Celebes Sea Cooperation
What models can Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines follow for their new trilateral maritime cooperation?
A Quest for Best Practices: Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security in the Celebes Sea
By Lucky Wuwung
On May 5, 2016, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines issued a joint declaration on maritime security as a prompt response to the Abu Sayyaf group’s abducting hostages of various nationalities, including sailors from Indonesia and Malaysia. This agreement is an apt example of the states’ response to the emerging maritime security challenges in the region.
The Celebes Sea has a substantial strategic value as a semi-enclosed sea regulated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), part IX. Its location and potential resources define the strategic importance of the Celebes Sea both for coastal and user states. Unfortunately, the Celebes Sea suffers from a lack of maritime governance since the area has become fertile ground for trans-border illegal activities at sea, including armed robbery against ships, smuggling, and more seriously, facilitating the terrorist nexus at sea. Also, the three littoral states have yet to agree on their maritime boundaries and there is a territorial issue in Sabah involving Malaysia and the Philippines. The dormant issue of Indonesia and Malaysia’s dispute over Ambalat is another crucial challenge.
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