DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said its troops would be launching a border security initiative with Indonesia, the Philippines’ neighboring state which has recently been focusing on guarding its maritime gates.
“Very soon we’re going to inaugurate our joint undertaking with the Republic of Indonesia,” MNLF’s Nur Misuari said on Sunday, March 18.
Misuari was speaking to thousands of supporters and members of the MNLF in Davao City, where they commemorated the organization’s founding anniversary, and the Jabidah Massacre, which sparked the decades-old Moro rebellion in Mindanao. (WATCH: Still no justice 50 years after Jabidah Massacre)
“The Indonesian government has informed me...and the President has given his imprimatur to accept the proposal that we shall deploy 10 big naval boats around our territorial waters,” he said.
He said half of the forces would be coming from the Indonesian Army, while the Philippine armed forces will be represented by the MNLF “who are working with them.”
It was not clear which president Misuari was referring to as having given his imprimatur to MNLF's participation.
But it can be recalled that, in January, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met with Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi in Davao to discuss their countries’ plan to guard their shared maritime border against terrorists.
According to Marsudi, Duterte had signified that the Philippines wants to increase its collaboration with Indonesia through a joint forces agreement.
Indonesia’s territorial waters and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are patrolled by its Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Laut (TNI-AL).
Fight vs terrorism
The Indonesian government has once credited the MNLF for helping the release of its citizens abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.
In Sydney on March 16, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Rycudu met with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne to discuss a related matter.
Ryamizard said at least 3,500 ISIS fighters had returned from Iraq and Syriah, where some 1,300 to 1,500 of them had made Indonesia and the Philippines as targets for the spread of the ideology.
Ironically, the Indonesian official identified MNLF as among the groups the ISIS has allegedly infiltrated.
On Sunday, Misuari said the initiative would be the latest in the group’s “march on another path because there are some countries who are trying to demonize us who kidnap some innocent citizens and bring them to our homeland to create a misimpression about our people.”
The Philippines and Indonesia have actively discussed border security issues as part of their mutual concerns.