On Saturday (26/03) an Indonesian vessel (tug boat) was found abandoned in the Philippines' Tawi-Tawi province. It came with a barge, carrying about 7,000 tons of coal and a crew consisting of ten Indonesian workers, en route from Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan) to the Philippines. The Indonesians were kidnapped but it remains unclear what happened to the barge (most likely it was taken by the kidnappers).

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo complimented the government of the Philippines for the good cooperation that led to the release of the hostage.

The militant Abu Sayyaf group, established in the early 1990s, is a Al-Qaeda linked militant organization. By US and Philippine authorities the group is regarded a terrorist organization. Similar to other radical Islam groups, Abu Sayyaf is known for its bombings, extortion and kidnappings. The group, which is primarily active in the southern part of the Philippines, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

In the past two months there occurred a series of violent incidents in Philippine waters (leading to a total of 18 Indonesian and Malaysian hostages in three separate ship hijackings). It also caused concern that these waters have become the "new Somalia". Several Indonesian coal ports disallowed Indonesian ships from transporting coal to the Philippines in April due to safety concerns. Earlier it was reported that the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines plan to meet in Jakarta (possibly in early May) to discuss the possibility of organizing joint patrols in the region.

Four Indonesians are still being held hostage by the rebel group. Last week Abu Sayyaf killed a Canadian who had been held captive by for seven months.