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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

PCG drills vs terrorism, piracy open in south seas

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THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will begin on Monday (June 21) its week-long counterterrorism and anti-piracy exercises in Mindanao waters as it builds up its sea-borne operation capabilities.

The exercises were the second in more than two months for the Coast Guard through its Task Force Pagsasanay after it earlier held maritime training exercises in the West Philippine Sea.

The training was joined by eight ships, including four vessels from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). A training scenario would have the Coast Guard challenge Chinese militia vessels in the WPS.

Coast Guard spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said the counterterrorism and anti-piracy training, running until June 27, will be staged in the waters off Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Four primary ships, the BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Tubbataha (MRRV-4401), BRP Capones (MRRV-4404) and BRP Cape Engaño (MRRV-4411), as well as Fast Response Boats from the 47 PCG stations and substations in the areas will join the exercises.

Pilots and technical personnel of the Coast Guard Aviation Force (CGAF) will also join the training, utilizing BN Islander Plane, PCG-251 and H145 light twin-engine airbus helicopters, CGH-1451 and CGH-1452.

“The exercises will focus on anti-terrorism through boarding exercises and anti-piracy through robbery at sea interdiction. It will also test PCG’s recently acquired ship-based and coastal monitoring and communications capabilities for search and rescue (SAR) and law enforcement,” Balilo said.

“These will be done at the Sibutu Passage and Basilan Strait where a series of piracy and kidnapping incidents have transpired in previous years,” he added.

According to Balilo, the country is a party to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), being strategically located at the crossroads of major international sea-lanes that are vital to the growth of the region, particularly the Sibutu Passage.

Coast Guard commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said the Philippines is fully committed to the mission of the ReCAAP in enhancing regional cooperation through information sharing, capacity building and cooperative arrangements in combating piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Aside from the maritime exercises, the Coast Guard will also hold medical missions and relief operations in Southern Mindanao, particularly in the coastal municipalities of Sulu.

Early this year, Ursabia visited the residents of Maimbung, Sulu and assured them that the Coast Guard will regularly bring to their town public services such as medical care and humanitarian support, especially amid the pandemic.

The Coast Guard is also set to transport Covid-19 vaccines to Tawi-Tawi, including the coastal municipalities of Mapun Island and Taganak Island, at the southern extreme of the Philippines.

“Rest assured we will sustain our previous efforts in securing our maritime jurisdiction, especially the frontiers where we are needed most,” Ursabia said.

“As a matter of fact, for our fishermen and traditional maritime traders, we have already established a lighthouse at the southernmost islets of Panguan in Sitangkai and stationed personnel at Great Bacungan at the seams of the Turtle Islands, in addition to the upgrading of our station at the Municipality of Taganak in Tawi-Tawi,” he added.

Ursabia said vessel traffic monitoring and search and rescue facilities at the Sibutu Passage and Basilan Straits are now in place. Vessels transiting these areas are now better assured the Coast Guard can hear their distress calls from up to a hundred miles away through several marine distress radio repeater stations indigenously developed and established even in “unorthodox high grounds.”

“And more timely response is forthcoming with more PCG vessels and Fast Response Boats now forward deployed at 47 stations and substations. I am very proud to mention that our community presence in this area have expanded 130 percent due to the entry of locals to the Coast Guard,” he said.

“We believe such organizational enhancements, social and technological innovations and infrastructure projects, among others, have significantly contributed in the decrease of seajacking reports in the south,” the Coast Guard commandant added.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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