The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), through the Task Force Pagsasanay, will conduct anti-terrorism and anti-piracy exercises in Southern Mindanao, particularly at the vicinity waters off Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
The week-long maritime security and law enforcement exercises will happen on 21 to 27 June 2021. It will be participated by four capital ships of the national government – the BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Tubbataha (MRRV-4401), BRP Bagacay (MRRV-4410), and BRP Cape Engaño (MRRV-4411) –as well as Fast Response Boats from the 47 PCG stations and sub-stations in the area.
Pilots and technical 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 exercises will focus on anti-terrorism through boarding exercises and anti-piracy through robbery at sea interdiction. It will also test PCG’s recently acquired ship-based and coastal monitoring and communications capabilities for search and rescue (SAR) and law enforcement. These will be done at the Sibutu Passage and Basilan Strait where series of piracy and kidnapping incidents have transpired in previous years.
The Philippines is a contracting party in the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), being strategically located at the crossroads of major international sea-lanes vital to the growth of the region, particularly the Sibutu passage.
PCG Commandant, Admiral George V Ursabia Jr said 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.
A manifestation of such was the important role the Philippines played in holding the Chairmanship of the Governing Council of ReCAAP from 2011 to 2013 and 2018 to 2021.
PCG TO HOLD HUMANITARIAN MISSIONS IN SULU, TAWI-TAWI
Aside from maritime exercises, the PCG will also hold medical missions and relief operations in Southern Mindanao, particularly in the coastal municipalities of Sulu.
On 22 January 2021, PCG Commandant, Admiral George V Ursabia Jr visited the residents of Maimbung, Sulu and assured them that the PCG will regularly visit their municipality to bring needed public service, such as medical care and humanitarian support, especially in this time of pandemic.
The PCG is also set to transport COVID-19 vaccines to Tawi-Tawi, including the coastal municipalities of Mapun Island and Taganak Island, which are situated at the southern extreme of the Philippines.
According to Admiral Ursabia, the pursuit of said missions are manifestations of the PCG’s sincerity in fulfilling its mandate to be of service to fellow Filipinos across the country.
“Rest assured we will sustain our previous efforts in securing our maritime jurisdiction, especially the frontiers where we are needed most. As a matter of fact, for our fishermen and traditional maritime traders, we have already established a lighthouse at the southernmost islets of Panguan in Sitangkai and stationed personnel at Great Bacungan at the seams of the Turtle Islands, in addition to the upgrading of our station at the Municipality of Taganak in Tawi-Tawi,” Admiral Ursabia said.
“Moreso, vessel traffic monitoring and search and rescue facilities at the Sibutu passage and Basilan Straits are now in place. Vessels transiting this area are already better assured that a PCG unit can hear their distress calls from up to a hundred miles away through the several marine distress radio repeater stations indigenously developed and established even in unorthodox high grounds,” the Coast Guard Commandant added.
“And more timely response is forthcoming with more PCG vessels and Fast Response Boats now forward deployed at 47 stations and sub-stations. I am very proud to mention that our community presence in this area have 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 in the decrease on seajacking reports in the south,” Admiral Ursabia expressed.
“Your 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,” the Coast Guard Commandant committed.
On 06 April 2021, Admiral Ursabia has directed the activation of Task Force Pagsasanay, with Vice Admiral Oscar Endona, Commander of the PCG’s Maritime Security Command, as head, as well as Rear Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan and Rear Admiral Allan Dela Vega on matters of policy and strategy, and operations respectively.
The Task Force Pagsasanay aims to intensify and harmonize the capacity building and sustainment efforts for PCG personnel and assets deployed in 15 PCG Districts, specifically in safeguarding the Philippine waters. PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD