DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – The staging of the 31st coordinated maritime patrol between Philippine and Indonesian naval forces is timely and may prevent foreign terrorists from sending reinforcements to the Maute Group through the porous Southern backdoor, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) deputy commander BGen. Gilbert Gapay said.
During the opening of the 31st CORPAT PHILINDO at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Tuesday, Gapay said the joint activity would tighten security along the border of the two countries, known to be the gateway of foreign terrorists to Mindanao.
“There are foreign terrorists who have slipped into our country. They used our southern backdoor and this border patrol would tighten the security there and somehow prevent further infiltration or incursion of foreign terrorists into our country,” said Gapay, who is also the Martial Law spokesperson for Eastmincom.
“They might, as we all know, they are trying to reinforce some Maute-ISIS terrorists there,” he said.
The Army official was referring to the ISIS-inspired Maute Group which has been fighting government forces in Marawi City since May 23.
He said the naval forces of the two countries also aim to address transnational crimes such as smuggling and piracy in the seas, aside from the threat of global terrorism.
He said coordinated maritime patrol would deter illegal activities in this area.
“We could only imagine kung wala ito talagang (if there’s nothing like this), it’s really open, our southern backdoor,” he said.
Indonesian troops on-board KRI 812 arrived in the city on Monday.
On July 6, Philippine and Indonesian naval ships will sail to Davao Gulf. They will make a stopover in Balut Island, Sarangani, Davao Occidental on July 7 for a medical mission in coordination with the local government unit, Department of Health, and Department of Social Welfare and Development, before proceeding to the Celebes Sea.
The coordinated maritime patrol will end in Manado, Indonesia on July 12.
Gapay said the two navies will learn from one another their best practices in the areas of communication, inter-operability and coordination exercises, among others.
“Of course, we want to hone the skills of our sailors from both countries because along the way they will be out there for six days. Along the way, they will be having exercises like visits at the border seas and seashore exercises,” he said.
Capt. Taat Siswo Sunarto, chief of staff of Maritime Security Task Force of Indonesia’s Eastern Fleet Command, said he hopes the coordinated patrol between the two countries will continue to promote mutual cooperation, friendship, and better understanding.
He said they hope to further increase the bilateral cooperation of the two countries in securing their borders to address the security issues there.
“We have learned their techniques. At the same time the Indonesian navy has learned ours. We have noted that the interoperability of the ships has been excellent and of course, the takeaways of this exercise, is also the camaraderie between our sailors,” said Capt. Ramil Roberto Enriquez, commander of the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao.
On the reported presence of foreign terrorists in the country, Enriquez said it remains unclear how they entered Mindanao, although he admitted that the vast southern backdoor of the country remains porous despite the presence of patrol ships.
But he vowed they would clamp down on illegal activities in this area. Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews