PCG joins maritime drills in Indonesia, calls for protection of marine env’t

Published May 24, 2022, 12:30 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) urged all countries to unite in protecting marine environment as it participated in the opening ceremony of the Regional Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) 2022 in Makassar, Indonesia on Tuesday, May 24.

Vice Adm. Rolando Lizor Punzalan, Philippine Coast Guard deputy commandant for administration, leads the Philippine delegates in the opening ceremony of the Regional Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) 2022 on May 24, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

The maritime exercise seeks to enhance Indonesia, Philippines, and Japan’s cooperation and capability in firefighting, rescue, and oil spill recovery operations through planning, command and control, and the conduct of integrated operations.

BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701), the PCG’s largest vessel, sailed to Indonesia to participate in the maritime drills. It was her maiden mission since being commissioned into service last May 6. Joining her are BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403), and BRP Cape Engaño (MRRV-4411).

The participating vessels will also test and evaluate the effectiveness of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Sea Oil Spill Response Network Plan and the current procedures of the Oil Spill Recovery and Response Capability of Indonesia and the Philippines.

Vice Adm. Rolando Lizor Punzalan, PCG deputy commandant for administration, underscored the importance of the exercises as he said everyone is prone to oil spill incidents as ships traverse oceans to support the global economy.

“Oil spill incidents will continue as long as the oceans remain our means of transporting oil efficiently. For this unavoidable nature of oil spill incidents, we gather here in the Regional MARPOLEX 2022 and think of the best ways to eliminate the harmful effects of these incidents,” Punzalan said.

“We should not only develop responses to untoward incidents but, more importantly, prevent oil spills from happening through enforcing and implementing laws that protect our marine environment from pollution,” he added.

The MARPOLEX 2022 is held in the vicinity waters off South Sulawesi which is strategically located in Indonesia’s Archipelagic Sea Lanes II.

The location plays a critical role in connecting international and domestic shipping and records high intensity of shipping operations, oil and gas activities, and other maritime operations in the Makassar waters, said Budi Karya Sumadi, Republic of Indonesia’s Minister of Transportation.

“This certainly increases the risk of accidents resulting to oil spills that pollute and damage the marine environment. Thus, the preparedness of personnel and equipment is needed to overcome shipping disasters as assistance for the Makassar Strait area,” Sumadi said.

During the ceremony, the PCG and the Directorate General for Sea Transportation (DGST) of the Republic of Indonesia forged a fraternal agreement to advocate multilateral cooperation to address major spillage in the Asian region.

Punzalan also recognized the Japan Coast Guard’s (JCG) role in ensuring the operational readiness of the Philippines and Indonesia for oil spill incidents, making the MARPOLEX “an opportunity to share new knowledge and techniques in the field of marine environmental protection.”

“This joint maritime exercise between the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan symbolizes our powerful spirit of cooperation in times of emergency and disasters,” he concluded.