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  • 19 Jun 2017 12:32 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    After successfully consolidating its position in the Indian market over ten years, BankBazaar is steadily expanding its foothold across South East Asia. In line with this vision, last month BankBazaar announced an investment of rupees 5 crore in the Malaysian market and an additional rupees 10 crore in its Singapore business. As part of its international expansion strategy, the company also plans to begin its operations across Australia, Hong Kong, UAE and the Philippines over the next couple of years.

    With over 70% active internet users along with the Malaysian Government’s commitment to digitize the financial ecosystem has led to the adoption of advanced financial technologies to equip customers to shift towards digital transactions. Furthermore, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) recently issued licenses to emerging fintech companies with an aim to improve quality, efficiency and accessibility of financial services in Malaysia, thereby presenting a huge potential for growth and expansion in this market.

    Adhil Shetty, cofounder and CEO, BankBazaar.com said, “Buoyed by the positive business sentiment and a progressive regulator, Malaysia’s banking industry is poised towards the next phase of disruption. This complements BankBazaar’s vision to enable, simplify and improve the financial services value chain for consumers. Backed by the company’s paperless finance vision and under Vipin’s leadership, we are confident that BankBazaar International will play a pivotal role in transforming Malaysian financial services market.”

    Vipin Kalra joins BankBazaar.com from Visa where he held various senior level positions. In his previous role, Vipin was Senior Vice President of Merchant Sales and Solutions for Asia Pacific. Prior to this, Vipin was the Country Manager for Visa’s Australia business. He was instrumental in not only accelerating Visa’s revenue growth, but also making Australia a leading global marketplace for payment innovation. Under his leadership, Visa Australia successfully rolled out Visa’s contactless payment (Visa Paywave) and mobile NFC payments. He also led the proliferation of credit, debit and prepaid payment products with Visa’s clients and partners. Vipin is a seasoned global payments expert who brings over 25 years’ experience in transactional business, hardware and software industry in Asia Pacific and Australia.

    BankBazaar will deploy a team of 30 people to support its expansion in Malaysia in addition to the 40 member Singapore team. In his new role, Vipin will be responsible for growing and establishing BankBazaar’s presence in international markets starting with Malaysia and Singapore. Further, he will focus on forging strategic partnerships with financial institutions as well as product development for international markets.

    Commenting on BankBazaar’s international expansion, Vipin Kalra, CEO of BankBazaar International added, “Technological landscape across the globe is changing rapidly. I believe companies focused on innovation, clubbed with agility are sure to make an impact, irrespective of their business scale and scope. After successfully shaping India’s Fintech space through customer-focused innovations, BankBazaar is now taking this legacy across new markets. I am excited to be a part of BankBazaar and partner with them in this new journey.”


    Source: bwdisrupt.businessworld.in

  • 19 Jun 2017 10:14 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    Kota Kinabalu: Sabahans who often travel to Australia and those planning to migrate to the country should look up an upcoming housing development called Yarra One that offers 268 units of luxury apartments in Melbourne.

    The residential property that will rise above Melbourne's most exclusive locale is being developed by Australian developer, Eco World – Salcon Y1 Pty Ltd, and will be completed by mid-2020 with its construction works commencing at the end of this year.

    Yarra One is to be developed in South Yarra, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, and home to some of Melbourne's most prestigious residential addresses.

    Potential buyers have a choice of one bedroom (56 square metres), two bedrooms (75 square metres) and three bedrooms (100 square metres) in the project.

    Its sole property agent, SGP Esteem Pte Ltd's General Manager for Marketing, Vincent Tee, said the property is now left with 80 units as 70 per cent of the units have been booked.

    "This luxury apartment is situated in a very strategic and great location in the city's most exclusive address at Claremont Street that connects Yarra Lane to Daly St to the Chapel Street. It is also near to a shopping area in Toorak Road and a shopping street known as Phrahan Market.

