Malaysia’s Sabah province has proved vulnerable to raids. Source: Flickr
Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing for Manila to take action to increase security in the Sulu Sea to tackle the region’s Abu Sayyaf militants.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said he and Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi wanted to meet the new Philippines foreign minister when they are sworn in.
“We can meet in Jakarta, Malaysia or Manila. We need to have this urgent meeting,” he said, after the abduction of seven Indonesian sailors in international Sulu waters.
On Friday, the militants also released Philippine hostage Marites Flor.
Flor was kidnapped on Samal last September 2015 with Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel and Norway’s Kjartan Sekkingstad.
They beheaded two Canadians while Sekkingstad remains a captive.
Anifah also said he planned to meet President Rodrigo Duterte after he was sworn in on June 30.
“I would like to stress upon the seriousness of this problem that involves Filipino nationals. We accept that it is a complex issue. The Philippines military has been going after these people with limited success. The question now is how can we work together,” he added.
Anifah said he and Retno were concerned that Abu Sayyaf kidnappings were now increasing in frequency and targeting merchant shipping.
He said the abductions caused fear among visitors to the Malaysian attraction of Sabah, on the island of Borneo, harming the tourist trade.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has banned all Indonesian-flagged vessels from heading to the Philippines.
The move could lead to a shortfall in coal for Filipinos, who import around 70 per cent of the fuel from Indonesia.
“The moratorium on coal exports to the Philippines will be extended until there is a guarantee for security from the Philippines government,” said Retno.
“This hijacking issue is a serious matter and cannot be tolerated anymore,” Indonesia’s water transport chief Tonny Budiono announced.
The recent abduction was the latest in a series of kidnappings of merchant sailors in the Sulu Sea over the past two months.
On March 26, Abu Sayyaf militants were blamed for the seizure of 10 Indonesian sailors.
Five days later, four Malaysians were grabbed near Sabah’s island of Ligitan.
Another four Indonesians were abducted on April 15.