SBMA continues to tighten port security, taps Navy assistance | SubicNewsLink

23 June 2009

SBMA continues to tighten port security, taps Navy assistance

A Philippine Navy detachment equipped with fast watercraft for “hot pursuit” operations will be stationed here to complement the round-the-clock maritime surveillance system being set up in this free port, Subic officials said.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza, the Navy’s flag officer in command Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez has already approved in principle the inter-agency cooperation to further tighten port security in Subic.

He added that an official agreement between SBMA and the Navy will be formulated and signed soon.

Arreza added that this development was an offshoot of recommendations by Rep. Roquito Ablan, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs that conducted a series of hearings on the attempted smuggling of illegal drugs into the Subic Freeport last year.

Arreza pointed out that the lead agency in cases of smuggling, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy would normally be the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), but given PCG’s limitations in terms of manpower and vessels, he said the SBMA had to turn to the Navy for help.

“The Philipine Navy has available personnel, and a wider range of patrol ships to assist SBMA in the enforcement of maritime laws,” Arreza said.

“This partnership between SBMA and the Navy would allow us to go after fleeing vessels even when they are beyond Subic’s port limits, where the Navy has jurisdiction,” he added.

Nevertheless, the SBMA would continue to coordinate with the PCG, which has recently established an auxiliary squadron of volunteers in Subic, Arreza said.

According to Capt. Perfecto Pascual, SBMA seaport department manager, it has been agreed in initial talks with Golez that SBMA will provide an area in Subic to station Navy personnel, including a berthing area for their fast craft.

Pascual also said that it is “just proper” that a naval station be put up in Subic Freeport, which is the emerging maritime center in the Philippines, because the nearest naval detachment to Subic Bay today is in Poro Point, a long way off in the northern Luzon province of La Union.

He also said that the cooperation agreement “greatly increases our response capability, which, together with our modern maritime surveillance equipment mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and highly trained personnel, would make it impossible for crooks to use the Subic Freeport as a jumping board for smuggling.”

Still, Pascual clarified that the Navy will act independently on its mandated task of territorial defense, which includes enforcement of maritime laws, hot pursuit operations, patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and immediate response to maritime emergencies.

As of now, Pascual said the SBMA seaport department is working on an inter-agency team-building workshop that would help smooth out coordination problems encountered in the handling of the drug smuggling case here last year.

The conduct of this workshop was also recommended by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, Pascual said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)