The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is joining several countries in Asia to battle ISIS-inspired pirates in the Sulu and Celebes seas.
This development came when UNODC and Japan forged a new partnership in Vienna to develop counter measures to address the increasing maritime threats in the region.
38 cases of piracy were recorded in 2016 that included abduction of seafarers from vessels in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Of the 38 attacks, 21 involved the abduction of sailors for ransom.
Japan has decided to get involved, as there is a growing concern from Tokyo officials that maritime terrorists could slipped into the nation, which will host the Olympics and Paralymics in 2020.
Under the new arrangement, UNODC is expected to bring its anti-maritime piracy campaign expertise from Somalia to the region. The U.N. body has developed effective measures for identifying and pursuing pirate speed boats after having sporadic encounters with Somalia pirates. The collaborators will also deploy maritime police to work closely with their counterparts in terror-affected ASEAN countries.
The UNODC is a U.N. body that deals with the world’s most pressing concerns such as drug abuse prevention, international organized crime, terrorism and economic crime. It has been addressing these global threats since 1999 by working with host governments.
Earlier, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia organized the Indomaphil (Indonesia Malaysia Philipines), a maritime security agreement to hold joint trilateral naval patrols in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. This new agreement has allowed the ASEAN countries’ naval assets to enter any of the countries' maritime territory when pursuing terrorists.
The Indonesia defense department reported 1,200 ISIS-inspired militants are operating in the Philippines and further warned that these militants can move to different Asean countries in less than 24 hours via sea connections.
Aside from the UNODC intervention to battle piracy, the U.S. government also provided two latest 208B piston-engine CESSNA reconnaissance aircrafts worth $33 million that are now being used to monitor the movements of pirates in Sulu and Celebes Seas.
Despite these collaborations, terror threats remain active and elusive because of the reported spill over of terror attacks to major areas in the Southern Philippines like Marawi City and Maguindanao province. The ASEAN intelligence community has also reported that piracy remains a present and future threat to ASEAN security.
Despite warning from the ASEAN countries governments and maritime watchdogs to avoid the Sulu and Celebes Seas, commercial vessels continue to prefer the route to ship goods from Australia to Japan, China and other Asian markets, because it’s the shortest route and therefore saves fuel.
The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) reported that $40 billion of cargo passes through the Sulu and Celebes Seas. It also reports that this region has the fastest piracy growth rate in Asia.