Bacolod: NegOcc waters to host Trilateral Marine Pollution Exercise

(Photo courtesy of TVDS)

Coast Guards of Japan and Indonesia are joining Philippine Coast Guard in a five-day Regional Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) 2024 at the territorial waters of Bacolod and Negros Occidental on June 24 to 28, amid tensions at West Philippines Sea.

In an advisory, Coast Guard Ensign Frances Doren Balboa – Baterbonia disclosed recently that the trilateral exercise of three countries will involve search and rescue, firefighting, oil spill and equipment recovery operations, as well damage assessment operations.

Marpolex is an oil spill response integrated exercise held every two years since 1986. The Philippines and Indonesia initially conducted the exercise following the implementation of the Sulu Sulawesi Oil Spill Network Plan 1981. Japan joined in 1995.

The maritime exercise directly impacts doctrines, training, capability development, and strategies that may be utilized in future undertakings, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

Five Philippine vessels were earlier reported to participate in the exercise, while Indonesia will send two ships, and Japan will send one.

Meanwhile, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea confirmed that Beijing, through its Navy, Coast Guard, and maritime militias, has conducted dangerous maneuvers, which involved “ramming and towing” during the country’s routine resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on June 17.

However, it has yet to provide specific details on the number of personnel injured during the mission.

United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson has condemned China’s aggressive actions near the Ayungin Shoal that caused “bodily injury” to a Filipino.

“The US condemns the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China’s) aggressive, dangerous maneuvers near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, which caused bodily injury, damaged Philippine vessels, and hindered lawful maritime operations to supply food, water, and essential supplies to Filipino personnel within the Philippine exclusive economic zone,” she said in a post on X.

“We stand by our allies in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she added.

Also on X, the ambassadors of France, Japan, the Netherlands, and the European Union expressed deep concern about the latest incident.

French Ambassador Marie Fontanel reiterated France’s call for respect of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and freedom of navigation.

“We oppose any threat or use of force contrary to international law and recall the importance of resolving disputes through dialogue,” she said.

Japanese Ambassador Kazuya Endo said Japan stands with Manila and would cooperate with like-minded countries in “maintaining and enhancing the free and open international order based on the rule of law”.

Dutch Ambassador Marielle Geraedts said, “Irresponsible maneuvers that endanger the safety of ships and crews call into question the freedom of sea routes guaranteed under international law.”

“(The Netherlands) considers it of utmost importance that the 2016 arbitral award is fully respected and implemented,” she said.

EU Ambassador Luc Veron echoed the same concern and took note that China’s activities have caused harm and damaged Filipino vessels within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star with PNA report)

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