Despite the persisting tension at the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has successfully established three command observation posts (COP) on Likas Island, Lawak Island and Parola Island, all inside the contested waters.
In a statement, PCG commandant Admiral Artemio Abu disclosed that the establishment of the said COP stretches the maritime domain awareness of the PCG at the WPS.
“Through these command posts, we improve our capabilities in promoting maritime safety, maritime search and rescue, and marine environmental protection,” Abu noted.
Also, the PCG’s Task Force Kaligtasan sa Karagatan constructed a smart house and installed radio communications on the said islands during the deployment of the largest Coast Guard contingent in the WPS.
“The activation of these command posts (also) complies with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade’s guidance to support the country’s maritime transportation and shipping industry by promoting maritime safety and maritime security,” he stated.
Abu pointed out that the endeavor will further optimize the strategic deployment of PCG assets by monitoring the movement of merchant ships in its surrounding waters and communicating maritime incidents to the PCG National Headquarters.
The National Task Force for the WPS and National Security Council Adviser, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, also supported the initiative.
He said this would guide domestic and international ships passing the country’s waters through safe and secure sea lines of communications.
Earlier, the PCG revealed that Filipino fishermen are already increasing in Pag-asa Island, internationally known as Thitu Island, saying that fisherfolks are now confident in attending to their livelihoods there despite the presence of Chinese authorities.
Esperon, on the other hand, said the government is also mulling to construct a fuel depot and ice storage plant on Pag-Asa Island in its effort to assist Filipino fishermen in the said area.
With this, Commission on Human Rights executive director Jacqueline Ann de Guia praised the PCG in its efforts of “asserting the sovereignty of the Philippines over the disputed territories where China has constructed artificial islands and interfered with Filipino fishing activities.”
“No State should deprive our Filipino fisherfolk from carrying out their livelihood in our national territories. The installation of navigational buoys is a notice to the rest of the international community that the Philippines is asserting sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group,” De Guia added.