PCG-SEM jurisdiction remains safe, peaceful — official

PCG SEM Photo

The bodies of water within the jurisdiction of Philippine Coast Guard – Southeastern Mindanao (PCG-SEM) remain safe, an official said Monday.

Lt. Commander Angel Tobias, PCG-SEM chief of staff, made the pronouncement following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s directive to strengthen maritime security nationwide.

Amid China’s incursions within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), Marcos signed last March 25 Executive Order No. 57, series of 2024 to “comprehensively tackle” the cross cutting issues that impact the country’s national security, sovereignty, sovereign rights, and maritime jurisdiction over its extensive maritime zones.

“We have not yet received the official communication about the directive. But so far, as to the bodies of water surrounding (Southeastern Mindanao), okay lang naman ang security (the security is okay), generally peaceful,” Tobias told MindaNews at the sidelines of the Kapehan sa Dabaw media forum at SM City Davao.

The PCG-SEM territorial jurisdiction straddles Regions 11 (Davao), 12 (Soccsksargen) and 13 (Caraga).

Citing protocol, she said the PCG main headquarter at the Port Area in Manila will receive the order and relay it to their commands nationwide.

Consul Jin Jun, Chinese Consulate General in Davao, attended the press conference but declined to comment on the WPS dispute between Manila and Beijing.

China claims the WPS as part of the South China Sea. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations ruled in favor of the Philippines. China had dismissed the ruling as “baseless.”

Marcos issued the executive order “despite efforts to promote stability and security” in the country’s maritime domain, amid China’s incursions there.

The government “will have to continue to do what we can to defend our maritime territory in the face of perhaps a more active attempt by the Chinese to annex some of our territory,” the state-run Philippine News Agency reported Marcos as saying.

“The Philippines continues to confront a range of serious challenges that threaten not only the country’s territorial integrity, but also the peaceful existence of Filipinos, including their fundamental right to live in peace and freedom, free from fear of violence and threat,” Marcos said.

In the EO, Marcos vowed to uphold the importance of “addressing challenges to its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and maritime jurisdiction in a manner consistent with its rights and obligations under international law.”

Over the past year, Chinese Coast Guard ships had blocked and water cannoned Filipino vessels on supply missions to its troops stationed at the WPS, the last incident recorded on March 5.

The Philippine government condemned these actions as “aggressive, reckless, and illegal”.

“China’s continued interference with the Philippines’ routine and lawful activities in its own exclusive economic zone is unacceptable. It infringes upon the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction. The Philippines demands that Chinese vessels leave the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal and the Philippine exclusive economic zone immediately,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on March 25.

Meanwhile, in a Global Times news article, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said that the Philippines’ “harassment and provocations” were “the direct cause of the recent escalation of the South China Sea issue, and China will not allow the Philippines to act willfully.”

Global Times is a news entity owned by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. (Ian Carl Espinosa/MindaNews)

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