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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Esscom welcomes green light on pursuits into Philippines

Hazani-Ghazali--esscom-1

KOTA KINABALU: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has welcomed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s go-ahead for Malaysian troops to enter Philippine waters in pursuit of terrorists.
On Saturday, Duterte declared that Malaysian and Indonesian vessels were now free to enter Philippine waters for this purpose.
Speaking to the media on his return from a state visit to India, Duterte said all Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur had to do was alert the Philippine armed forces about their operations to hunt down terrorists in Philippine territory.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, since last year. We really welcome this new development.
“The clearance to enter our neighbours’ waters will be part of a trilateral maritime security agreement,” Esscom chief Hazani Ghazali told FMT, adding that the matter had been discussed by Malaysia’s defence and foreign ministers with their Philippine and Indonesian counterparts.
Hazani said the clearance to enter foreign waters would be a mutual agreement between all three countries.
“We hope security can be further boosted in the waters between the three countries.
“There will certainly be procedures to follow when we enter the neighbouring nations’ waters in pursuit of criminals and terrorists.
“We expect this to be a trilateral arrangement, so we can enter each other’s waters while chasing pirates, kidnappers and militants.”
The opening of maritime borders is expected to cut the lag time between when a Malaysian vessel halts its pursuit and when the neighbouring country continues the chase.
In his announcement on Saturday, Duterte said Philippine authorities would also assist in the operations carried out by Malaysia and Indonesia.
He added that he had informed his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts about the matter.
“I also said if it’s terrorists, my advice to them is just blow them up.”
Esscom oversees security in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), a special security area spanning some 1,700km of coastline in the east coast of Sabah.
Esscom and Esszone were formed following the 2013 Lahad Datu intrusion by militants sent by the so-called Sulu sultanate in southern Philippines to stake their territorial claim on Sabah.
The security in the waters between the three countries was at its highest level during the Marawi war between Philippine troops and pro-Islamic State groups, between May and October last year.
It was feared that terrorists would run away to Indonesia and Malaysia following heavy offensives by the Philippine military to flush them out of the city. -FMT

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