    "Those owner occupiers of the units would be fortunate as they could meet their home shopping needs, including for daily essentials, at Chapel Street which is a high-end shopping area with restaurants, eateries and high-end fashion. It is also minutes' walk to the South Yarra train station with two stops into the Central Business District (CBD).

    "Those who have children can also send them to Melbourne High School which is a top school in Melbourne and only children who live two kilometres within the vicinity can register at the school besides other prestigious education institutions," he said.

    Tee said this to Daily Express during its two-day property exhibition at Function Room 6, Pacific Sutera Hotel from 10am until 6pm, beginning Saturday.

    On June 20 and 21, he will be in Sandakan and Tawau, respectively, and can be contacted at 013-3336618 for appointments.

    Tee said the apartments are fully renovated and will come with quality kitchen cabinets and equipped with Miele (high-end brand name) appliances like dishwasher and induction cooker, built-in wardrobe, interior design bathroom, timber flooring to living and dining, among others.

    The apartment building, he said, would have a lobby concierge, a yoga room, gym, private kitchen/dining, a library, a wine cellar for the owners to keep their wines, public piazza/state of art podium at the ground floor and a roof top garden with BBQ area.

    "Among our target customers for the project are businessmen, investors and those who have families and wish to send their children for schooling in Australia as well as those who plan to migrate there.

    "The Australian Government allows foreigners to own property as it is a land of migration except for the aborigines.

    In fact, the net migration to Australia is about 80,000 people," he said.

    Tee said those who are interested to buy the units are encouraged to decide fast as after July 1 this year, they would be subjected to pay stamp duty that has been increased by five per cent for its contract of sales.

    Hence, he said they could enjoy huge stamp duty savings when they buy or book the units before July 1.

    Furthermore, he said those who invest in the units would generate high rental return of five to six per cent as South Yarra is the top choice of the locals there and has strong capital growth and rental demand.

    With the coming China One Belt, One Road initiative which also involves Australia and completed in 20 years' time, Tee said the commodities investment will grow in Australia and the economic spin-offs will include the property sector, including the Yarra One project.

    To a question, he said the property exhibition is being held in Sabah this month as they wish to facilitate the people in Sabah rather than them having to travel to Kuala Lumpur to browse for upcoming Australian properties to invest or to own.

    He said those interested to buy the units need to pay the booking fee and 10 per cent deposit, while the rest can be paid after the completion of the project.

    Tee said they can apply for bank loans either in Malaysia, Australia and Singapore and a mortgage consultant would be engaged for them to consult which bank loans suit their needs. - Hayati Dzulkifli


    Source: www.dailyexpress.com.my

  • 16 Jun 2017 4:42 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    KUALA LUMPUR: Tien Wah Press Holdings Bhd (TWPH) will cease its remaining printing business in Australia, which is represented by 51% owned subsidiary Anzpac Services (Australia) Pty Ltd.

    In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the cigarette carton and consumer goods packaging printer said the proposed cessation would hit its consolidated earnings by RM15.75mil, which translated into an 11 sen reduction in earnings per share.

    The exercise will involve stopping all its printing business activities, disposing assets except the freehold land and office/factory building, computer equipment and furniture fittings, and settling the liabilities of Anzpac.

    TWPH said that based on preliminary review, the exercise would cost Anzpac A$9.56mil (RM31.02mil), comprising employees redundancy and related costs and asset impairment costs.

    The assets to be disposed of are valued at A$4.6mil (RM14.91mil).

    Anzpac will retain its freehold land and building in New South Wales, which had a net book value of A$13.76mil (RM44.6mil) as at March 31, in order to generate rental income. However, these may be disposed of at a later date when the price is right.

    TWPH noted that the group had begun the transfer of production volume of gravure printing since September 2014 from Anzpac to its existing wholly-owned operation in Vietnam, Alliance Print Technologies Co Ltd (APT).

    “The above was with a view to improve the group’s strategic position to service the customers and reduce the group’s operating cost over the longer term.

