Though this was the latest step in ongoing indigenous, minilateral cooperation between the three states to contend with security threats amid the rising Islamic State threat, questions continue to be posed about what kind of role other major powers, chiefly the United States and China, could play in it.
Malaysia launched trilateral air patrol operations with Indonesia and the Philippines yesterday to combat militancy in the Sulu Sea.
A launch ceremony was held at the Malaysian Air Force Base in Subang.
This tone was evident as Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and his counterparts, Indonesian Defence Minister Gen (rtd) Ryamizard Ryacudu and Philippine defence secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, proclaimed the security and defence collaboration between the three nations in the high risk waters of the Sulu Sea and the Southern Philippines region was now complete.
The three countries began carrying out joint maritime patrols in April, allowing the navy of one country to cross into territorial waters of another country if it's pursuing suspects.
"The maritime patrol is working very well. It is up to us to guarantee the area is secured and safe", he added.
Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have agreed to adopt a continuous monthly rotation for the joint TAP whereby Malaysia will be the first nation to lead the operation next month using aircraft from the RMAF, followed by the Philippines in December and subsequently Indonesia in January 2018.
Ryamizard said besides a strong signal to IS and extremist groups, this was also a sign that Asean members could stand together and settle such issues themselves. The Malacca Strait Sea Patrols (MSSP) that got underway in the 2000s prompted similar interest from other actors, including the United States.
"But I told them I had to consult Asean members".
The operations, part of a tri-nation effort to curb movements of militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the southern Philippines, mark the first joint air patrol over the unsafe waters.