PETALING JAYA: The Trilateral Air Patrol between Malaysian, Philippine and Indonesian air forces launched in Subang today is Asean's signal to growing concerns over Islamic State (IS) that the region is ready to stand together against it.
This tone was evident as Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and his counterparts, Indonesian Defence Minister Gen (rtd) Ryamizard Ryacudu and Philippine defence secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, proclaimed the security and defence collaboration between the three nations in the high risk waters of the Sulu Sea and the Southern Philippines region was now complete.
"The joint trilateral patrols will continue for as long as it takes. This should be a signal to Daesh (another name for IS) and those involved in piracy at seas between our three countries that we will bring them down," said Hishammuddin.
The joint air patrols complete the trilateral military collaboration in the Sulu Sea following the launch of the Trilateral Maritime Patrols between the navies of the three nations in the Tarakan Islands in Indonesia in April.
Such patrols, said Lorenzano, should not raise concerns over breaches of territorial waters or airspace as these were joint operations which meant the three military forces were in constant contact.
"It allows for incidents such as where a navy patrol is carrying out a hot pursuit and suspects breach waters of other countries, for them to not just follow through but also receive support from the other countries," said Lorenzano.
"Since the maritime patrols were launched in April, the results have been very positive. We have not had reports of piracy activities usually rampant in the area since then."
Ryamizard said besides a strong signal to IS and extremist groups, this was also a sign that Asean members could stand together and settle such issues themselves.
"I've been contacted by the military heads of the United States and China, wanting to be involved," said Ryamizard.
"But I told them I had to consult Asean members. Now, with such operations in place, we are able to show such powers that Asean is capable of taking care of its own security and defence," said Ryamizard.
Further military collaborations, in particular in addressing IS in the wake of the Marawi standoff in the Southern Philippines subsequent to the militant group's declaration of a caliphate in that region, will be hot topics at the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in Manila next month.