President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the creation of a new inter-agency body that would help in preserving Philippine territory amid the alleged Chinese intrusions in the West Philippine Sea (also South China Sea).
The body, called the National Coast Watch System (NCWS), will help protect the country — its people and resources — from maritime threats, according to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on Sunday.
Aquino ordered the creation of NCWS through Executive Order No. 57 signed last Sept. 6.
“In issuing EO 57, the President emphasizes the government’s firm commitment to prioritize maritime security in the country, especially in the face of maritime challenges and threats such as terrorism, transnational crimes, drug and firearms trafficking, smuggling, human trafficking, climate change, illegal fishing, marine environment degradation and other security concerns,” Ochoa said.
EO 57 abolished the Commission on Maritime and Ocean Affairs (CMOA) that was created in 2007 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through EO No. 612. It also expanded the scope of the Coast Watch South, which was primarily tasked to provide maritime security operations in southern Philippines, to cover the entire archipelago.
The NCWS, Ochoa said, will serve as the central inter-agency mechanism for a more coordinated approach on maritime issues and maritime security operations to enhance governance of the country’s maritime domain.
Manila last June filed a protest to the Chinese Embassy over the increasing presence and activities of Chinese vessels including naval assets in the West Philippine Sea. But during his recent visit to China, Aquino met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and two agreed to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully.
Ochoa was tapped to head the NCWS, with the secretaries of the Departments of National Defense (DND), Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Justice (DOJ), Energy (DoE), Finance (DOF), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Agriculture (DA) as members.
The NCWS will have an initial budget of P20 million sourced from the Special Account in the General Fund of the DOE, and thereafter be incorporated in the General Appropriations Act for funding. EO 57, however, allows the council and the center to accept donations, contributions or grants from domestic or foreign sources subject to government accounting and auditing rules and regulations.