    “After the transfer of the production volume to APT, and despite Anzpac management’s efforts to reorganise Anzpac’s remaining lithography printing business in its non-tobacco customers, the board is of the view that Anzpac’s business is no longer viable or sustainable,” it said.

    The TWPH group’s performance is highly correlated to the tobacco industry as the key customers and majority of sales are tobacco-related printed cartons.

    Anzpac, in which TWPH acquired a stake in October 2008, incurred losses in the last two financial years. For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2016, Anzpac posted an after-tax loss of A$7.24mil (RM23.44mil).

    TWPH said the proposed cessation, expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year, would affect the group for the current financial year ending Dec 31, 2017, as a result of the one-off redundancy cost and impairment loss on plant and machineries to be incurred.

    “The impact to consolidated earnings, earnings per share and net assets per share are a cost of RM15.75mil, reduction of 11 sen per share and reduction of 11 sen per share respectively,” it said.

    Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/06/16/twph-to-cease-remaining-printing-ops-in-australia/#vSMikDkDbxPZxcUg.99


    Source: www.thestar.com.my

  • 16 Jun 2017 2:55 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    AUSTRALIA – Cycliq Group Ltd (ASX:CYQ) is tapping customers in Singapore and Malaysia through an agreement with Lazada, Southeast Asia’s largest e-commerce website.

    The agreement allows Cycliq, the leading brand in HD camera and lighting combinations for cyclists, to sell its products to customers in the two Southeast Asian countries.

    “This will allow us to connect to cyclists in Singapore and Malaysia while maintaining fast delivery times and customer support through a trusted portal,” said Cycliq Chief Sales Officer Terence Yap.

    The agreement with Lazada builds on Cycliq’s rapidly expanding global sales network, as the company seeks to reach more customers in new territories.

    Yap said Southeast Asia is a significant market for the company.

    “There are more than 620 million people in this region and they are becoming increasingly comfortable with shopping online,” Yap said.

    READ ALSO: Chinese Investors Eye Southeast Asia As Next Destination

    Cycling has evolved to become a strategic priority for Southeast Asian Governments. The Singaporean Land and Transportation Authority has committed to developing 700 kilometers of cycling paths.

    “As recreational cycling increases in popularity, we would expect tech-savvy customers in this region will be attracted to our HD bike camera and safety light devices,” Yap added.

    A key feature of the devices is their long battery life. The Cycliq Fly12 is the only camera and light device that can record in full HD for the length of a Tour de France stage.

    “Cycliq’s device make cyclists more visible on the roads, while also functioning as a bike dash cam if something were to happen. Our device gives cyclists peace of mind,” he added.

    Cycliq is a Perth-based tech company that has sold its products to almost 50 countries around the world.


    Source: www.businessnewsasia.com

  • 08 Jun 2017 12:35 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    AFTER its maiden international project in Australia was successfully completed two years ago, TH Properties Sdn Bhd is gearing up to undertake more developments overseas.

    Besides strengthening its position and brand in Australia, the property developer was looking at opportunities in the United Kingdom and Indonesia, said chairman Datuk Azizan Abdul Rahman.

    In the UK, Azizan said TH Properties, the property development arm of Tabung Haji, was about to finalise an agreement to acquire a site in Baywater, Queensway, in London.

    “We are going to sign the agreement soon. We plan to develop an apartment project with a total of 28 units jointly with the landowner,” he said, adding that it would have a gross development value (GDV) of more than £70 million (RM387.24 million).

    “We want to try a modest type of development first. We are confident of this venture. We feel that it is a good location and are upbeat on the prospect of selling the apartment units,” said Azizan.

    The planned project is located between Queensway and Notting Hill, which is one of London’s prime areas. It is within walking distance of Kensington Palace and Hyde Park.

    In Indonesia, Azizan said there was huge potential for property development — thanks to growth in the middle-income bracket.

    There is now pent-up demand for middle-class housing.

