The establishment of the trilateral maritime patrol arrangement between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines early this week will boost business confidence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said Ishak Mastura, chairman of the ARMM’s Regional Board of Investment.
“This (TMP) is an important development for the ARMM because people from our island provinces have been doing cross-border trade since time immemorial and even before there were borders to cross,” Mastura said.
ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman also welcomed the TMP, saying it would ensure security for traders in the ARMM who are doing business in Malaysia and Indonesia. “This development will shore up trade and commerce in these areas,” he said, noting this will also help small-scale enterprises in the region.
Gov. Hataman said traders in ARMM have been doing businesses in these neighboring areas for centuries through barter trading. He said tighter security measures in the Sulu Sea would also help as the regional government is pushing for the revival of barter trading to curb smuggling activities in southern Philippines.
“The incidents of piracy and lawlessness in the Sulu Sea did not prevent traditional cross-border trade but international transshipment was affected by it. By conducting trilateral border patrols we believe that transshipment, wherein bigger volumes of cargoes are safely moved among the three countries, can make a comeback,” said Mastura.
The departments of Defense of the three nations have agreed to step-up security measures in the roughly one million square-kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas. This tri-border area is among the major trade routes in Southeast Asia.
The area is also the fishing ground of commercial fishery operators, specifically those into tuna and sardines operations. This route is also used by Indonesian suppliers of coal for power plants in Mindanao and in the transshipment of major goods between Sabah in Malaysia and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
The TMP was agreed upon following a spike in hijacking in the last quarter of 2016, where local terrorist Abu Sayyaf group attacked international vessels and kidnapped sailors. To date, there are still five Vietnamese sailors that are in the hands of the bandits.
Brigadier General Custodio Parcon, commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, who also oversees the operations of the Maritime Command Center in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi under the Joint Task Force IndoMalPhil, said the initiative is also aimed at combating the present threat of jihadist groups, which use this route in setting up cells in the three neighboring countries. (Bureau of Public Information)