MANILA, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines and Indonesia kicked off on Thursday their joint patrol in the Sulu-Celebes Seas, a move aimed at strengthening security cooperation to combat piracy, smuggling and maritime attacks in the region.
"The main mission is to secure the common border, to curtail maritime crimes, and stop various sea crimes like smuggling and piracy," Ezra Balagtey, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a statement.
The joint patrol ceremony was held in Davao City in southern Philippines on Thursday attended by high level military officials from both countries.
Balagtey said the 10-day coordinated sea patrol and exercise will officially start on Saturday.
According to the Philippine military, the joint patrol "will provide the naval forces of both countries an opportunity to improve interoperability and (strengthen their) capability to secure their common border through naval exercise simulating different scenarios."
Two navy ships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz from the Philippines and KRI Pandrong from Indonesia, will join the coordinated border naval patrol.
The Sulu-Celebes Seas host important maritime trade routes in the southeast Asia region. However, the area has also become notorious as a black spot for piracy and sea robbery perpetrated by local criminal-terrorists.
Maritime attacks by extremists like Abu Sayyaf Group in the southern region bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines compelled the three littoral countries to launch coordinated naval patrols which aim to improve communication and information exchange among the three navies in a bid to address maritime security.
The Abu Sayyaf is a radical insurgent group in the Philippines that carries out kidnappings, bombings and beheadings in western Mindanao, particularly in their remote lair in the island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, preying on foreign tourists, businessmen and fishermen.