ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/26 April) — The Naval Task Force Tawi-Tawi was in hot pursuit Sunday night of a speedboat with heavily armed men on board, believed to be combat fighters of the Abu Sayyaf at the vicinity of West Tumindao and Sipangkot Islands in Tawi-Tawi province.
As this developed, the naval unit commander said borders down south of the Philippines have increasingly become a hot security area in the past four weeks.
The security for the borders is not only to safeguard the country’s patrimonial interests, but also to secure traders from neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia doing business with Filipino traders within the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi archipelagic waters, Commander Earl Reyes told MindaNews.
Reyes leads all Philippine Navy boats deployed in Tawi-Tawi, namely, PG381, PG390, PG387, PS28, MPAC BA486, and Augusta PNH430.
“The exchange of fire last night was around West Tumindao, Sipangkot, and Omapoy Islands, all in Tawi-Tawi,” Reyes said Monday, adding that trading relations between Malaysia and the Philippines are severely affected due to the harassment done by the ASG on Malaysian, Indonesian, and Filipino traders plying the Philippines-Malaysia and Philippines-Indonesia routes.
He likewise added that the price of rice has gone up in Tawi-Tawi, thus affecting citizens in the province, who most often secure their goods from nearby trading ports in Sandakan and Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.
“There were Filipino traders who were about to board their goods in the tugboat at the Malaysian pier, but they were practically driven out by Malaysian authorities leaving behind the goods they had earlier purchased so they suffered much business loss,” Reyes shared.
The ire of, and their strict enforcement of border entry laws by, Malaysian authorities followed the abduction of four Malaysian crew of a tugboat near Pulau Ligitan, Semporna, Sabah on 1 April.
The military earlier reported that the four Malaysian kidnap victims were sighted on April 13 at the vicinity of Sitio Tambuang in Mampalam, Talipao, Sulu, with more or less fifty armed members of the ASG led by sub-leader Angah Adji and selected armed followers of ASG senior leader Yasser Igassan and Idang Susukan. (Frencie Carreon/MindaNews)