Senior Philippine military officials are expected to meet their Malaysian counterparts to discuss security coordination in view of a spate of kidnappings along the shared sea borders.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan Jr said that Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz would be setting the meeting next week.
Tan said a joint patrol might be among the issues to be discussed in finding solutions to the kidnappings of 18 sailors–14 Indonesians and four Malaysians–in three separate raids along the Sabah and Tawi-Tawi sea borders since March 26.
He said troops were on high alert following the latest kidnapping of four Indonesian sailors on board tugboat TB Henry by Filipino gunmen on Friday night.
Following abductions along the border, Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had called for joint patrols and aerial surveillance with neighboring countries to tackle piracy and kidnappings in the Sulu Sea.
There is also mounting pressure by leaders of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to address the issue of kidnappings following the April 6 Sabah government’s move to ban barter trade with its neighbors in Tawi-Tawi where prices of sundry goods including fuel have doubled.
ARMM executive secretary Laisa Alamia said the sea trade shut down was badly affecting traders in Tawi-Tawi, which has a traditional barter-trading route in the southern backdoor of the country.
He said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman wants to meet Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to discuss the issues with Malaysia.
photo from Inquirer.net