Philippines, Malaysia agree to cooperate on tackling Abu Sayyaf kidnappings
The Philippines on Thursday agreed to allow Malaysia and Indonesia to carry out “hot pursuits” in its territorial waters, as the three nations look to tackle kidnappings and piracy by Islamist Abu Sayyaf rebels.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Najib Razak after a meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is on a two-day visit to Malaysia. Both leaders are actively seeking better ties with China and have made separate visits to Beijing last month.
“When we reach their waters, they have allowed us to keep chasing these kidnap-for-ransom groups,” Najib said at a news conference. He said the agreement would be further discussed at a meeting between the three countries on November 22 in Vientiane.
Abu Sayyaf rebels have been intercepting slow-moving tugboats in waters near the borders of Malaysia and the Philippines, taking captive more than a dozen Indonesian and Malaysian sailors.
Several hostages have been freed, after paying ransom to the Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to al-Qaeda and known for kidnappings and beheadings, including of two Canadians this year.
On Monday, the Philippine military said a German national was believed to be the latest person to be taken hostage. His companion, a woman, was found dead on a yacht abandoned on a remote island in the Sulu archipelago, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.
The Abu Sayyaf is holding another 15 captives, including a Netherlands citizen, five Malaysians, two Indonesians and seven Filipinos.
On Wednesday, Duterte congratulated Donald Trump on his election win and said he now wished to stop quarrelling with ally the United States, recalling his anger at the Obama administration for criticising him.
The maverick leader, dubbed “Trump of the East” for his unrestrained rants and occasional lewd remarks, has repeatedly hit out at Washington in recent months, threatening to cut defence pacts and end military joint drills.
“I would like to congratulate Mr. Donald Trump. Long live,” Duterte said in a speech to the Filipino community during his visit to Malaysia. “We are both making curses. Even with trivial matters we curse. I was supposed to stop because Trump is there. I don’t want to quarrel anymore, because Trump has won.”
Duterte won a May election by a huge margin and is often compared to Trump, having himself been the alternative candidate from outside of national politics. He campaigned on a populist, anti-establishment platform and struck a chord among ordinary Filipinos with his promises to fix what he called a broken country.
But the biggest surprise of Duterte’s presidency so far has been his hostility towards the United States, shown during near-daily eruptions of anger over its concerns about human rights abuses during his deadly war on drugs. He has also threatened repeatedly to severe a military relationship that has been a key element of Washington’s “pivot” to Asia.
Duterte on Wednesday told Filipinos how angry he had been at Washington, saying it had threatened to cut off aid and had treated the Philippines like a dog tied to a post.
“They talk as if we are still the colonies,” he said. “You do not give us the aid, shit, to hell with you,” he said, recalling comments he had directed at Obama.
Teddy Locsin Jnr, Duterte’s incoming ambassador to the United Nations, said there were a few parallels between Trump, who stunned the world by defeating rival Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential election, and Duterte.
“I remember Trump in the middle of one of his statements, he said ‘I will not talk like this after I become president’,” Locsin said on television. “I remember someone who also said the same thing.”