    “We are still looking at suitable sites, locations and partners before we proceed,” he said.

    Azizan was speaking to NST Property at the recent Asia Pacific Property Awards 2017-2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, where TH Properties bagged three awards.

    The awards are for projects in Bay Pavilions, Sydney, in the “apartment” category, TH Hotel and Convention Centre Kuching (THHCC Kuching) in the “new hotel construction and design” category, and Islamic Complex Putrajaya in the “office development” category.

    THHCC Kuching has been nominated for the regional title for the International Property Award (IPA) event, to be held in London at the end of this year.

    Azizan said TH Properties made the right move to enter the Australian property market as developments there were growing rapidly.

    “The timing is very good. For the last two years, our projects in Australia have been giving us good returns. In fact, our overseas investment contributed close to 50 per cent of our group profit,” he said.

    Azizan hopes the trend will continue this year as far as profit contribution is concerned.

    The A$220 million (RM696.51 million) Bay Pavilions is TH Properties’ maiden project in Australia.

    Undertaken by its wholly-owned subsidiary, THP Bay Pavilions Corp, the project comprises 273 units and was launched in late 2013.

    Located at Burns Bay Road Lane Cove, the units were all sold out and the key handover ceremony was held last year.

    “I think we made the right decision to go into Australia. We have successfully completed one project and we are moving on to others,” said Azizan.

    Bay Pavilions, which previously won the Architecture-Residential-Constructed category for last year’s Sydney Award, is Australia’s first syariah-compliant property development.

    It was funded via a A$96 million Islamic term financing provided by Maybank Islamic Bhd.

    “This was the first syariah-compliant financing facility ever structured for a property development project in Australia and since then, many developers have approached us to partner with us. They see the advantages of Islamic financing, which provides stability as far as financing cost is concerned,” said Azizan.

    TH Properties has two other ongoing projects in Sydney. The first is Imperial in Hurstville. The project is undertaken by THP Australia Corp, also a wholly-owned unit of TH Properties, and comprises 227 apartment units and eight units of retail shops with a GDV of about A$200 million.

    The second project is One The Waterfront at Wentworth Point. This project comprises 678 units of apartment and it would be completed in 2019.

    In New South Wales, TH Properties is working on a residential development in North Strathfield (GDV of A$110.5 million), Rockdale (GDV of A$56.9 million) and Lindcombe (GDV of A$90.68 million).


    Source: www.nst.com.my

  • 26 May 2017 4:25 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    Melbourne, Australia — Film and bioplastic manufacturer Secos Group Ltd. has completed the divestment of its half share in a Malaysia film coating business and is about to start marketing its bioplastic pet products in the United States.

    Melbourne-based, publicly listed Secos formed though the April 2015 merger of Melbourne-based Cardia Bioplastics Ltd. with Melbourne-based privately held Stellar Films Group Pty. Ltd.

    The merger included Stellar's 50.8 percent interest in Akronn Industries Sdn Bhd, which manufactures silicone-coated paper and film products in Nilai, Malaysia.

    Secos sold its Akronn share to Itasa Servicios Generales SL, a Spanish release liner manufacturer.

    Secos Group Managing Director Steve Walters said the sale price is confidential.

    Secos, an acronym for "sustainable eco solutions," also operates resin, film and bag production facilities in Nanjing, China; Stellar Films (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, which operates a film manufacturing plant at Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpur; and and a film and bioplastic production plant in the Melbourne suburb of Deer Park.

    Walters said Secos will launch its pet product range in the United States via a new website within six months. The range includes food bowls and throwing sticks manufactured from Cardia Biohybrid, a mix of renewable thermoplastics, mainly corn starch, and traditional resins, which can include polyethylene or polypropylene. Cardia produces eight resins for varied applications.

    The range also includes pet training pads, made with Stellar films, which Walters said are very popular in Japan, and dog waste bags made from compostable plastics. A social media campaign will support the website launch.

