KOTA KINABALU, April 27 — The much anticipated signing for a joint patrol of the Sulu and Sulawesi seas involving Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines has been rescheduled to May, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today.
He said the treaty signing will be held in Bongao, the southern Philippines but the exact date has yet to be fixed.
“It is not easy to find a date for all three defence ministers to meet. But all three countries will have a launching, and the first in Bongao next month. We will also launch it in Sandakan, Sabah and Indonesia,” he told reporters after attending the 83rd Royal Malaysian Navy anniversary at the Sepanggar naval base here.
The signing was initially scheduled earlier this month but was cancelled at the last minute as the Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana could not attend the event in Sandakan.
The three countries reached an understanding last August for a tripartite cooperation to arrest crimes in the South-east Asian waters.
The joint sea patrols would involve joint maritime and air patrol, intelligence sharing and joint communications in order to combat piracy, terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling and other crimes in the Sulu and Sulawesi seas.
“To get these three countries to cooperate on this effort is a big deal, especially considering the geopolitics in the region. But it gives us a good chance when going up against the combined terrorist threat of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Islamic State and Daesh militants.
“It is not easy to come to a three country agreement, but with a common enemy, it is not hard to unite for a bigger cause,” Hishammuddin said.
Earlier, he also newly witnessed the restructured Western Fleet Command and Eastern Fleet Command, which he said was aimed to give extra focus and attention to maritime security in Sabah and Sarawak.
The navy fleet was previously under a single command at the naval base in Lumut, Perak.
“The addition of a second naval base is needed to protect our country’s sovereignty. Even in this economic climate, we cannot compromise on security,” Hishammuddin said.
The federal minister said he will be visiting Eastern Sabah Security Command base tomorrow for further talks on the state’s security needs.