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Iran Press TV

Philippines coast guard seeks US, China help over piracy

Iran Press TV

Wed Feb 8, 2017 9:55AM

The Philippines' coast guard and Defense Ministry plan to seek assistance from China and the US in securing a major regional waterway amid concerns that pirates are expanding their activities there.

The Philippines coast guard authorities expressed fear on Wednesday that the Sibutu Passage sea lane between Malaysia's Sabah state and the southern Philippines may turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven for the country's Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

According to the report, the deep-water channel, used by 13,000 sea vessels annually, provides the quickest route between Australia and the region's globally powerful manufacturers in China, Japan, and South Korea.

"If ship owners will skirt that area just to avoid kidnap at sea activities by these terrorists, for sure, it will have an additional cost," said Philippine Coast Guard chief Commodore Joel Garcia.

"It's not just the concern of the Philippines or Indonesia and Malaysia," he said, "but of the international shipping community."

The Philippines' Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said on Tuesday that Manila intended to call on the US to hold joint drills in waters off the southern Philippines to address the problem.

President Rodrigo Duterte urged China last week to launch patrols off the piracy-plagued waters, pointing to Beijing's dispatch of a naval convoy to the Gulf of Aden in 2009 to protect Chinese vessels from Somali pirates.

Meanwhile, Garcia, the coast guard chief commodore, said that details about the possible sea patrol collaborations with China would likely be discussed during planned talks between the two countries' coast guard officials in Manila next week.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana also reiterated that Manila planned to "talk to the Ministry of Defense of China on how to operationalize this joint patrol" off the southern Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf militants from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines in the past year, sparking regional alarm.

Moreover, Indonesia has also cautioned that the region may become the "next Somalia."

The news about the Philippines seeking US help comes despite the fact that the country, under President Duterte, has had a rocky relationship with the US. The Philippine president has announced an end to joint military drills between his country and America amid Washington's criticism of his war on drugs.

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