Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (centre) at the 83rd navy anniversary at Sepanggar naval base, Kota Kinabalu. Pix by Edmund Samunting

KOTA KINABALU: A major joint air and sea patrol initiative involving Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia to combat trans-border crimes and movement of militants, will be launched next month.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the trilateral cooperative arrangement will kick-off in Bangao, the southern Philippines.

"We will also be launching the maritime initiative in Sabah, and the air initiative in Indonesia. The dates (of the events) will be announced in the Philippines, and all three ceremonies will be held in the presence of defence ministers from the three countries.

"This is very important for us, because it shows that Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are able to sit together, with mutual understanding, to find ways to tackle maritime problems," he told reporters at the 83rd navy anniversary at Sepanggar naval base, here.

Hishammuddin, who is also Minister with Special Functions, said close cooperation with neighbouring countries will further boost maritime security, and that together, the three nations will have a better chance at facing threats.

"We know that the Abu Sayyaf and militant groups swore allegiance to the Islamic State, and that those returning from Syria and Iraq have the intention of establishing an ISIS caliphate in this region.

"This is not a 'sandiwara' (theatrical distraction), but a reality, and we need to take proactive and comprehensive measures to combat this, and I believe with support from the people, we can do it," he said.

Hishammuddin stressed that Malaysia’s and Sabah's security should not be politicised, especially since the government is doing its level best to protect the people from threats.

"We in the Ministry of Defence are carrying out a lot of initiatives, and have placed a lot of assets in Sabah to ensure that no one underestimates the state's (defences).

"There are certain quarters who are being unrealistic, and not acknowledging (the government’s initiatives). We will let the people of Sabah evaluate this," he said.

Earlier, Hishammuddin launched the East and West Armada navy base, as well as the Rakam programme for the K3M mobile application, which enables faster response time to emergencies at sea.

Hishammuddin arrived in the state for a two-day working visit, where he is scheduled to attend a briefing with the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in Lahad Datu, tomorrow.

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