Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines on Thursday announced the launch of trilateral air patrol operations over the Sulu Sea to tackle long- festering terrorism and cross-border crime problems. The operations upgraded a similar joint maritime patrol program starting in June to a new level.
"Affiliated terrorist organisations and sympathisers have exploited the porous borders and linked up with local terrorist groups, evident following the Marawi City siege", said Malaysia's Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
"The maritime patrol is working very well".
The air patrol will rotate monthly among the countries, with Malaysia leading the operations first using Royal Malaysian Air Force aircraft.
Mr Lorenzana added that ISIS fighters in Marawi have dwindled to a small group.
Philippines' Secretary of National Defence, Delfin Lorenzana said that the Trilateral Air Patrol allowed for better surveillance of extremists' movements in the region. "It is up to us to guarantee the area is secured and safe", he added.
Indonesia's Defence Minister, General Ryanizard Ryacudu, said the country has received requests from the United States, China and Australia to join the patrols but that it would discuss this with Asean members first.
As these trilateral patrols continue to play out, it is also important to note that though attention tends to be lavished on them by outside observers, officials from these countries continue to emphasize they are in fact only one manifestation of the responses - unilateral, bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral - being taken by the three states to counter the rising threat from the Islamic State.
Hishammuddin said with the region consumed by the growing threat posed by Daesh militants, the initiative was significance not just in the Sulu Seas, but in the context of challenges in Southeast Asia more broadly.