Cebu News

Task Force eyed to secure Visayan Sea

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon - The Freeman
Task Force eyed to secure Visayan Sea

Tanks arrive at a military camp in Iligan city to reinforce government troops battling Maute terrorists who laid siege in Marawi City for over a week now. Associated Press

CEBU, Philippines - Better be prepared than sorry.

This is the principle behind the Visayan Sea Safety and Security Inter-Agency Task Force that will be formed to protect the seas in the Visayas region from terrorists.

The move is being initiated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas headed by Michael Dino.

Dino said the task force will be formed through a Memorandum of Understanding that stakeholders will sign on June 5.

“We have to protect the Visayan seas especially Cebu because it is a mega city. It is the heart of the Philippines,” Dino told participants of a forum on marine safety participated in by stakeholders in the region.

“We should not allow a repeat of the Bohol incident. We should not wait for another local terrorist group from coming over and sowing fears to the Visayan people and wreaking havoc to our beloved Visayas. We have to act now,” he added.

He explained that a task force is necessary as there are sea vessels that can be used that will remain undetected by maritime authorities – an example of which is the “kumpit,” which was used by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in travelling to Bohol Island.

At least 10 Abu Sayyaf members penetrated the island and taken out through several military and police operations.

In a statement, OPAV said the MOU will serve as a framework in engaging agencies of government in the preemptive campaign, thereby preventing terrorists and other criminal elements (illegal fishermen, pirates, etc.) from traversing to Visayas provinces utilizing the seas and coasts.

The MOU also seeks to deputize the AFP so that it can provide logistical and manpower support to the civilian components of the task force, such as the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources may assist the task force through their patrol boats used in their anti-illegal fishing campaign.

“The task force, through the MOU, will also prevent the violence in Marawi City from spilling over the Visayas area,” Dino said.

Dino also said that motor banca weighing three gross tonage and below must be registered with their respective LGUs while those weighing more than three gross tonnage should be registered with Marina.

“Can you imagine, for example in Lapu-Lapu City alone, there are hundreds of motor bancas operating there and only 12 are registered,” Dino said.

During the forum, legal counsels of the Philippine Coast Guard, Marina and the Department of Interior and Local Government agreed to synchronize the registration of motor bancas and fishing vessels.

The forum was attended by representatives and legal officers of PCG, PNP Maritime, Marina, BFAR, Bureau of Customs, DILG, Department of Tourism, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Philippine Ports Authority, and Philippine Navy.

OPAV will participate in the task force as part of the monitoring group.

Meanwhile, Dino said it might be about time that the government implements a national identified card to protect the country further from “strangers”.

“Kinahanglan na gyud naa na tay national I.D. para ma-monitor gyud and to determine who are the intruders,” he said.

As regards the possibility of the president extending martial law to the Visayas, Dino shares the sentiments of the business sector here that the same would provide confidence among investors.

“Martial Law Duterte-edition, we have nothing to fear, if ever Martial Law will be extended in the Visayas. It is only meant to secure and protect the people in the Visayas,” he said, echoing the assurance of the president that abuse on the part of the military and the police will not be tolerated.  (FREEMAN)

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