The Jakarta Post
The government has warned Indonesian shipping companies against crossing the shipment-lane that goes through Tarakan in northern Kalimantan toward the Philippines Sea in light of the threat posed by militant group Abu Sayyaf in the area.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said she would join TNI commander General Gatot Nurmantyo in a meeting with their respective counterparts regarding security in the territorial sea.
"The security within the bordering waters and its surrounding regions has become a growing concern for us all. [...] From this meeting, the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines hope to take steps to increase security in the area," Retno said in Jakarta on Monday.
The meeting, she continued, will be held in Jakarta on May 5, aiming to draw up plans for a joint patrol. As a precaution, the ministry has issued a circular letter to Indonesian shipping and trade companies to avoid the territory.
"The Transportation Ministry has distributed a circular letter to companies and ships that frequently use those lanes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters.
Retno said the government had been closely monitoring the location and condition of the four crewmen who were captured by Abu Sayyaf group and would take advantage of all available options for their release.
"As previously said, the government will not pay any ransom to the hostages-takers," she said.
Loudy Irwanto Ellias, a commissioner of Patria Maritime Line, the shipping company by which the recently released 10 Indonesian hostages are employed, said the firm had ceased operations within the region in light of the safety concerns.
"For now we have stopped sailing in that area. The government has also closed down the route and we cannot pass through," Loudy said when speaking to reporters following a handover ceremony of the hostages back to their families.
Commuting to the Philippines has become slightly difficult as the company has to go through other routes, he added. Loudy admitted the government policy had made business complicated as a result of the closing of the route.
“However, the safety of our employees are our utmost priority,” he added.
Loudy avoided questions concerning any payment made for the release of the 10 crewmen, who were held hostage for over a month by the Abu Sayyaf group after their vessels were hijacked in the waters off the southern Philippines in late March.
"They had initially asked for 50 million [Philippine] pesos but with thorough negotiations, the release was realized," he said without going into any further details.
Loudy confirmed that the 10 crewmen, who have now returned to their families, would remain in the employ of Patria Maritime Line.
"All the employees' rights will be fulfilled along with a humanitarian compensation, because they have gone through some difficult times. It hasn't been easy for them," he noted. (ags)
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