The Philippines is seeking international assistance to guard a major sea lane against pirates attacking international shipping.
In a bid to stop the expansion of piracy in its southern seas, the Philippines has requested US and Chinese help in patrolling the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines.
In the past year, a surge in Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines boarding ships and kidnapping dozens of crewmembers for ransom has forced ship owners to divert their vessels, pushing up costs and shipping times.
In response, after meeting a special envoy from Indonesia to address the growing threat, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte urged China to launch patrols into the piracy-plagued waters.
Speaking to newly-promoted army generals, Duterte revealed he had sought China’s help in guarding the dangerous waters, according the South China Morning Post.
“I also asked China if they can patrol the international waters without necessarily intruding into the territorial waters of the country,” he said.
“We would be glad if we have their presence.”
Defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana told AFP on Tuesday that Manila also plans to ask its longstanding defence ally the US to hold joint exercises in the waters to address the problems.
Philippine coast guard chief commodore Joel Garcia added that it was the responsibility of the international community to make sure the region did not become another Somalia-style pirate haven.
“If ship owners will skirt around that area just to avoid kidnap at sea activities by these terrorists, for sure, it will have an additional cost,” he said.
“It’s not just the concern of the Philippines or Indonesia and Malaysia, but of the international shipping community.”
The International Maritime Bureau has also warned of the dangers of pirates in the Philippines as crew kidnappings hit a record high in 2016.
The deep-water channel, which is used by 13,000 vessels each year, provides the fastest route south and west from the manufacturing giants China, Japan and South Korea.
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