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AMID ABU SAYYAF KIDNAPPINGS

PHL, Indonesia vow increased cooperation on maritime borders


Indonesia and the Philippines on Wednesday (May 4) vowed to increase cooperation to ensure safety on the open seas.

Indonsian Foreign Minister Marsudi and her Philippine counterpart Jose Rene Almendras, who visited Indonesia for the first time since taking office in March, met in Jakarta ahead of a trilateral meeting with Malaysia on May 5.

"I also came here today because, to participate in the discussions tomorrow on finding solutions to the presence challenges we have in the sea lanes. So we are here, contrary to reports that the Philippines is not supportive of the purpose coordinated patrols and coordinated activities and information sharing that has been proposed. Our presence here is a testament that we in the Philippines, are very, very interested in coming up and participating in the discussion so that agreements can happen," said Almendras.

Indonesia had proposed joint patrol maritime patrols with the Philippines and Malaysia that would involve ships from the three navies patrolling together and crossing into each other's territorial waters.

Following the discussion, a technical team gave advice on how maritime boundaries should be formed, said Marsudi.

"There's a need to hold a joint technical team on maritime boundaries delimitation of the continental shelf immediately because the talks of delimitation of the continental shelf has not concluded yet. That's why we want to negotiate the maritime boundary of continental shelf now. The maritime boundary that is related to EEZ (exclusive economic zone) has been finished and now is in the ratification process," said Marsudi, referring to an earlier agreement, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), that drew boundaries in overlapping region in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.

The Philippines has been discussing coordinated naval patrols on its southern maritime borders with Indonesia and Malaysia to protect shipping after attacks and kidnappings by Islamist militants.

Indonesia is trying to free about 14 of its citizens seized from tugboats by Abu Sayyaf rebels from the southern Philippines and has called for joint patrols. Four Malaysians seamen are also being held.

The Islamist rebels, who are raking in tens of millions of dollars in ransom, decapitated a Canadian last week and are still holding 23 hostages. Citizens of the Netherlands, Japan, Norway and the Philippines are among them.

The ministers are expect to discuss ways to work together to secure key shipping routes in the waters between the three countries. —Reuters

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