June 23, 2009 07:03 PM Tuesday [ journal.com.ph ]
By: Jess V. Antiporda
A Philippine Navy detachment equipped with fast watercraft for “hot pursuit” operations will be stationed at Subic Free Port to complement the round-the-clock maritime surveillance system being set up in this free port, Subic officials said.
Administrator Armand Arreza, of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, said that the Navy’s chief, Vice Adm. 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 in the near future.
Arreza also said 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 added that the lead agency in cases of smuggling, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy would normally be the Philippine Coast Guard, but given PCG’s limitations in terms of manpower and vessels they had to turn to the Navy for help.
“The Philippine Navy has available personnel, and a wider range of patrol ships to assist SBMA in the enforcement of maritime laws,” Arreza 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.