SANDAKAN - The authorities intercepted a group of Filipinos trying to enter Lahad Datu illegally on Tuesday.
Seven men, four women and eight children were in a boat near Tanjung Labian when they were stopped at 8.45pm.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director general Datuk Mohammad Mentek yesterday said the foreigners were taken to the Lahad Datu Marine police base.
The group was stopped in waters off Kampung Sinakut, near Kampung Tanduo, where more than 100 armed men landed and threatened Malaysian sovereignty in February.
"The group was stopped by members of the security forces patrolling the waters off Felda Sahabat, following information received from the public.
"We hope for more cooperation from the residents in the coastal villages here so we can take prompt action and prevent the entry of illegal immigrants and quell criminal activities."
Mohammad said a standard operating procedure (SOP) for better tourism industry security maintenance in Sabah's east coast would be drawn up as a guideline for industry operators.
He said the SOP was among efforts undertaken to improve security in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
The SOP would also help create effective communication between tourism industry operators and security forces.
"The SOP will be a guideline on the role of all parties concerned in ensuring cooperation and commitment in security maintenance," he said after opening a two-day workshop on preparing the SOP in Sandakan.
Sixty participants comprising tourist resort operators, representatives of Malaysian security forces and those from local authorities attended the workshop.
Mohammad said in drawing up the SOP, feedback, especially from tourism industry players, would be taken into consideration.
"When the SOP is ready, it will be submitted to the ESSCom Main Committee, chaired by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, before being tabled to the state cabinet for approval."
Mohammad said the SOP would be implemented next year.
He said the guidelines in the SOP would be proposed for use by the resort operators as a condition for approving their operating licence in future.
Mohammad said the SOP was necessary as there was a lack of attention given to security aspects by the resort operators in the Esszone.
This was indicated by the shooting-cum-kidnapping incident in Pulau Pom-Pom, Semporna, recently and also from what was observed during visits by Esscom to the resorts, he added.
Esscom, the security enforcement agency in Esszone, was established on April 1 and officially launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Lahad Datu on April 13.
The Esszone encompasses 10 coastal districts with a coastline of 1,733.7km from Kudat to Tawau.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib yesterday said the police were always ready to prevent intrusions and would continue efforts to weed out undesirables from the state.
"We are getting information and feedback from various sources to warn us about possible threats," he said after attending the monthly parade at the State Police Headquarters in Kepayan.