Philippines, Indonesia sign anti-drug trafficking accord

Philippines, Indonesia sign anti-drug trafficking accord
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (R) and Philippine President Benigno Aquino (L) inspect an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Manila on February 9, 2015.

MANILA - Indonesia and the Philippines on Monday signed an agreement on combatting drug crime, despite ongoing efforts by Manila to prevent the execution of a Filipina on Indonesian death row for heroin smuggling.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Benigno Aquino announced after talks that they had overseen the signing of a memorandum to exchange intelligence on drug trafficking, but made no mention of the woman's case.

Despite his image as a reformer, Widodo's government recently executed six convicted drug smugglers and is preparing to execute 11 more - among them other foreigners.

"The Philippines and Indonesia hold similar positions on a variety of regional and international issues," Aquino said after talks with his Indonesian counterpart.

The two leaders also agreed to boost cooperation in protecting migrant workers and improving trade and investment.

Aquino said the two countries, which both have long coastlines, had agreed to work closely on maritime issues.

"We are both encouraged to further improve our approach to maritime boundary cooperation, border cooperation and cooperation in combatting illegal and unreported fishing," he said.

However the two leaders made no mention of the growing tensions in the region due to conflicting territorial claims over the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of these waters which include vital shipping lanes and fishing grounds. This conflicts with the territorial claims of the Philippines as well as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China regards Indonesia as having a potentially pivotal role in calming rising tensions between Manila and Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, according to analysts.

In August, then-president-elect Widodo told Japan's Asahi newspaper that Indonesia, which has better bilateral ties with China than the Philippines, stood ready to act as an intermediary.

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