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13 February 2009

SBMA personnel volunteer for Coast Guard; Arreza now captain of Subic squadron

A déjà vu of what happened right after the U.S. Navy pullout from Subic in 1992 occurred here recently on a smaller scale but of equal significance when close to a hundred officials and employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) volunteered for Coast Guard duties.

Vice-Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), inducted the volunteers on February 7 into the 102nd Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), a civilian support group involved primarily in sea rescue and environmental protection.

SBMA Administrator and CEO Armand Arreza, who was among the 98 volunteers, now serves as commander of the 102nd Squadron, with the honorary rank of captain.

Members of the squadron serve purely on a voluntary basis, have undergone orientation seminars, and will undergo further trainings to help them discharge their duties better, Arreza said.

The entry of 98 SBMA personnel into the PCGA followed the signing of a memorandum of agreement on maritime cooperation between the two parties on January 9.

Arreza said this could be likened to the early days of the SBMA when some 8,000 volunteers helped to safeguard buildings and resources left behind by the U.S. Navy.

“This time, the SBMA employee-volunteers are going to protect the marine environment in Subic, as well as the robust development of maritime projects here,” he said.

Arreza pointed out that the Subic Bay Freeport boasts of an 8-hectare bay teeming with rich marine life, a maritime research center, as well as new container terminals, various ship repair facilities, and the largest shipyard in Asia, which is operated by Hanjin.

“These are assets that we must protect and guard against threats, abuse and degradation,” he added.

When asked about possible actions against illegal fishing in the Subic Bay area that covers parts of Bataan and Zambales, Capt. Arreza said it would be the first task of the 102nd Squadron to weed out predators in Subic Bay’s marine sanctuary.

“We know that they (illegal fishers) are only trying to make a living, but they are robbing the succeeding generations of Filipinos of their share of nature’s bounty,” Arreza said.

“This should serve as a warning: we’ll get them somehow if they don’t stop their illegal acts,” he said.

Arreza said that to help ensure maritime security in Subic Bay, the seven vessels acquired recently by SBMA under its port modernization program will be used by Subic’s 102nd Squadron.

These are the search and rescue vessels M/V Triboa, M/V Ilanin and M/V Cubic; the utility vessel M/V Maritan; the line-handling and search vessel M/V Redondo; and the fireboat and waste disposal vessel M/V Kalayaan.

The formation of the Subic PCGA squadron is an important step towards developing Subic as a top-notch maritime service and logistics hub, said SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, who also holds the rank of a commodore in the PCGA.

Salonga, who is an active PCGA official serving as the PCGA Deputy National Commander for Aids to Navigation, said the 102nd Squadron will assist the PCG in promoting safety of lives and properties at sea, conducting search and rescue operations, protecting the marine environment, disaster relief, and other maritime-related activities.

He added that PCGA membership is by invitation, and usually reserved to those who have distinguished themselves in their chosen professions. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (left), now also honorary Captain of the 102nd Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), is congratulated by Vice-Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard. Also in photo is SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, who is an active PCGA official.

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