Gov’t tells Alejano: Trip to Panatag shoal OK but should be cleared

Robie de Guzman   •   April 16, 2019   •   2202

Senatorial candidate Gary Alejano (📷 Twitter)

Everyone may visit the disputed Panatag Shoal off Zambales, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said on Monday.

Balilo made the statement after Otso Diretso Senatorial candidate and Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano wrote a formal letter to the PCG to request for permission to visit the contested shoal.

The letter, dated April 13, was addressed to PCG Commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino.

“Sir, the PCA ruling in 2016 clearly stated that the Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino and Chinese fishermen, hence, both of our fishermen can fish there. However, our local media has reported otherwise, which, if left unchecked would greatly undermine our people’s rights to the resources found there,” Alejano’s letter read.

Balilo said there is no policy that prohibits people from visiting Panatag Shoal as long the trip is properly coordinated with the PCG station for rescue operation in case of emergency.

However, the Philippine Navy said Alejano and other opposition senatorial candidates cannot just sail to the disputed area, saying this should be cleared with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM).

The Philippine Navy said Alejano’s request should be forwarded to the AFP-NOLCOM as it has operational control of the navy ships deployed in Panatag shoal.

Nevertheless, authorities expressed doubt that the trip would be permitted if it’s going to be used for something other than fishing.

The PH Navy also stressed it can always deny request to travel to Panatag Shoal as it is not a tourist destination that anyone can visit.

The military said the AFP-NOLCOM’s priority concern is safety, and the current maritime dispute between the Philippines and China comes second. – Robie de Guzman

PH Navy receives advanced drone system from US to boost security in WPS

Marje Pelayo   •   November 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) of the US Embassy in Manila formally turned over a ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to the Philippine Navy in a ceremony held at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite on Wednesday (November 25).

This new equipment will help boost the Navy’s maritime security especially in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“This new asset will complement the same kind being operated by the 300th Air Intelligence and Security Wing at the Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, which is very close to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea that need our consistent attention,” said National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The system which costs US$14.79 M or an estimated P710-M will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 71st Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron (71 MUARS) – the AFP’s leading unit for unmanned maritime ISR operations.

“Transferring the ScanEagle system for operation by the Maritime Unmanned Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron represents the steadfast commitment by the United States to our partners in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Kimberly Kelly.

The Philippines has received more than US$650 million (P33 billion) worth of military materiel from the U.S. military making it by far the largest recipient of US’ military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region since 2015. MNP / Raymund David

PH Navy reservists conduct relief ops in Ulysses-hit areas

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Philippine Navy Reserve Force across Luzon are assisting in the delivery of relief goods to different areas in Luzon that were severely affected by the recent Typhoon Ulysses.

In a statement, the navy said reservists packed and distributed relief goods to different communities in Metro Manila and other Luzon provinces, including Rizal, Bicol, and Cagayan Valley.

The navy said its Naval Reserve Center-Southern Luzon through the navy reservists from Camarines Sur under 31st Naval Group Reserve (NRG) augmented to inter-agency relief efforts of distributing relief goods to Barangays Sta Eulalia and Iyagan in Baao, Camarines Sur.

While Philippine Navy 22nd NRG-Team Star conducted relief operations in Rodriguez and Montalban Rizal.

Aside from the delivery and distribution of relief goods, the navy said its personnel also assisted in the evacuation and rescue operations for families affected by widespread flooding during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

Naval Affiliated Reserve Force (NARF)-NCR (WesPhil) deployed two amphibious trucks with one rescue team of well-trained and capable reservists onboard each truck to flooded areas in the cities of Marikina and Navotas.

In Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), PN reservists from Northern Luzon have joined local government units in Cagayan in the conduct of search and rescue operations in the affected communities of widespread flood in the province.

“Said disaster response and relief operations demonstrated the invaluable contributions and selfless service of our reservists as force multipliers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during calamities and other types of human and natural disasters,” the navy said.

The Philippine Navy said it has been helping in relief efforts since last week when Typhoon Rolly ravaged parts of Bicol region.

These deployments are being supervised by the Naval Reserve Command headed by Major Gen. Ariel Caculitan in coordination with Joint Task Force – National Capital Region.

Former gas platforms near Recto Bank eyed as observation posts – PH Navy

Robie de Guzman   •   September 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy is looking to convert Nido and Matinloc, two former gas platforms located near Recto Bank, into floating monitoring stations due to their strategic locations.

PH Navy Flag Officer In Command Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo bared the plan when he visited the gas platforms in Malampaya, northwest of Palawan on Sept. 26.

“This inspection intends to look at the viability of these retired gas platforms to be converted to observation posts for Recto Bank and Malampaya gas platform,” Bacordo said in a statement.

“This will further enhance our capability to protect our maritime interests in these strategic locations,” he added.

The platforms location is deemed to be “strategic” and “vital” due to its proximity to Recto Bank, Malampaya and Galoc Gas Fields.

The Malampaya Gas Field is located 820 meters deep, 80 kilometers off the coast of Palawan which falls under the area of responsibility of Naval Forces West.

The Department of Energy (DOE) last year ceased the operations of these two gas fields after over 40 years of production.

The PH Navy said the transfer of ownership of these platforms was offered by the DOE in several meetings of the military’s National Task Force in the West Philippine Sea.

“It is the DND’s position to acquire said platforms and expeditiously transfer it to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” it said.

The navy said the future littoral monitoring station is a welcome addition to its “improving capabilities” to better serve our maritime nation especially in its critical location near the nation’s source of natural gas.

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