    "The U.S. will be a mass test market," he told Plastics News. "Based on its success, we'll roll it out across the world."

    Walters said the group's remaining Malaysian plant is now achieving consistent profitability but running at about 60 percent capacity, so there is scope for growth. Secos will introduce new technologies over the next six to nine months and be "more aggressive" in seeking new markets. Walters will not detail the technologies planned. The plant predominantly manufactures release liners for the hygiene market.

    Walters said Secos's China operation is "under review" but there are no plans to close it. "We will always have a base there. We're streamlining operations to make it more efficient and looking at opportunities to automate what is currently a labor-intensive process."

    He confirmed the Chinese arm is the only business unit not returning a profit.

    The market for Secos's compostable and biohybrid resins is "not growing as fast as we would like" in Australia. Walters blames consumer confusion about oxo-biodegradability and compostable bioplastics, which he said "tarnished the image" for all bioplastics.

    Walters expects the company's sales for the fiscal year ending June 30 to be similar to 2016's A$21 million (US$15.6 million).


    Source: www.plasticsnews.com

  • 25 May 2017 4:34 PM | Philip (Administrator)

    May 25, 2017: Axiata Digital, the digital services arm of telecommunications corporation Axiata Group Berhad, has led a $23-million Series B round in Melbourne-based mobile advertising startup Unlockd.

    The round also included follow-on investments from existing strategic and early-stage investors, and a new investor in the form of Australia-based Alium Capital Management.

    According to Internet DealBook, a database tracking company investments, Unlockd’s Series B capital raise is this year’s second highest for an Australian technology company. Data compiled by Crunchbase indicates that the tech firm’s aggregate funding now amounts to $39 million across three rounds, following a $12 million Series A round in April 2016 and a $4 million seed round in April 2015.

    Proceeds from this latest investment will fund Unlockd’s expansion into new markets and sectors and its operational growth globally.

    As part of a strategic partnership with Axiata, the tech firm will have direct access to the former’s carrier businesses and local knowledge and key talent in the region, which will be overseen by Unlockd’s most recent hire, COO Aliza Knox.

    Unlockd said in a statement that the move will accelerate its entry into Asia by leveraging Axiata’s carrier list, which has a presence across ten countries, including mobile operations in key markets of Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, India and Singapore.

    “Axiata Digital’s strategic and financial support provides us with an expedited pathway into one of the fastest growing smartphone regions in the world. Being able to secure agreements with their operating companies to roll out in key markets sooner than previously planned also means we could raise less capital than we originally anticipated,” said Matt Berriman, CEO and co-founder of Unlockd.

    The Asia Pacific is a key growth area for Unlockd, with GSMA estimating there are currently more than 2.5 billion unique mobile subscribers, with a forecast of 3.1 billion by 2020 and a penetration rate of 74 per cent. This strong growth will be concentrated in emerging markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, China, India and Vietnam.

    The last few quarters have seen Unlockd enter markets through partners with firms such as Sprint Telecom subsidiary Boost Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Digicel Group and Etisalat, granting it exposure to the US, UK, Caribbean and the UAE.

    Unlockd’s second product vertical, Unlockd Stream, launched in 2017 with MTV and provides an ad and content funded platform for premium subscription content providers. Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO of Axiata Digital, said, “Unlockd’s technology will bolster our continued leadership position in the market across our mobile business and help lower acquisition cost, increase ARPU, and minimise customer churn.”

    “For our customers, Unlockd’s unique value exchange offer will reward them for viewing ads and content on their mobile devices. It will allow our customers to have more credit to stay in touch with friends, family, and their peers,” he added.


    Source: www.dealstreetasia.com


  • 21 May 2017 11:46 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    PETALING JAYA: Local funds and developers are turning to the Australian commercial property market to ride on the boom Down Under and cushion the earnings fallout from the depressed local property market.

    The move by Malaysian investors were also due to property overhang, demand drop and moderating rental yields for commercial properties in the country.

