Puerto Princesa City, Palawan – The Coast Guard District of Palawan said Friday that a stronger partnership with the United States is needed to keep the Philippine Coast Guard well-equipped, with an advanced level of training, and staffed with other tactical strategies necessary to fulfill its mandate.
Coast Guard Lt. Gretch Mary Acuario of the Coast Guard District of Palawan made the observation ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the islands where she will engage with the fishing community of Tagburos, Palawan, and later with the PCG aboard the BRP Teresa Magbanua.
“It is an honor and a privilege to have the visit of… US Vice President Kamala Harris. Our joint training with the United States is actually ongoing. They provide training in tactical care of combat casualties. Our Coast Guard personnel are well equipped dahil sa tulong rin nila,” Acuario said.
Last April, Acuario issued a radio challenge to a Chinese militia vessel spotted in the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Western Philippine Sea.
“We hope this visit will strengthen our partnership, especially now that we have this Buliluyan Ship Support Facility project which is being funded by the United States. Malaking project po ito. We hope they will continue to provide training, kasi iyong training nila, advanced. It’s not just about first aid. Combat casualty tactical first aid, combat diving, marksmanship, advanced training, more advanced, po talaga and binibigay nilang,” the coast guard officer said.
Besides training, Acuario said the US government also provides medical kits and diving equipment.
The province of Palawan is adjacent to the resource-rich South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the Western Philippine Sea.
In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China’s nine-dash claim.
The same decision also declared the Spratly Islands, along with Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank as all within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines as provided for in the United Nations Convention. on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which the Philippines and China are signatories.
The same Hague court ruling also barred China’s action to prevent Filipino fishermen from fishing in the Scarborough or Panatag Shoal, with the Hague court deeming Panatag a common fishing ground for the countries.
China, however, refused to recognize the Philippines’ unprecedented legal victory.
But for Acuario, American aid to the Philippines was crucial with or without Chinese aggression in the Western Philippine Sea.
“Regardless of the problems that overwhelm the Western Philippine Sea, mas magandang can matatawag kang partner eh. This is the humanitarian service of the Coast Guard mandate,” she said.
“Law enforcement in hindi lang tayo. We help people affected by typhoons, flood victims. The Coast Guard does a lot of things,” she added. — Integrated news DVM, GMA