MANILA, Philippines — The South East Asia Cooperation and Training or SEACAT Exercise 2017 began on Monday in the Philippines.
This is a yearly multilateral maritime security information sharing exercise in Asia.
For the first time, this year’s SEACAT exercise focuses on anti-terrorism efforts and on preventing the spread of illegal drugs through the maritime sector.
“We have a porous border. The campaign of the president against illegal drugs should be intensified, as well as his campaign against terrorism. In terms of the illegal drugs menace, the US Coastguard, in particular, is expert on that matter,” said Philippine Coast Guard Spokesperson Cmdr. Armand Balilo.
“Addressing terrorism is also important because we are now guarding the Southern Philippines. This is so that those attempting to wreak havoc in the country will not be able to enter,” he added.
45 members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine Navy represented the country in the maritime drill.
This was also the first time the Philippine Navy and PCG participated in the SEACAT since its inception in 2002.
The SEACAT is led by the US Coast Guard with representatives from other Southeast Asian Coast Guards and navies like the Indonesian Coast Guard or BAKAMLA, Indonesia Navy, Sri Lanka Navy, Royal Thai Navy and the Thai Maritime Law Enforcement Coordinating Center.
The SEACAT has three phases. First is the academic seminar which is held in Singapore. Second is the boarding workshop held here in the Philippines and the command post exercise which will be held in Singapore and Brunei.
The US and South East Asian navies and coast guards will deploy their vessels and aircraft here in the Philippines, with the special operations group to do the deployment in Subic, Zambales and the Philippine Navy in several parts of Sulu.
Meanwhile, the PCG clarified that the Philippines’ relationship with China will not be tarnished by the two countries’ territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea.
“We have a clear cut guidance from the president. We have agreements, in fact we have law enforcement teams to be sent to China. So whatever the conflict in terms of territory would be, we are leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Balilo said. – Aiko Miguel | UNTV News & Rescue