Singapore’s marsec woes

Singapore looks at its maritime security.

Safeguarding maritime security

The tragic beheading of a Western hostage by the southern Philippine bandit group, Abu Sayyaf, highlights the considerable security threat posed by the malignant activities of outlaws operating in South-east Asia. The excesses of Abu Sayyaf, which is responsible for three recent kidnappings of seamen for ransom, illustrate the urgent need for maritime security cooperation in Asean. Part of the impediment to that cooperation is legal. For example, the Indonesian military cannot enter Philippine territory to help its kidnap victims because the local Filipino government must obtain approval from its Parliament first. It is such loopholes that help pirates to act with impunity in challenging the responsibility of governments to protect the lives and property of their citizens.

Abu Sayyaf has thrust the security of maritime routes around the southern Philippines and Sabah into the limelight. However, those seas are not the only waters under threat, nor is piracy the overwhelming cause for alarm. The possibility of transnational terrorism, which excels in unprotected waters distant from the writ of the state, is potentially a far greater threat than piracy.

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