THE Philippine Coast Guard has officially joined the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center (JPSCC) co-chaired by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar and Armed Forces chief, Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana to further help the government address internal and security threats including those posed by Southern Philippines-based terrorists and foreign poachers in the country.
In a historic event, Generals Eleazar and Sobejana signed an agreement aimed at further enhancing the ‘interoperability’ of the PNP, the AFP and the PCG in addressing the presence of terrorists, other lawless elements and foreign poachers taking advantage of the country’s vast unguarded sea lanes and coastal areas.
The tripartite mechanism was officially adapted by the three agencies through Resolution Nr. 11-2021 which included the PCG in the JPSCC. As a result, PCG commander, Admiral George V. Ursabia Jr., a classmate from Philippine Military Academy ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987 of Generals Eleazar and Sobejana was also designated as a co-chair of the security body.
“Our presence today is a manifestation of our collective desire to enhance the level of our system of interoperability, coordination and cooperation which is the key to success in the war on terrorism and insurgency,” Gen. Eleazar said after signing the joint accord at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“We take pride in welcoming, officially, the Philippine Coast Guard in the JPSCC Family. The documents that we just signed are products of painstaking work that harnessed the positive ideas and modest contribution of our respective agencies aimed at ensuring a more effective campaign against terrorism and insurgency considering the emerging trends wherein adversaries have already established strengthened links with Islamist terrorist organizations raising the density of the threat environment and risk to the community,” Gen. Eleazar said.
For his part, AFP chief Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana said that with the inclusion of the Coast Guard in the JPSCC, they are looking forward to future collaborative efforts among agency members in terms of maritime safety and security, maritime law enforcement and the protection of the country’s marine environment.
This development is consistent with the government’s ‘whole-of-nation’ approach towards peace and security; engaging the PNP, AFP, and PCG to work together in keeping the country safe and secure, the military chief explained.
As new JPSCC member-agency, the PCG will play a vital role in forming various concepts of operations that will address the country’s complex and evolving maritime threats.
“The present challenges offer a great opportunity for us to enhance our coordination and interoperability. This has been a journey built from the ground by men in uniform service who selflessly serve for years and further stimulated and sustained at the policy side. For the PCG Team, we are so fortunate today that we are here to solidify the PCG as the third arm service in our lifetime”, said PCG Commandant Admiral George V. Ursabia Jr.
The three top officials also signed JPSCC Letter Directive Nr. 03-2021 which called for the reorganization of the JPSCC.
In the revised structure, the National JPSCC will now be headed by the PNP Chief, AFP Chief, and PCG Commandant while PNP Directors for Integrated Police Operation, AFP Unified Commanders, and PCG Area Commanders will exercise supervision over the Regional and Provincial JPSCCs.
The accord also stipulates that cooperation and coordination among the AFP, PNP, and PCG complemented by collaboration and consultation with all stakeholders shall be the guiding principle in addressing peace and security concerns.
“Despite differences in our respective uniforms and in the scopes of our respective work and mandates we are all bound together by our common oath to serve and protect the Filipino people and our country as well as safeguard the national interest. But most importantly, we all have the same faith and hope for humanity. That is, perhaps the most fundamental reason why we need to foster and strengthen our cooperation and collaboration… To promote the common good,” said Gen. Eleazar.
“As duty-bearers and public servants, we have a great responsibility to ensure that in the implementation of security operations, human rights and dignity, as well as International Humanitarian Law and the rule of law remain upheld and respected” the PNP chief added.
The AFP has vowed to be resolute in protecting the country’s maritime territories amid concerns on China’s new coast guard law and the presence of Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.
China’s new law allows its coast guard to use lethal force against foreign vessels found trespassing and committing violations within its self-claimed areas including the West Philippine Sea.
“We will pursue our constitutional mandate and consistently assert our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea,” AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement. He also said that the AFP had always been committed to protect the Philippines’ maritime domain “regardless of what laws other countries may pass.”
Gen. Sobejana also sent more ships to the disputed areas but said the action was to secure Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea’s common fishing grounds.
Gen. Eleazar on the other hand said the PNP Maritime Group is ready to assist the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in their maritime patrols on the West Philippine Sea.
He said that acting on instructions from the government, police will boost maritime law enforcement patrols in the resource-rich region.
“The PNP, specifically the Maritime Group, is ready to provide assistance and augment personnel from the PCG and BFAR in enforcing maritime laws on the West Philippine Sea and our Exclusive Economic Zone,” Gen. Eleazar said.
“Despite our limitations when it comes to resources, we will make sure that it will not discourage and prevent us from asserting and fighting for what is ours,” he added.
The PNP chief expressed belief that the presence of more Filipinos on the West Philippine Sea sends a message that the Philippines strongly asserts its sovereignty and rights.
“Malaki na po ang magagawa ng sama-sama nating presensya. Maganda po na mas maraming awtoridad ang nandoon para maipakita natin na nagkakaisa tayo at pinaglalaban ang ating karapatan sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.