Duterte, Indonesia's Widodo to step up joint counter-terrorism efforts
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo intend to ramp up cooperation between their countries in addressing common security threats: terrorism, piracy at sea, and crimes like illegal drug trafficking.
The two leaders mentioned this shared commitment in their press statements on Friday, April 28, delivered after their bilateral meeting at Malacañang Palace.
"We recognized the need to address both traditional and emerging threats and expressed readiness to step up cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, piracy at sea and transnational crimes, including the trade of illicit drugs," said Duterte.
The two agreed to start a joint working group this year to fight terrorism. Both their countries have had to deal with terror threats by extremist Muslim groups.
"In combating transnational crimes, we also agreed to conduct a joint working group on counter-terrorism this year," said Widodo.
They also intend to expand a 2014 memorandum of understanding between their countries on counter-terrorism cooperation, with the goal of strengthening "intelligence information cooperation," said the Indonesian leader.
The need to combat piracy at sea was another point where the two saw eye to eye. Given their countries' desire to open up new maritime trade routes between them, addressing piracy has become even more important.
The two agreed to launch, "as soon as possible," an Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines maritime patrol to safeguard ships plying their waters, said Widodo.
In a chance interview earlier that day, Duterte said he suggests a "multinational task force" that will accompany boats plying commercial routes between Southeast Asian countries, specifically the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines Eastern ASEAN Growth Area).
"If there’s a commercial route there, you have to consider also the security concerns. So maybe we’ll have to agree to provide escorts in the meantime," he said.
He has suggested this to Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who visited the Palace on Thursday.
Mary Jane Veloso
Neither Duterte nor Widodo mentioned jailed overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso in their press statements.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said her case was not discussed during their expanded bilateral meeting.
However, it may have been mentioned during the restrictive meeting between only Widodo and Duterte.
"It will be preemptive to say as well if it was discussed during their private meeting," said the spokesman.
The previous day, Duterte said he might bring up her case with Widodo but would first ask the Indonesian leader if he would be willing to discuss the issue.
In the chance interview before Widodo's arrival, Duterte was asked if he would ask for clemency for Veloso, who is on death row after an Indonesian court accused her of being a drug mule.
"Those are one of the things that are there...As a Filipino, I have a stake there also," he said.
"But I’d like to thank them in advance for the reprieve. Maski ‘yan na lang muna (Maybe that is all for now)," he said.
Duterte did not elaborate on this mention of a "reprieve" as there was not enough time. The welcome ceremony for Widodo was about to start.
He only briefly repeated previous statements that he will respect Indonesia's laws.
"I said that I will honor what the laws are in their country. We will not impose. We will not demand. Nothing," he said. – Rappler.com