with the Philippines Islamic separatist rebels and radical militant.
The Philippines has acknowledged problems guarding the 36,000 km long coastline which is seen as a weak link in the Asian war on terror with militants. The multitude of private inlets and a weak navy and coast guard is a challenge for impoverished Philippines, which could also face opposition from the large number of fishermen between the Philippines and its two neighbours.
The plan for joint cooperation is welcomed by Indonesia and Malaysia. Philippines will submit details of the proposed sea lanes in a few months. “A ‘close watch south’ program will be launched in the next few months using the traditional sea routes linking Mindanai Island, southern Philippines to Indonesia and Malaysian archipelagos” said Cruz. The proposal would also compliment maritime security along the lines implemented by Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the United Statesin the narrow Malacca Straits.
Cruz added that the Australian government was helping Manila to establish a coastal watch system and will supply up to 30 high-speed river boats to help track JI terrorists hiding in jungle camps on Mindanao Island. The U.S. will also play a role in the ‘close watch south’ joint patrol under existing multilateral and bilateral treaties and agreements as an allied country.
Manila wants ships to use designated sea lanes (The Straits Times, 14 March 2006)
Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia to establish secure sea lanes (Xinhua, 13 March 2006)
RP discussing anti-terror sea lanes with Malaysia, Indon (INQ7 Net, 13 March 2006)
Philippines says plans to tighten southern border (Reuters, 13 March 2006)
Australian boats to flush out JI camps in Mindanao (The Australian, 14 March 2006)