MANILA: Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with her counterpart Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr, in Manila on Friday (Jul 1), one day after Mr Yasay was officially inaugurated as the Foreign Minister of the Philippines.
“The meeting with Minister Yasay was very important for the hostage rescue efforts, currently being made by the government of Indonesia and the Philippines,” said Ms Retno.
On Jun 20, 13 sailors on board a Indonesian-flagged vessel were attacked twice by armed groups.
In the first incident, three sailors from the tugboat, Charles, were taken hostage by a group of five to six men. About 75 minutes later, a second boat abducted four more sailors. The six sailors that were not kidnapped were released unharmed and have arrived back to Indonesia.
Ms Retno said that the two parties had agreed to intensify communications in the case of the rescue efforts. She also explained that Indonesia would not tolerate hostage incidents like this, and requested the government of the Philippines to guarantee security in the waters of the Sulu Sea.
Ms Retno reiterated that the safety of the seven Indonesian hostages was of utmost priority in the rescue efforts. On Tuesday, she said, based on information received, the seven Indonesians who were kidnapped are on the island of Jolo, southwest of Philippines, and are in good condition.
Mr Yasay meanwhile underlined the commitment by the President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration towards ending the criminal activities that take place in the Sulu Sea and said the Philippines would work very closely with Indonesian authorities on the matter.
The Sulu waterways are a strategic location through which coal is transported to the Philippines from Indonesia, as almost 96 per cent of the coal supply in southern Philippines comes from Indonesia. Trade between the two countries stood at US$4.6 billion in 2015.
The two ministers agreed to deepen cooperation to ensure security in the Sulu Sea by establishing a “Sea Lane Corridor”.
They also agreed on a number of other things, including carrying out a “Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation” in the second half of the year; agreeing to speed up negotiations on the limits for the continental shelf between the two countries
Indonesia also suggested that the Joint Permanent Working Group on the Maritime and Ocean Concerns hold an inter-sessional meeting soon, and it hoped that the ratification process of the Agreement on the Maritime Boundary Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone could be completed quickly.