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P'pine forward post in Tawi-Tawi
Published on: Thursday, August 16, 2018
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P'pine forward post in Tawi-Tawi
Kota Kinabalu: The Philippine military has set up a base on Panguan island in Tawi-Tawi province near its border with Sabah to prevent it being used as a staging point for piracy and kidnapping by Abu Sayyaf terrorists.Panguan is an islet between Semporna and Sitangkai, which is the closest major Philippine island to the Malaysian maritime border.

"We conducted beach-landing operations and established a camp in Panguan," Philippine media reported Tawi-Tawi Joint Task Force Chief Brig Gen. Custodio Parcon as saying.

"Abu Sayyaf bandits have used the island as an observatory area and jump-off point for piracy and kidnappings since it is near Mataking, an island resort off Sabah.

"The Abu Sayyaf also used Panguan as a resting and refuelling place when staging kidnappings or to victimise seafarers.

Philippine Coast Guard Station Commander, Lt. Sr. Grade Euphraim Jayson Diciano, said Panguan is less than two nautical miles from the Philippine border.

Diciano said Sibutu (a major island near Panguan) serves as passageway for ships and approximately 17,000 foreign cargo vessels pass the area yearly.

"Marine forces deployed in Panguan are complemented by personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)," he said.

"Abu Sayyaf bandits have been denied access in Sibutu passage with the establishment of a camp in Panguan Island and with the ongoing trilateral naval patrol agreement with Malaysia and Indonesia."

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) will create a similar forward security post on Ligitan (near Sebatik), the farthest Malaysian territory bordering southern Philippines, Esscom chief DCP Hazani Ghazali said earlier.

"We believe we will then be able to prevent further entry into our coast." Sebatik is located off Tawau with its north side belonging to Malaysia and the southern portion part of Indonesia.

Ligitan is a small island which sits in the Celebes Sea between Sebatik and southern Philippines.

"It is Malaysian territory following a decision of the ICJ (International Court of Justice) and is the farthest Malaysian island bordering both the southern Philippines and Indonesia," Hazani had said.

"We received info that the island is a staging point for illegal immigrants and people with immoral activities to enter Sabah.

"Criminal elements would go along the southern Philippines-Malaysia maritime border and finally stage on Ligitan before entering Malaysia.

"That's why we want to have a forward post there complete with all suitable equipment and facilities such as a jetty where boats can dock. We feel that a forward operation post has to be made there."

The Sulu and Celebes Seas off Sabah's east coast have been a hotbed of piracy and kidnapping activities including the infamous 2000 Sipadan kidnappings and bloody Lahad Datu siege by Sulu militants in 2013.

Security over land and in the waters off the east coast of Sabah has been beefed up with the inception of Esscom and gazetting of the said areas as the Eastern Sabah Security Zone or Esszone following the Lahad Datu intrusion. - Zam Yusa


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