Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Marcos promises coast guard upgrades to protect Philippine sea territory


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday promised upgrades to the coast guard to protect the country’s “sovereign maritime territory” amid Chinese incursions into its boundaries in the South China Sea. 

Marcos spoke during the 122nd anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Coast Guard, which has been at the forefront of thwarting challenges by China in disputed waters lately. 

“We are continuing with the upgrading of equipment and training and the capabilities of all our people, especially the Coast Guard, not only because they are on the frontline in the problems that we’re facing in the West Philippine Sea, but also because of the very important function that they play when it comes to search and rescue,” he said.

Marcos inspected the BRP Malabrigo, a Japanese-built 44-meter (144-foot) patrol ship, which is tasked with patrolling islets and reefs. Manila refers to South China Sea waters within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea. 

“Well, this was a vessel that was water cannoned,” Marcos said. “It only shows that our capability is increasing to defend our sovereign territory in the Philippines.” 

In August, a coast guard ship escorting boats delivering supplies to the country’s military outpost in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) was hit by a water cannon fired by the China Coast Guard.

“Despite all the challenges, the coast guard has unwaveringly answered the call of duty,” Marcos said. 

He said the government planned to add “40 more patrol vessels” to the Philippine Coast Guard. Details of the proposed acquisitions were not released. 

Adm. Artemio Abu, the coast guard chief, praised personnel for intensifying maritime security in the West Philippine Sea. 

“We handled the provocations, bullying and harassments of vessels on every resupply mission to the Philippine Navy’s BRP Sierra Madre anchored at Ayungin Shoal,” Abu said. 

The Philippines maintains a military watch over its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea by staffing the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era naval ship that Manila deliberately grounded near the shoal in 1999.

“Our personnel have courageously dismantled the foreign floating barriers, which were illegally installed in the West Philippine Sea. We installed additional navigational buoys, which also serve as markers of Philippine territory,” he said. 

On Sunday, the Philippine military accused China’s navy of “dangerously” shadowing a Philippine ship during a rare standoff last week between ships from their navies near Thitu, an island in the Spratlys. 

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the EEZs of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. While Indonesia does not regard itself as a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia’s EEZ as well. 

China took control of the Scarborough Shoal area in 2012 following a standoff between Manila and Beijing. In late 2016, Chinese ships allowed Filipino fishing boats into the area when then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pivoted to Beijing. 

Canadian-Philippines deal 

To address unauthorized fishing activities in Manila’s waters, the Philippines and Canada signed an agreement on Monday to utilize Ottawa’s advanced ship tracking system for identifying and addressing unauthorized fishing activities in Manila’s waters. The agreement was reached on the sidelines of the Sixth Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation in Ottawa. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Canada’s Dark Vessel Detection System is employed to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing carried out by ships that intentionally deactivate their Automatic Identification Systems. 

On Tuesday, the Department of National Defense announced plans to acquire three C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft for the Philippine Air Force. Two of the aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2026 and the third in 2027.

“The additional cargo space of the C-130J-30, coupled with the reliability of C-130 aircraft we have in our current fleet, will provide our air force with greater operational flexibility,” department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.



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