KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) needs more funds to protect the country’s marine interests from encroachment in light of escalating tensions between the US and China, the foreign minister said in Parliament today.
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Malaysia lacks sufficient maritime assets to patrol its waters and watch out for incursions by foreign powers.
“We have always called upon Asean countries to maintain the Asean principles of neutrality when engaging superpowers, particularly in the context of the South China Sea and China. That's why we are not so keen on having unilateral relationships when it comes to maritime issues.
“On non-militarisation, we are trying to ensure that there is no escalation of warships and military assets present in the region. We don't allow them to anchor, add more [military personnel] or come close to Asean shores.
“At most, we can only send protest notes and such and make a joint statement as Asean. The question is, for Malaysia, we want to do more, including protecting our shores. Our main limitation is our assets.
“So I ask Beluran, since we are in the season of debating the Budget, to request for more funds for our MMEA. I believe that more assets for our enforcement agency is very critical,” said Saifuddin in his reply to a supplementary question by Beluran MP Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee.
He said that the Chinese Coast Guard ship sighted around Beting Patinggi Ali off Sarawak is a larger warship than what even the Malaysian Navy has, making the MMEA patrol boats puny in comparison.
Replying to Opposition Leader and Bera MP Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the minister added that Malaysia can chart maps, make international demands but if the worst case scenario happens, which is open conflict between the US and China, the nation's best bet is a stronger security presence in the South China Sea.