TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian government will check the veracity of reports about citizens being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippine waters.
"The government was trying to verify if the information was true as we have twice had such experiences and have now a network in place to deal with it," Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said at the presidential office on Wednesday.
He assured that the government would continue coordinating with the Philippine government and military officials to collect complete information about it.
"Certainly, the government wants complete information before taking any action," he stressed.
Regarding the information about seven citizens hailing from Samarinda in the province of East Kalimantan currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group, Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan expressed inability to make any statement without first checking the reports.
"Let me check it first," he pleaded.
Pramono revealed that President Joko Widodo would visit Natuna Islands along with Coordinating Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) commander, General Gatot Nurmantyo, to inspect the state of security in the border area.
"Natuna is the territory of the Unitary State of Indonesia. That is already a settled issue. So as the head of state and government, the President wishes to assure that Natuna is part of the countrys sovereign territory," he explained.
President Joko Widodo has called on the countrys apparatuses to defend the countrys sovereignty including the Natuna Islands waters. His statement came in the context of recent Chinese claims.
"The President has ordered to defend Indonesias territorial sovereignty that has been painstakingly built since independence," presidential special staff Johan Budi stated at the presidential palace compound on Monday.
President Joko Widodo summoned Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan the same day to discuss the recent South China Sea incident.
Johan informed that the President wished to assure himself that sovereignty was being enforced across the country without necessarily impacting good relations.
"So, the first important thing is preserving Indonesian sovereignty. That is what the President said to the Coordinating Minister of Political, Security and Legal Affairs," he noted.
He assured that positive diplomacy would be carried out with China but reiterated that sovereignty is one thing that cannot be bargained.
"It was also conveyed to Coordinating Minister Luhut that maintaining good relations was also important, not only with China but also with other countries as well," he emphasized.
Situation in the South China Sea has been escalating due to several incidents. China has lodged protest with Indonesia following the seizure of a Chinese fishing boat in the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Natuna Islands waters on June 17, 2016 for illegally fishing in the area.