Philippines, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime patrols along porous borders

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal and Rear Admiral Didik Setiyono during the signing of the agreement on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy: AFP Eastmincom)
Updated 09 January 2018

Philippines, Indonesia agree to strengthen maritime patrols along porous borders

MANILA: The Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to intensify patrol operations amid the threat of terrorism in the region.
This was the consensus reached during the 36th Republic of the Philippines–Republic of Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference held in Davao City Jan. 8-9.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, chief, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), led the Philippine delegation, while Rear Admiral Didik Setiyono, commander of the Eastern Fleet Command, headed the Indonesian one. The Committees deliberated on matters of common concern to both countries.
The conference was held days after President Rodrigo Duterte met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Davao City. During their meeting, the Philippine leader said he wants to intensify maritime security cooperation with Indonesia as terrorists continue to enter and exit the country through its southern waters.
A joint statement by the two countries’ border committee chairmen said that in support of the Philippine leader, they have agreed to strengthen coordinated patrols to ensure security and maritime control in their common borders.
“It also aims to prevent the utilization of our respective territorial waters as an avenue for the proliferation of terrorism and other transnational crimes,” the statement read.
“Similarly, the committees agreed to look into measures to ensure the safe passage of our respective nationals, to include fisher folks, in the border areas. This effort will contribute to uplifting the economic wellbeing of our respective countrymen while assuring their protection en route to the fishing grounds at high seas,” it added.
Considering the porous shorelines of the two countries’ archipelagic domains, both committees also looked into increasing the number of Border Crossing Stations (BCS) at common border areas and, to further strengthen the operational functions of the existing BCSs.
This effort will provide a systematic scheme in closely monitoring the entry and exit of the nationals of both countries with the hands-on involvement of each country’s immigration, quarantine and customs bureaus.
Further, the committees decided to include other concerned military units and government agencies in the border committees, and to establish a definitive hotline between their naval commanders to immediately address developing situations and other challenges.
Both committees also intend to jumpstart the review of the 1975 Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements that will seek to recommend amendments of its provisions to improve maritime security cooperation between the two countries.
Last week, Marsudi paid a courtesy call on Duterte at the presidential guest house in Davao City. Duterte and the Indonesian Foreign Minister agreed to elevate cooperation on trade, maritime security, education, and in eradicating terrorism.
Duterte also expressed interest in the resumption of the Philippines-Indonesia routes to further strengthen trade between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reiterated on Tuesday that the military continues to verify reports that more foreign terrorists have entered Mindanao.
“We are trying to confirm reports that there are foreign terrorists inside the country, especially in Mindanao,” Lorenzana told reporters, adding there are reports from other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia indicating an increase of foreign terrorists coming into the country through the southern backdoor.
“We haven’t confirmed anything, though,” said the defense chief.


Hong Kong protesters aim for big turnout at rare sanctioned march

Updated 4 min 14 sec ago

Hong Kong protesters aim for big turnout at rare sanctioned march

  • March comes two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections
  • Millions have hit the streets in protests fueled by years of growing fears that China is stamping out the city’s liberties

HONG KONG: Hong Kong democracy protesters are hoping for huge crowds later Sunday at a rally they have billed as a “last chance” for the city’s pro-Beijing leaders in a major test for the six-month-old movement.
The march comes two weeks after pro-establishment parties got a drubbing in local elections, shattering government claims that a “silent majority” opposed the protests.
The semi-autonomous financial hub has been battered by increasingly violent demonstrations in the starkest challenge the city has presented to Beijing since its 1997 handover from Britain.
Millions have hit the streets in protests fueled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city’s liberties.
The last fortnight has seen a marked drop in street battles and protester vandalism after the landslide win by pro-democracy candidates.
But activists say anger is building once more after chief executive Carrie Lam and Beijing ruled out any further concessions despite the election defeat.
The city’s police have taken the unusual step of allowing the Civil Human Rights Front to hold a march through the main island on Sunday — the first time the group has been granted permission since mid-August.
Organizers have called on Lam to meet their demands which include an independent inquiry into the police’s handling of the protests, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.
“This is the last chance given by the people to Carrie Lam,” CHRF leader Jimmy Sham said on Friday.
Hong Kong’s protests are largely leaderless and organized online. They were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the mainland but have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s rule.
The CHRF, which advocates non-violence, has been the main umbrella group behind record-breaking rallies earlier in the summer that saw huge crowds regularly march in searing heat.
Authorities have repeatedly banned major rallies in recent months citing the risk of violence from hardcore protesters.
Large crowds have simply ignored the bans, sparking near-weekly tear gas and petrol bomb clashes that have upended Hong Kong’s reputation for stability and helped tip the city into recession.
Sunday afternoon’s march will follow a well-worn route on the main island from Victoria Park to the heart of the commercial district.
It comes a day before the city marks the six-month anniversary of the protest movement in which some 6,000 people have been arrested and hundreds injured, including police.
Online forums used to organize the movement’s more radical wing have vowed to target the morning commute on Monday if there is no response from Lam.
Years of huge, peaceful democracy marches have made little headway, leading to increased radicalization among some Hong Kong protesters and a greater willingness to embrace violent tactics.
But there is little sign Lam is willing to budge, leading to fears the lull in street clashes will be temporary.
Since the local elections the city’s chief executive has remained steadfast in her opposition to further concessions and Beijing has stuck by her even as she languishes with record low approval ratings.
The police force’s reputation has also taken a hammering.
A new poll released on Friday by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme, which has tracked public sentiment for years, showed record disapproval for the force with 40 percent of respondents now giving the force the lowest mark of zero.
Over the last two days the city’s new police chief Chris Tang has been in Beijing where he met with senior party figures including public security chief Zhao Kezhi who gave his “strongest backing” according to official reports.
Tang, who has continued his predecessor’s policy of rejecting calls for an independent inquiry, said his officers would clamp down on any violence at Sunday’s march.
“If there is arson, petrol bombs or damage to shops, we will take action,” he told reporters in Beijing.
“But for minor issues, we will handle in a flexible and humane manner,” he added.