M'sia-Indonesia-Philippines must boost efforts to bolster Esscom: Hishammuddin


LAHAD DATU: Malaysia will look into forging closer collaboration with the Philippines and Indonesia to strengthen the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said such working partnerships are essential, as it is difficult to defend the vast areas of eastern Sabah and the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

“We should share initiatives on what we have across the board – for example, (Malaysia’s) military diplomacy with Indonesia and the Philippines.

“I don’t see any reason why we cannot expand (the collaboration) to other agencies and Esscom, to ensure no wastage of assets, quicker response time and sharing of intelligence,” he said during a press conference after attending a briefing by Esscom here.

Hishammuddin, who is also Special Functions Minister, added that Esscom already has a strong foundation, but that the three nations need to ensure that they move in the same direction, as the threats they face are similar.

“The blurring line between security and defence is a global phenomenon, as the militancy (trend) is related to cross-border crimes such as human trafficking and smuggling of items.

“It is also critical for our agencies to work closely at the national level, as the threats faced by our three countries are similar,” he said, adding that Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte had also shown strong political will to combat militants in the southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said the government has been keeping tabs on the possibility of Islamic State militants eyeing the Sulu Sea as their new base, if the war in Syria and Iraq ends.

However, Hishammuddin said that they have not received any concrete or credible information on the establishment of the base as yet.