(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 4, 2016 – 12:00am
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will jointly pursue the Abu Sayyaf as an international terrorist group, President Duterte said.
Duterte stressed the need for the three countries to join forces and strengthen border patrol to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from kidnapping foreigners.
“We are looking into who are with the Abu Sayyaf other than the Filipinos. There could be foreigners with the group,” Duterte said on Tuesday.
Duterte said he would discuss the issue with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when he visits Kuala Lumpur next week.
“I have already discussed it with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and we have agreed on strengthening our border cooperation,” he said.
Up to 18 Indonesians and Malaysians were kidnapped in three attacks on tugboats earlier this year in Philippine waters by groups suspected to have ties to the Abu Sayyaf. All 14 Indonesian citizens were later released.
The rise of sea hijackings involving the Abu Sayyaf has prompted Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia to agree on measures to coordinate patrols to secure the region’s busy waterways. However, coordinated patrols are yet to get underway.
“We are going to jointly address this problem of piracy in the seas together with Indonesia and Malaysia by conducting joint border patrols in going after the Abu Sayyaf,” Duterte said.
Abu Sayyaf, known for amassing tens of millions of dollars from kidnappings, reportedly earned more than P380 million in ransom for the first half of the year.
“The point is, they are bringing their victims and keeping them in Sulu,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the government would also look into the 126,000 cross-border trips between Malaysia and the Philippines as well as between Indonesia and the Philippines that have gone unchecked by proper authorities.