From the Jakarta Post (Jul 2): RI wants Philippines to do more in securing release of crew
As the new Philippine government assumes power, Indonesia has asked its neighboring country for determined measures to secure the release of seven Indonesian sailors abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group, and to guarantee safety in the Sulu waters, emphasizing that abductions cannot be tolerated.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi traveled to Manila to meet her counterpart Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr. on Friday, a day after the latter was sworn in for his position under the newly elected President Rodrigu “Rody” Roa Duterte,
In the meeting with her counterpart, Retno called on the neighboring country’s authority to guarantee the safety of the Sulu waters.
Yasay, in response, underlined the strong commitment of his newly elected president to eliminate crimes in the waters and ensured that Philippine authorities would maintain close coordination with Indonesia.
The two countries are pushing for a speedy conclusion in determining a sea lane corridor across the economically strategic but abduction-prone waters in southern Philippines, for commercial ships to sail under tight security of the military forces. The two countries’ foreign ministers agreed to this in a meeting held in Manila on Friday.
The corridor is a follow up to a tripartite meeting between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia’s foreign ministers and military chiefs in March that agreed on the formulation of a standard operation procedure (SOP) for joint patrols in the waters, following a series of abductions of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors by Abu Sayyaf.
But a mere military operation might not be enough to tackle rising threats in the waters that observe US$40 billion of shipments every year, an expert says, as the repeated kidnappings show a lack of commitment from the Philippines in settling its domestic security threats and the need for additional intelligence cooperation between related countries.
Retno, being the first foreign dignitary to meet the Philippines’ new foreign minister, made the journey to discuss the fate of seven Indonesian sailors taken hostages by Abu Sayyaf while transporting coal to the neighboring country last week.
“The meeting with minister Yasay is very important to reiterate a commitment to cooperation between the Indonesian and Philippine governments in efforts to release the hostages,” she said in a written statement.
The meeting ensures that cooperation between Indonesia and previous Philippine governments will be maintained and that communication between the foreign ministers will be intensified, she said.
The two foreign ministers also agreed to precipitate concrete cooperation in maintaining security in Sulu waters, including by establishing a sea lane corridor across, the statement said.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said the sea lane corridor was designed as a shipment route for vessels passing through the waters, with tight monitoring by joint patrols comprising Indonesian, Philippine and Malaysian navies.
While the sea lane corridor will not be mandatory for commercial ships passing through the waters, Arrmanatha explained, the ships will be highly advised to take the route, as any security threats will be easily detected by patrolling officers in the area.
The abduction of the seven sailors — manning tugboat Charles from Makassar — is the latest of three separate incidents involving 21 Indonesian crewmen by the militant group in the last three months.
Military and security observer Mufti Makarim argued that talks on the sea lane and joint patrol showed that the three countries were on the right track.