MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Department of National Defense is reviewing the country’s security system along its coastlines in light of recent reported sightings of foreign vessels marauding within the Philippine-claimed territories, particularly the Spratlys islands in the South China sea.
At a Communication and News Exchange Forum on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said his office is currently awaiting the passage of an executive order that will initiate the establishment of an inter-agency commission that will enhance the Philippines’ maritime security.
Gazim stressed the over-arching need for a coast warning system that would cover the whole country. “Right now, we cannot cover all our coastlines due to the lack of funds,” he acknowledged. “But we do cover a substantial portion of our coasts by utilizing the resources that we have at the moment.”
The review came on the heels of several sightings of foreign vessels, mostly Chinese-owned, in the Kalayaan group of islands in the South China sea.
Gazmin said that Filipino fishermen also confiscated building materials, including posts and buoys, that were being unloaded by the Chinese vessels. He added that the Department of National Defense has filed a diplomatic protest with China on Wednesday regarding these latest incidents.
During the same forum, Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Oban said the latest reported sightings were on May 21 and 24 when civilian boats were reportedly spotted by Filipino fishermen some 100 nautical miles off Palawan, near the Likas and Patag islands, well within the Philippine-claimed territory in the Spratlys.
Oban said that the review on the coast watch system seeks to expand maritime domain awareness and the existing coast watch south of the Philippines (Celebes sea area). Oban said that they are eyeing expansion to the western seaboard, and even further north until all coastal areas are well guarded.
He added that the Department of Energy has earmarked a budget for the program which was derived from the Malampaya fund.
A central command center will also be put up to monitor coastal activities, the military chief said. He added that the DND is hoping this expansion will be implemented within the next two to three years.