The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to conduct anti-terrorism and anti-piracy exercises in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi – Tawi waters to strengthen the country’s maritime law enforcement.
In a statement on Sunday, June 20, the PCG said four capital ships will be deployed including 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 area from June 21 to 27.
Meanwhile, pilots and aircraft 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 PCG said the exercises will focus on anti-terrorism through boarding exercises and anti-piracy through robbery at sea interdiction.
It added that it will also test the personnel’s recently acquired ship-based and coastal monitoring and communications capabilities for search and rescue and law enforcement.
The PCG said the country is a contracting party in the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which is strategically located at the crossroads of major international sea-lanes vital to the growth of the region, particularly the Sibutu passage.
“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,” PCG Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. said in a statement.
The training will be done at the Sibutu Passage and Basilan Strait where a series of piracy and kidnapping incidents have transpired in previous years, the Coast Guard added.
Humanitarian missions in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi
Apart from the maritime exercises, the PCG will also hold medical missions and relief operations in the coastal municipalities of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The Coast Guard is set to transport coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to the coastal areas of Mapun Island and Taganak Island, which are situated at the southernmost part of the country.
Ursabia said a lighthouse was already established in the southernmost islets of Panguan in Sitangkai and stationed personnel at Great Bacungan in the seams of the Turtle Islands, in addition to the upgrading of the PCG station in the municipality of Taganak in Tawi-Tawi.
“I am very proud to mention that our community presence in this area has expanded 130% due to the entry of locals to the PCG. We believe such organizational enhancements, social and technological innovations and infrastructure projects, among others, have significantly contributed to the decrease in seajacking reports in the south,” Ursabia said.
“[The] PCG will continue to boost maritime security, maritime safety, and environmental protection in the Philippine jurisdiction, while upholding the greater good of the people we serve through various humanitarian initiatives for we believe that no one should be left behind,” he added.