Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to Discuss Piracy in May 5 Meeting

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
160428-ID-tripartite-meet-620.jpg Philippine President Benigno Aquino III talks to a soldier who was wounded in a clash with Abu Sayyaf militants, during a visit to a military hospital in Zamboanga City, April 27, 2016.
AFP/Benhur Arcayan/Malacanang Photo Bureau

Top officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will convene in Jakarta on May 5 to discuss maritime security after three acts of piracy in recent weeks by armed groups operating from the southern Philippines.

The meeting will bring together the foreign ministers and military chiefs of the three countries, according to Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry.

“This meeting is expected to produce a joint statement on security and economic activity as well as the movement of people in the region and a memorandum of understanding signed by the three commanders on maritime security,” Arrmanatha told reporters at the ministry in Jakarta on Thursday.

Officials intend to ensure that cooperation and economic activity among the three countries are not disturbed by militants based in the southern Philippines, he added.

Fourteen Indonesian and four Malaysian sailors have been taken hostage since late March in acts of piracy in the Celebes and Sulu seas, which surround Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

That area is an important one for economic and trade activities among the three nations, Arrmanatha said.

“We hope this meeting will produce concrete results such as joint patrols,” he said.

On Monday, Abu Sayyaf beheaded a Canadian hostage it had held since September 2015 after its ransom demands were not met. Groups in the southern Philippines hold about 20 foreigners hostage.

Indonesian initiative

The Indonesia-flagged Brahma 12 tugboat and Anand 12 barge carrying 7,000 tons of coal were hijacked at the same time during a journey from South Kalimantan, Indonesia to Batangas, in the southern Philippines, on March 26. Ten sailors were taken hostage.

The second attack occurred on April 1 when the MV Massive 6, owned by a Malaysian shipping company, was attacked by a group thought to be a splinter faction of Abu Sayyaf.

That boat was plying the Manila-Tawau route, carrying 7,500 tons of coal. The attackers seized four Malaysian crew members but released three from Indonesia and two from Myanmar.

Then, on April 16, the Indonesian tugboat Cristi returning to Indonesia from the Philippines was attacked on the maritime boundary between Malaysia and the Philippines.

Four Indonesian crew members were seized, while six – including one who was shot – were rescued by Malaysian authorities.

Arrmanatha stressed that the Indonesian captives were not on the island of Basilian when a significant battle broke out there between Armed Forces of the Philippines and Abu Sayyaf, which has declared allegiance to the Islamic State. The April 9 encounter left significant casualties on both sides.

Frequent Updates

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry is receiving frequent updates on the conditions of the hostages from its Philippine counterpart.

“Our priority is the safety of the 14 Indonesian citizens,” Arrmanatha said.

On Tuesday, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo stressed that his government would not pay a ransom to groups holding hostages.

“We never compromise on things like that. We have nothing to do with ransoms,” he told reporters at the presidential palace.

Jokowi acknowledged that freeing the hostages would be difficult.

“That region is currently surrounded by Philippine soldiers. We also know the hostages have been moved around,” he said.

On April 19, Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal Affairs and Security Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the company that employed the 10 sailors snatched on March 26 had agreed to pay the 50 million pesos (U.S. $1.07 million) ransom demanded by Abu Sayyaf.


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