Warships from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia yesterday held maneuvers near a naval base in northern Borneo to mark the launch of coordinated patrols to bolster security in waters plagued by insurgencies and banditry.
Helicopters and surveillance planes flew overhead as ministers and army chiefs from the countries attended ceremonies to launch the patrols and as regional security takes on added urgency after militants overran a town in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine military has said that some of the militants, who were made up of local insurgent groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, but also some foreign fighters, might have mingled with evacuees to slip away during the battle for Marawi that has raged for almost four weeks.
“We need to watch out for the 500 to 600 terrorists there, 257 of whom have been killed already. The rest, based on information we are getting, are blending in with refugees to get out,” said Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo.
The spectacular collapse in security in the southern Philippines has alarmed neighbors such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
Indonesia has deployed three Sukhoi fighters to help with security in case militants try to flee southward toward Indonesia, the head of the Tarakan air base Colonel Didik Krisyanto told the state news agency Antara at the weekend.
Indonesia yesterday also inaugurated a maritime command center in the naval base of Tarakan, a town in the province of North Kalimantan on Borneo, witnessed by defense ministers and army chiefs from the three countries.
Maritime command centers to coordinate the patrols and information sharing are also to be set up in Tawau in Malaysia’s Sabah and Bongao in the Philippines.
“We see these [command centers] functioning as a triangle, like a spider’s web, where everything inside the triangle will be monitored,” Nurmantyo said.
A port town, Tarakan is just south of the Malaysian side of Borneo and looks out across to Mindanao in the southern Philippines, a sprawling island that has suffered from hostage taking and piracy for decades.
“Maintaining marine security is the duty of ASEAN countries and not other countries,” Indonesian Minister for Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu said.
Singapore and Brunei also attended the launch of patrols as observers.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500