Hishammuddin with Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu (left), the Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Negrillo Lorenzana (second , right) TARAKAN, June 19 (Bernama) -- The launch of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) involving troops from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines today, not only shows the understanding and trust between the countries involved, but also sends a message to the world about ASEAN's commitment to combating terrorism.
Malaysia's Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the world must realise that it was impossible for a country to work alone in combating such activities, but required cooperation in terms of military assets, a sound strategy, and belief in each other.
"To me, it's not so much patrolling that is important, but the trust that has been created by three countries; independent countries with independent militaries, sitting and working together, thus sending a strong, clear to the world which is divided now.
"With political will and trust, nothing is impossible...and this is the sign of the comfort level among these three countries and the realisation that it (fighting terrorism) cannot be dealt with individually."
He said this to the Malaysian media after launching the initiative together with his counterparts Ryamizard Ryacudu from Indonesia and Delvin N. Lorenzana of the Philippines, on board the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) hospital ship KRI DR Soeharso-990, at the Port of Tarakan, here, today.
Hishammuddin, who is also the Minister of Special Functions, said although the initiative was still in its infancy and had yet to show any results, the trust between the three countries, in addition to joint patrols, sharing of assets and intelligence, showed the world how ASEAN handled things.
Earlier, Hishammuddin and his counterparts witnessed the signing of an epigraph by Malaysian Armed Forces chief Tan Sri General Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, Indonesian National Army chief General Gatot Nurmantyo, and the Philippines Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo M. Ano AFP, to symbolise the launch of the maritime control centres in Tarakan, Indonesia; Tawau, Malaysia; and Bongao, the Philippines.
Singapore Senior Minister of Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman and Brunei Deputy Minister of Defence Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Mohd Tamit were also present as observers.
Commenting on the presence of representatives from Brunei and Singapore, he said there were plans to expand cooperation with the two countries.
"However, we have to decide at the ministerial-level first, because the ones who came (Mohamad Maliki and Abdul Aziz) were only representatives of their respective defence ministers. However, their presence clearly shows that all parties understand that the enemy in the southern Philippines today is a common enemy, and it is impossible to deal with the threat alone," he said.
Meanwhile, in a press statement issued at the event, Hishammuddin said the main goal of the TMP initiative was to ensure that militants including Daesh would not make the Sulu Sea a route to infiltrate the three countries involved.
He said the initiative was also an effort to curb piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery in the waters concerned.
"This proposal is based on the success of the Melaka Straits Patrol (MSP) in the Straits of Melaka, which involves cooperation among Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, and its implementation has been proven successful in combating piracy.
"Therefore, I believe the template that we have used for eight years in the Straits of Melaka, focusing on Coordinated Border Patrol, Eyes In The Sky, and Intelligence Exchange, is perfectly suited for the Sulu Sea," he said.
Hishammuddin said the TMP, among others, would see regular sea patrols by the respective countries, coordinated sea and air patrols, ensuring the registered assets could provide emergency assistance in the Sulu Sea and Sulawesi Sea, as well as air patrols on a rotational basis.
"Personally, I hope the initiatives will have a positive and direct impact on the safety of Sabah and the Sulu Sea.
"As a member country of ASEAN, Malaysia will continue to think of the best method and approach from time to time to safeguard the wellbeing and security of the country and region," he said.