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Coast Guard heightens security, creates Southern Visayas district

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard has created its Southern Visayas District to protect marine environment, especially the Tubbataha Reefs, and prevent the spillover of terrorism to the southern part of the Visayas, among others.

Captain Artemio Abu, designated commander of the Coast Guard-Southern Visayas District, said the creation of  his unit will entail its getting a share of assets from the PCG national headquarters, which will include ships and radar facilities.

The newly-created Coast Guard district covers areas of Negros and Siquijor, and even if there is no real threat to these areas, Abu–who paid a courtesy call on Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Maranon Jr.–said there is a need for the PCG to be proactive all the time.

"We are all aware that Negros has a very rich tourism potential," he said, so it is important that terrorists from the southern Philippines do not reach it.

Abu said they will intensify their campaign against smuggling in the area, protecting the Tubbataha Reefs, declared by the International Maritime Organization as "a particularly sensitive sea area."

He said that vessels 15 gross tons and above are prohibited from passing through the designated buffer zone covering the Tubbataha Reefs, stressing also that Hinobaan town in Negros Occidental is a very strategic area, in monitoring vessels passing through Tubbataha and Negros.

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Abu expected that PCG will have a budget for the Hinoba-an facility next year. At present, the PCG-Southern Visayas District is presently co-located with the Coast Guard-Bacolod Station at Barangay Banago in the city.

The PCG also requires registration of motor bancas for free, so that they can easily monitor those being used in illegal activities, in compliance with a memorandum issued by the Department of Transportation. (FREEMAN)

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