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Manila's anti-piracy patrol request worth study, experts advise

By Mo Jingxi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-03 08:04

Beijing should adopt an open-minded approach toward Manila's request for Chinese patrols of piracy-plagued international waters in its southern seas, but dispatching vessels would take time and require cooperative efforts, academic observers said.

Patrols should be organized and overseen by a body established between China and other countries in the region, they said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he had asked for China Coast Guard patrols of waters leading to the Malacca Strait and the Sulu Sea.

"We would be glad if we had their presence," Duterte said in a speech to newly promoted Army generals on Tuesday, according to local news outlet Philstar.

Duterte cited Beijing's assistance to Somalia in combating piracy, but he didn't say whether China had responded to his request. Chinese government officials had not commented as of Thursday.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have an agreement to patrol problem areas and combat the activities of Abu Sayyaf, a small group of Islamic State-linked militants sustained by piracy and kidnap-for-ransom activities.

China offered small arms and fast boats, worth $14 million, to the Philippines to assist Duterte's fight against terrorism and drugs in December, after the Philippine president made his first state visit to China in October, helping to repair bilateral ties.

Li Jinming, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Xiamen University, said Duterte might not have fully considered the feasibility of Chinese patrols when he made the remarks.

"It is difficult for China to send ships there within a short time frame because the surrounding waters may involve territorial waters of some other countries," he said, adding that China's offer of arms had been a strong signal of support.

However, Xu Liping, a senior researcher of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "Although the request for patrols is only a unilateral appeal from the Philippines now, it is not impossible for it to come to pass in the future, given China's successful experience of escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the need to fight piracy in the waters."

Xu said China should take an open-minded attitude as a responsible country in the region, and consult with other countries to work out "an institutional practice concerning joint patrols there".

The International Maritime Bureau said in a report released recently that maritime kidnappings had hit a 10-year high last year, with the Sulu Sea singled out as an area of concern.

mojingxi@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 02/03/2017 page3)

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