Sabah kidnap-free since December due to PH-Malaysia cooperation

PORT KLANG, Malaysia – There have been no kidnapping incidents in Sabah and its waters since late December of last year, according to Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J Eduardo Malaya.

This, he said, is due to the relentless security operations, enhanced intelligence-sharing, and coordinated patrols in the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Malaysia.

The 5 remaining Malaysians who were in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf were safely recovered in March.

The fall of the Muktadil Gang last year was also a major blow to the Abu Sayyaf, as its members served as sea guides and navigators in the terror group's kidnapping operations in the high seas.

Malaya, who recently concluded his tour of duty in the Southeast Asian country, made the announcement on March 31, during a reception on the BRP Andres Bonifacio, the Philippine Navy frigate that called on Port Klang after participating in the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition '17.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Dato' Abdul Halim bin Hj Jalal welcomed BRP Andres Bonifacio skipper Captain Brendo Casaclang and his 88-member crew.

Addressing guests at the reception, Malaya said the Philippine ship's goodwill visit "highlights the deepening partnership between the Philippine and Malaysian governments and their respective armed forces, including in addressing issues of common concern such as extremism and transnational crimes."

At the same event, Malaya cited the heightened interest of Malaysian companies in investment opportunities in the Philippines due to its rapidly-growing economy. There has also been an increasing number of Filipino companies doing business in Malaysia, led by Petron Corporation, PLDT, and Pancake House.

Commodore Albert Mogol, head of the visiting mission and commander of the Philippine Navy's Fleet Marine Ready Force, described the visit as a manifestation of the Philippine Navy's "commitment to promote harmonious relations between and among countries."

The event featured performances by the Philippine Marine Corps band and Kuala Lumpur-based Filipino performers Gina Panizales and Jennifer Alferez.

The BRP Andres Bonifacio is the 3rd Hamilton-class cutter frigate to be commissioned by the Philippine Navy. It is named after Andrés Bonifacio, a Filipino revolutionary leader who is regarded as the "Father of the Philippine Revolution" and a preeminent national hero of the Philippines. – Rappler.com