President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has reminded the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to always be ready and aware while guarding the country’s maritime boundaries, especially in the West Philippine Sea.
During the oath-taking of PCG personnel in Malacañang, Mr. Marcos said that Coast Guard members are frontliners ready to confront whatever threats come through the country’s coastlines.
“That is why we must guard ourselves; we must be ready and aware and industrious in the work that we do to make sure that we do not have any untoward incidents, that we do not have any mistakes, we do not have any misunderstandings that might cause the problem to escalate out of our control,” the President said.
“I’m confident that all our officers know this mission, that all our officers know how to fulfill that mission. And that is why we continue to support you in every way that we can so our citizens feel safe,” he added.
Mr. Marcos noted that although the PCG’s primary role is search and rescue, as well as boundary patrol, many duties that once belonged to the Navy have been shifted to the Coast Guard.
“The reason for this is very simple. We do that so that we will notraise the tensions by putting in units and assets of the Philippine military into the area,” he said.
“But as many of the incidents have started to show over the past few years, that mission has become more, shall we say, intense. Now you are expected to defend not only the coastline, but to defend our nationals,” the President said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines and China are still working to establish a direct line of communication to prevent tensions from rising in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.
“The communication mechanism is intended to ensure timely, effective, and peaceful management of urgent ongoing maritime issues and concerns of critical importance as determined by both sides on a case-to-case basis,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said in a press conference.
“As with other bilateral arrangements, internal procedures have to be put in place to make the communication mechanism operational and this is being discussed with the Chinese counterparts.”
Daza was referring to a director-level communication mechanism established between the DFA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China on issues related to the South China Sea early this month.
She said the new mechanism is an addition to the existing diplomatic channels regularly used by both agencies such as notes verbales and the bilateral consultative mechanism.
Daza noted that all maritime issues would continue to be raised through these channels, including the recent incident where the Chinese Coast Guard drove away a Filipino fishing boat from Ayungin Shoal. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The DFA said it would take the appropriate diplomatic action based on official reports about the Ayungin incident.
“We seek your understanding that while it takes some time there is no intention to actually vacillate in terms of what we are supposed to do,” she said.
“The DFA will act, will take the appropriate action, based on the assessment of the incident. There is an inter-agency process of cross-checking and when it is warranted a protest is issued,” she added.
The Philippines, China and several neighboring nations have overlapping territorial claims over the vast and resource-rich South China Sea.
Since 2022, the DFA has sent a total of 199 notes verbale and diplomatic protests to China, four of which were lodged this year.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Tolentino said the planned joint patrols by the Philippines and the United States in the West Philippine Sea will help Filipino fishermen and even ease tension between the Philippines and China.
He also recommended that other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations be encouraged to participate in joint patrols.
Tolentino, vice chairperson of the Senate committee on foreign affairs, said multilateral cooperation can help ensure freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, which is being guarded by Chinese vessels.
“This will also be a huge help for our fishermen to freely fish in the disputed territorial waters,” he added.
“It is about time for Filipino fishermen to enjoy the riches from our own seas,” he said.
Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Philippines and the US are already talking about joint maritime patrols in the WPS.