PCG to WPS caravan: Don’t bring children, elderly  

Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
PCG to WPS caravan: Don�t bring children, elderly   
dmiral Ronnie Gil Gavan, PCG commandant, said they are communicating with the group about its Dec. 10 departure from El Nido in Palawan, although the latter still has not provided information on the exact number of boats to be used and the people who would be joining the caravan.
US Navy / File

MANILA, Philippines — With safety in mind, the Philippine Coast Guard is advising Atin Ito Coalition – organizer of the Christmas caravan to the West Philippine Sea – not to bring children and the elderly in their journey, saying the WPS journey is “not a walk in the park.”

Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan, PCG commandant, said they are communicating with the group about its Dec. 10 departure from El Nido in Palawan, although the latter still has not provided information on the exact number of boats to be used and the people who would be joining the caravan.

“It is still a work in progress. It seems many people want to join, but we still do not have the list,” Gavan said.

Citing the safety of civilians on board the boats, Gavan said the PCG “discourages (children and the elderly people from joining because) it is not a walk in the park. They can take the risk but we would not encourage them.”

“They have considered the best time (to travel) but even the ‘best time’ would still not be good... The sea conditions would not be good… We are not expecting very good weather,” he added.

Earlier reports said the organizers are planning to use 40 boats, including a mother ship, and visit Patag Island, Lawak Island and Pag-asa Island.

The National Security Council reportedly allowed the civilian convoy to sail only in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal, but not directly to the BRP Sierra Madre, as a safety precaution. But it has also warned them against traveling to the Ayungin Shoal because of the reported frequent high tensions between the China Coast Guard and PCG in the area.

The House of Representatives adopted Wednesday night House Resolution 1494 condemning China’s “illegal actions” in the WPS and urging the government to uphold and defend sovereign rights over the nation’s EEZ.

HR 1494 consolidates six resolutions with the same topic: HRs 781, 823, 1169, 1201, 1204 and 1293. It was introduced by House committee on West Philippine Sea chairman Rep. Neptali Gonzales II (Mandaluyong), along with Reps. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Bro. Eddie Villanueva (CIBAC), Brian Yamsuan (Bicol Saro) and Wowo Fortes (Sorsogon), among others.

“We are committed to do everything in our power to protect our rights in the WPS. We fully support our troops and our Coast Guard patrolling our exclusive economic zone against China’s vessels that turn away our fishermen with a legal right to fish in the WPS,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.

The House resolution referred to the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling upholding the Philippines’ right over the WPS under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, Beijing continues its illegal activities in the area even with the ruling that there is “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the nine-dash line.”

“In clear violation of the Arbitral Award, China has built artificial islands in various parts of the West Philippine Sea fortified with airstrips, military installations, hardware and equipment and has militarized at least three of those artificial islands, arming them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment and fighter jets,” the resolution read.

The Philippines, “being a firm believer and advocate of the Rule of Law, and despite the continued harassment of China, has resorted to diplomatic tools to address Chinese aggression, including the filing of over 400 diplomatic protests against the latter.”

According to the resolution, the “Philippine government must strengthen its ability to patrol and protect the country’s maritime zones by building a self-reliant defense posture program and upgrading the capabilities of the PCG.”

Meanwhile, Commodore Marco Antonio Gines, commander of the PCG District Southwestern Mindanao, noted the importance of tri-border coordination with neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia in tightening national borders against terrorists in light of the explosion inside Mindanao State University in Marawi City on Dec. 3.

Gines noted that the three countries held the 10th Contact Group on the Sulu and Celebes Seas or CGSCS last Nov. 29 and 30 in Kuala Lumpur.

“The CGSCS is very timely, especially now that we have a Marawi incident. We need to have regional cooperation,” Gines said.

The CGSCS was attended by officials of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Indonesia’s Badan Keamanan Laut/Indonesian Maritime Security Agency and the Philippines’ National Coast Watch Center and PCG.

“We need to (coordinate with other Coast Guard agencies from other countries) because terrorism and transnational crimes know no boundaries. We have to guard our borders,” he added.

Aside from terrorism, Gines noted that the three countries also share several maritime concerns that include the smuggling of drugs, fuel and even cigarettes. 

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