    They are said to be pouring in billions in Australia's property development and snapping up projects in the last two years. Investors from China are also riding on the Australian boom.

    The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) recently acquired a 49% stake in Yarra Park City Pty Ltd (YPC), which owns the rights to a mixed-use development worth over RM9 billion in Melbourne for RM514 million.

    According to a Malaysian Reserve report, OSK Property Holdings Bhd, a subsidiary of PJ Development Bhd, owns the remaining 51% interest in YPC. The company is expected to hold the preview for its Melbourne project soon.

    The Melbourne Square development of a mixed-use community and retail centre would have a gross development value of RM9.4 billion, it added.

    Property consulting firm Knight Frank Malaysia Managing Director Sarkunan Subramaniam said these are strategic overseas ventures to get better returns.

    "Grade-A offices overseas, especially in Melbourne, provide better yields compared to similar offices in Malaysia," the Reserve quoted Sarkunan as saying. "It just makes sense for local companies to leverage on these gains while the properties there command a high asset value."

    Colliers International Group Inc, in its "Metro Office Research & Forecast Report" for the first-half of 2017, said the effective rents in the key metro office markets of Sydney and Melbourne are "growing at an unprecedented rate".

    "For some years now, the central business district (CBD) office markets of Sydney and Melbourne have been diverging from the rest of the country, creating an unprecedented story in both markets," the report said.


    Source: www.thesundaily.my

  • 21 May 2017 11:29 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    HANOI: It was billed as the world’s biggest trade deal, a feather in the cap of globalisation advocates that promised to re-write the rules for 21st century commerce.

    But the Trans-Pacific Partnership was tossed into disarray in January after President Donald Trump pulled the US from the pact, branding the deal a “job killer”.

    On Sunday the 11 other signatory nations vowed to revive the deal, leaving the door open for the return of the world’s biggest economy.

    Here are some key questions about the pact and its prospects.

    What is the TPP?

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership is one of the most ambitious free trade pacts ever negotiated.

    Initially, it brought together 12 Pacific Ocean economies — the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

    Before the abrupt exit of the deal’s largest partner — the United States — the signatories accounted for a whopping 40 percent of the global economy.

    Under former US president Barack Obama it was sold to American allies as a unique opportunity to seize the initiative on worldwide trade — and ensure China does not get to dictate global terms of commerce.

    Supporters said it would scrap barriers to the free flow of goods, services and investment capital.

    They also hailed the potential to ensure a level playing field for all firms, as well as protecting workers’ rights and the environment — breakthrough issues in emerging markets such as Vietnam.

    Why did Trump junk it?

    Scrapping the TPP was an oft-repeated Trump campaign promise, and the first major move on trade he took after taking office.

    He called the deal a “rape” of American interests and blamed free trade pacts like the TPP on the loss of American jobs, though most experts agree automation is behind a decline in industrial work.

    Trump trade officials have called for “fair” trade deals, vowing to plough efforts into bilateral trade pacts instead of multilateral deals, including with countries in Asia-Pacific.

    So how can the deal survive?

    Under the original terms of the TPP, the pact had to be ratified by six countries that account for a combined 85 percent of signatories’ GDP. With the US out of the deal, that is impossible to achieve.

    But the remaining nations — the so-called TPP 11 — have options. They can change the clause outlining ratification rules to allow the deal to move ahead.

    Yet some fear that tinkering with the terms of the pact after years of already gruelling negotiations, could re-open treacly issues between the countries.

    – Can the US come back? –

    Members have said the door remains open for the United States — and other countries like South Korea and Columbia which have expressed interest — to join.

    While analysts say it is unlikely that Trump will return to the deal any time soon, the unpredictable leader has been known to reverse his position on previous pledges.

    What’s in it for the TPP 11?

    The TPP is called a “high quality” trade deal, meaning that it goes deeper than other free trade agreement in terms of terms of labour regulations, environmental rules, intellectual property protections and other requirements.

