By Francis Wakefield
Highlighting the importance of coordination and trust in maintaining peace and security in the region, the Defense Chiefs of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia formally launched the joint Trilateral Air Patrol at RMAF Subang Air Base in Malaysia recently.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Malaysian Defense Minister and launching host YB Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, and Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, all expressed their commitment to continue working together, especially on countering the movement of violent extremists and terrorists across the porous borders of the three countries.
Following the success of the trilateral maritime patrol inaugurated in June this year, the joint air patrol is the second component of the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) to secure the maritime areas of common concern among the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
“With today’s (October 12) launching of the Trilateral Air Patrol, the cooperation among our three countries is complete,” Lorenzana said.
“In fact, the maritime patrol is working very well. We have not had incidents, piracy or kidnappings in the maritime areas of common concern. We would like to maintain that. The addition of the trilateral air patrol will definitely enhance our operation against lawless elements in the seas,” he added.
The air forces of the three countries will take turns in leading the joint air patrol operations. All three air forces have already made the commitments on the deployment schedule of air assets.
Lorenzana said the rotational naval and air patrols, as well as information sharing and communications, will be supported by the Joint Maritime Coordinating Centers in Tarakan, Indonesia; Tawau, Malaysia; and Bongao, Philippines.
Minister Hishammuddin, in his speech, emphasized the threats posed by terrorist organizations that have already activated their base of operations on the maritime borders of the neighboring countries.
“The extensive nature of the effects inflicted by these threats has made it clear that it should not be addressed by one country alone. It requires regional cooperation among like-minded countries,” Minister Hishammuddin said, adding that the joint maritime and air patrol operations of the three countries will be permanent and will continue for as long as needed.
In addition, Minister Ryacudu noted that through discussions, such as the upcoming ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting, other members of the ASEAN are welcome to join the efforts facilitated by the INDOMALPHI initiative.
The Indonesian defense chief also underscored the capability of ASEAN countries and their militaries, as well as the potential of the member states to address pressing security issues through cooperation.
Aside from the defense ministers, the chiefs of the armed forces and the air forces of the three countries, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Defense Dr. Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and Brunei’s Deputy Defense Minister Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit also attended the ceremony as observers.