President Duterte yesterday proposed the creation of a “multinational task force” to conduct naval patrols and help combat cross-border terrorism and sea piracy in Southeast Asia.
The President intends to ask fellow Southeast Asian leaders to support his maritime security proposal during the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit today in Manila. The Philippines is this year’s chairman of the regional bloc.
“To make it safe again, I would suggest during the summit maybe a multinational task force (to patrol the sea) just like what happened in Somalia,” Duterte told reporters before holding talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Malacañang.
The President was referring to the international naval efforts against Somali pirates that have helped make the shipping lanes much safer.
The regional sea patrols were proposed by Duterte as the Philippines and Indonesia have agreed to open a new shipping route to hasten trade between the two nations.
Duterte initially suggested the deployment of additional security escorts to protect the commercial ships from pirates and other lawless elements in the southern waters.
The two countries have agreed to open the Davao City-General Santos-Bitung, Indonesia route to facilitate trade of goods and services. The new shipping route will formally be launched by Duterte and Widodo in Davao City tomorrow.
“Pag-usapan namin kasi may pera diyan eh. Piracy or piracy whatever. Ma-ano ‘yang lugar na ‘yan. So if there’s a commercial route there, you have to consider also the security concerns,” Duterte said. “So maybe we’ll have to agree to provide escorts in the meantime,” he added.
The intensified maritime security cooperation in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas was among the topics tackled in the meeting between Duterte and Widodo.
The two leaders also discussed other concerns such as the war on illegal drugs, maritime cooperation, enhancing economic ties, and intensifying people-to-people exchanges.
The President welcomed Widodo to Manila and reaffirmed his commitment to further enhance bilateral ties with its close Asian ally.
“The Philippines values its long-standing relationship with Indonesia. Our formal ties date back to treaty of friendship in 1951 but we are bound of centuries of interaction and exchange,” Duterte said.
He said the country’s relations Indonesia is one of the country’s oldest diplomatic relations and “we are eager to achieve more.”
“I am positive that tour meeting today will mark yet a new chapter of positive engagement at the bilateral, sub-regional. and regional levels. It is my wish that this sustained engagement will further deepen the foundation of our relations in the decades to come,” he said.
Widodo thanked the President for inviting him to visit Manila, saying it was an honor to reciprocate his visit to Indonesia a few months ago.
He said the two countries have “robust cooperation,” adding he is convinced the bilateral relations will further be strengthened with the meeting with Duterte.
Meanwhile, not all the country’s workers will likely be happy on Labor Day.
A few days before he leads his first Labor Day commemoration, Duterte has conceded that some labor groups will still be disappointed with his announcement on May 1, saying he could not please everyone all the time.
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” the President told reporters in Malacañang last Thursday when asked if he will announce some good news on Labor Day. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)