Defend thy waters: Coast Guard activates training task force as West PH Sea row escalates

Published April 9, 2021, 2:03 PM

by Richa Noriega

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said Friday, April 9, that it has activated its “Task Force Pagsasanay” to intensify the capacity building of its personnel and assets as it vowed to protect the country’s maritime territory amid the heightened tension in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

(AFP / FILE PHOTO)

Commodore Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said the Task Force Pagsasanay will conduct training to enhance the skills of Coast Guard personnel on “navigation along restricted waterways, offshore, and in less charted waters, as well as in maintenance and logistical operations.”

 “We are supporting the whole-of-nation approach in securing our maritime jurisdiction, especially the efforts of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS). This is to assure the Filipino people that they have a Coast Guard that always seeks self-improvement in order to undertake maritime security, maritime safety, maritime law enforcement, maritime search and rescue, and marine environmental protection roles in our country’s waters,” Balilo said.

The Task Force Pagsasanay will initially capacitate the crew of the BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409), BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403), BRP Capones (MRRV-4404), and the BRP Habagat (TB-271).

Balilo underscored that pilots, medical doctors, nurses, rescue swimmers, weapons, communications, and information systems technicians among other specialists of PCG will also participate in various capacity building activities. 

The Task Force Pagsasanay will conduct the annual training at the PCG National Headquarters and its 15 Coast Guard districts.

PCG Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr., who led the activation of the Task Force Pagsasanay last Tuesday, April 6, directed the district commanders to implement necessary preparations for the task force training activities and to monitor its execution on a regular basis.

“They shall be guided on how they operate, maintain, and sustain their manpower and assets, as well as how they perform their various missions, specifically in proudly flying the Philippine flag inside the country’s vast maritime jurisdiction,” Balilo said.

“With shifting sea conditions among key planning considerations and in order to take advantage of prevailing favorable weather during trade winds, the capacity building activities of the Task Force Pagsasanay will initially take place in the WPS, Batanes Group of Islands, and Benham Rise. It will also be conducted in the southern and eastern portions of the Philippines,” he added.

Last month, the country protested the presence of around 220 Chinese vessels believed to be manned by maritime militia at the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and diplomats from the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines had a heated exchange over the continued presence of the boats. Lorenzana  demanded for the withdrawal of the trawlers but Chinese diplomats insisted that the reef was part of their territory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said last Wednesday that it has filed another diplomatic protest with China as it continue to refuse to recall their vessels at the reef.

The United States, which already sent a US Navy battle group in the South China Sea, also said that an armed attack by China against the Philippines would trigger the activation of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), an agreement between Washington and Manila that it would defend each other in case of a hostile attack from a third party country.

 
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