Various gov’t agencies patrol WPS: task force

(Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Various government agencies are now coordinating and patrolling the West Philippine Sea as part of the country’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and exercise sovereign rights as stipulated in the Constitution and international law.

“The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG) are closely coordinating in the continuous regular deployment of vessels in the country’s maritime domain for law enforcement, monitoring, ensuring the safety of the Filipino fishermen, and protecting the environment,” National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF WPS) spokesperson Omar Romero said in a statement Wednesday.

The deployment of the BFAR’s monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) and multi-mission offshore vessels (MMOV) off Kalayaan will also boost the country’s capability to deter illegal fishing, the statement said.

“Strengthening regulations against illegal unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF), protection of the marine environment, and enhancing the well-being of Filipinos dependent on this critical resource remain to be the priority of the government,” it read.

It added that aside from these vessels, the PCG has deployed its aircraft to patrol the area.

Meanwhile, the PNP-MG has also allocated its high-speed tactical watercraft, police gunboats, and police fast boats for deployment in law enforcement patrols.

“PNP-MG personnel will be posted to the Municipality of Kalayaan and assigned as ship riders aboard PCG, Philippine Navy, and BFAR vessels,” the statement said.

Area Task Forces (ATFs), it said have dedicated naval vessels and military aircraft to conduct sovereignty patrols on a rotational basis over the Municipality of Kalayaan, Bajo de Masinloc (BdM), and the rest of the western seaboard.

“For the period 15 to 22 April 2021, the PCG reported that there were no direct incidents between the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and Filipino fishermen, in both the Municipality of Kalayaan and BdM, for the third consecutive week. An average of 20 Filipino fishing boats and service boats were monitored fishing within the territorial sea of BdM,” the statement read.

However, Romero said the ATFs reported the continued illegal presence of three CCG vessels off BdM, another one off the municipality of Kalayaan, and another one off the Ayungin Shoal.

“These incursions are under review for the possible filing of appropriate diplomatic actions,” he added.

In response to the continued illegal presence of CCG, NTF WPs said the PCG conducted maritime patrols off the Municipality of Kalayaan and BdM, coinciding with its ongoing maritime capacity-building exercises dubbed as Task Force Pagsasanay.

“Our government shall not waver in pursuing peaceful, rules-based and proactive initiatives on environmental protection, the safety of navigation, maritime and food security within our maritime domains,” the statement said.

NTF WPS reminded all stakeholders in the region of their respective commitments made in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and underscored the importance of diplomacy and sincere discussion in exploring areas of cooperation especially on marine environmental protection in the area.

This to ensure that present and future generations have the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, it added. (PNA)

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