    Without the TPP, there are no other “high quality” deals on the table for signatories.

    Plus, even though the pact is seriously weakened without the huge US market, it does still allow smaller economies like Vietnam greater access to big economies such as Japan’s.

    What does China think?

    The TPP was seen as a mechanism to counter China’s economic clout.

    And the world’s second largest economy is unlikely to welcome its revival.

    But China also has its own trade pact — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) — currently under negotiation.

    That deal brings together the 10 Southeast Asian countries of ASEAN, as well as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

    Something of a mirror image to TPP, it does not include the US and is less ambitious on issues like employment and environmental protection.


    Source: www.freemalaysiatoday.com

  • 21 May 2017 11:22 AM | Philip (Administrator)

    Donald Trump has turned himself into a lame-dog president; for the time being at least, the United States is of no use to Australia or anyone else. The internal battles to unseat the usurper will occupy Washington politics for the next two years. And the US economy will continue to lag.

    In the meantime, China will push to enhance what it regards as its natural sphere of influence: the South China Sea. But its ambitions extend further. It wants to dominate world trade and greater influence over international affairs. It is playing its cards carefully, but playing them nonetheless, particularly in Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

    Duterte hosted and chaired the 30th ASEAN summit in Manila last month, the theme of which was a rules-based, people-oriented and centred ASEAN. In the chairman's statement, ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their commitment to peaceful settlement of disputes and "full respect for legal and diplomatic processes", including respect for international laws. However, apparently after pressure from China, the chairman dropped the affirmation of respect from the section on the South China Sea.

    Existing guidelines for hotline communication were endorsed while a "code for unplanned encounters at sea" will soon become operational.

    The activities of Islamic extremists remain a problem within ASEAN, in particular Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Weeks before ASEAN ministers were due to meet in Panglao on the island of Bohol, Abu Sayyaf militants attacked local police. To safeguard ministers, delegates and officials, the Philippines deployed 26,000 police and soldiers.

    It is this security issue, together with tackling issues associated with poverty, that should be exercising the minds of Australian policymakers. Several months ago, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said returning Islamic State fighters from the Middle East, perhaps up to 600, would try to strengthen the militant Islamic presence in southern Philippines and, as part of the process, establish a "caliphate". The leader of Filipino terror group Abu Sayyaf recently declared himself an emir.

    These militants will not enter the Philippines through airports. They will travel to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao by boat from Malaysia or Indonesia. Indonesia's immigration spokesman, Agung Sampurno, said recently that checkpoints at Miangas and Marore Island were unable to effectively screen seaborne movements between Sulawesi and Mindanao.

    Bishop is right to be concerned and Australia's intelligence agencies have been working with their counterparts in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to address the threat. However, more is required. Border protection is more than bullying and terrorising asylum seekers. The best way for Australia to protect its border is through regional cooperation and that should be done through joint naval patrols. Australia has taken part in such arrangements in the Gulf.

    At present, Australia deploys vessels in the region for a variety of tasks, including naval exercises and showing the flag.

    Some express squeamishness at the prospect of cooperating with Duterte in light of his poor human rights record. Any such relationship might not last long. He is said to have pancreatic cancer and, in light of that, to be grooming his daughter to succeed him. She is mayor of Davao City, Duturte's old powerbase.

    To be even-handed, that squeamishness might extend to Malaysia and its corrupt political system, and to Indonesia as it buckles to Islamic extremism. As flawed as some of our neighbours may be, that should not override our national self-interest, nor allow us to overlook our own poor human rights record with respect to asylum seekers and corruption in our own institutions.

    I propose a permanent Australian patrolling presence in the region, undertaken with the Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino and Singaporean navies and rotating the home ports among those countries. Greater and more aggressive naval patrols should aim to deter the flow of arms and fighters between the targeted countries.

    By engaging in regional maritime security, Australia would also signall a broader and deeper interest in the region, no bad thing in the absence of US leadership.


    Source: www.smh.com.au

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