In an effort to deal with the rising number of kidnappings and pirate attacks in the Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have joined forces to decrease security risks in the area, according to the Philippine Department of National Defense.
In a meeting held on Monday, the parties agreed to designate a transit corridor for commercial vessels which operate in the common maritime areas where Filipino pirate groups linked to Islamist extremists, the Abu Sayyaf group, are attacking and hijacking vessels and their crews, Reuters reports.
The countries also agreed to step up air and sea patrols and escorts for commercial ships in the areas to prevent potential attacks.
The countries’ representatives did not sign a definitive agreement on the plans, but the border security agreement could be formalized within a year.
The discussions follow a spate of kidnappings and armed robberies at sea, as nearly 20 Indonesian and Malaysian tugboat crewmembers were kidnapped so far this year.
At the end of March an Indonesian crew of ten seafarers was kidnapped when a tug and a barge were hijacked in the Philippines. The incident was followed by another kidnapping of four crewmembers from a tug soon afterwards.
Furthermore, the rise in hijackings pushed Indonesia to start restricting shipping of coal to its neighboring Philippines in April, as the country’s ports of Banjarmasin and Tarakan in Kalimantan stopped issuing permits to vessels taking coal to the Philippines.