PH Coast Guard: Border patrols enough to contain Maute

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, August 5) — The Philippine Coast Guard said on August 5 that coordinated border patrols in the southern Philippine seas are enough to contain the ISIS-inspired Maute group.

Coast Guard spokesperson Armand Balilo said they are able to intercept and capture criminals and even terrorists who are planning to join the terrorist group, although they welcome any help from other Southeast Asian nations in terms of patrolling the seas.

The statement comes after the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, said on August 4 that current efforts in the Sulu Sea or Celebes Sea are not enough because the patrols are not joint.

READ: ASEAN urged to integrate security measures against ISIS

This means the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines cannot go in hot pursuit of escaping terrorists once they enter the seas of another country.

The CSIS said the countries are reluctant to relinquish their sovereignty.

Trilateral agreement

The three nations started the patrols in July 2017 as part of a June 2017 trilateral arrangement to combat piracy, terrorism and the illegal drug trade.

READ: PH, Indonesia kick off joint patrol

The joint patrols were made urgent after the Maute group attacked Marawi City in May 23, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.

READ: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao

Some of the rebel fighters were discovered to be foreign nationals.

RELATED: 8 foreign 'ISIS members' killed in Marawi – Lorenzana

Need more people

However, Balilo said the Coast Guard still lacks personnel to secure the vast seas between the three countries.

But he said there are efforts by the Transportation Department to supplement their lack in personnel with additional equipment.

Balilo added that they have  requested additional radar observation facilities to ensure they can guard more areas.