INDONESIAN security forces are allowed to enter Philippine territory to pursue abductors of Indonesian nationals in accordance with a 41-year-old border crossing agreement, the Department of National Defense said Wednesday.
“Consistent with the 1975 border crossing agreement, Indonesian security forces are allowed to enter Philippine maritime zones under the concept of hot pursuit in the same way that Philippine forces are allowed to enter Indonesian maritime zones,” DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said in a statement.
“Further to this, in such incidents Philippine security forces are as well immediately informed so that a coordinated and joint operation could immediately be undertaken. This is a move to further strengthen collective commitment to address, prevent and resolve transnational crimes,” Galvez added.
But outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Indonesian security forces cannot just enter Philippine territory in a bid to rescue seven of its sailors kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists in Sulu last week.
Since the incident took place in Philippine territory, he said it is the responsibility of Philippine security forces to rescue the victims.
“They [Indonesians] can only conduct operations to pursue within our area if the incident occurred within their waters, based on the principle of hot pursuit,” Gazmin said.
When pursuit operations reaches land, Indonesian forces are only allowed to conduct limited operations, such as sharing information with Philippine authorities, not operations using arms, he said.
Gazmin said this was the agreement he reached with Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu during a meeting last Sunday in Indonesia that was also attended by incoming Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The meeting was held on the same day the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed that Abu Sayyaf Group’s extremists were in custody of seven Indonesian sailors who were abducted in the Sulu Sea on June 22.
The Western Mindanao Command said armed men on board two motorized boats intercepted the Indonesian’s tugboat while en route to Indonesia in the Sulu Sea around 11 a.m. of June 22.
The WesMinCom’s report said that only seven of the 13 crewmen on board the Indonesia tugboat were taken by the bandits.
It said that the seven Indonesians have been turned over by the armed men, later identified as the Muktadil brothers to Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leader Majal Adja alias Apo Mike based in Sulu.
The WesMinCom said among those kidnapped was the boat’s captain, who had called his wife in Indonesia to relay that their kidnappers were asking 20 million Malaysian ringgit.