Philippines inaugurates National Coast Watch Centre

7:03:00 PM
MANILA, -- The Philippines inaugurated its National Coast Watch Centre (NCWC) on 28 April 2015. Located at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) headquarters in Manila, this nerve centre connects a network of radar stations and other assets across the archipelagic nation.

The Philippines declared that the interagency NCWC ‘is being inaugurated to serve as the national maritime single point of contact for maritime security coordination’. RAdm William Melad, deputy commandant of the PCG, is appointed acting director of the NCWC.

A government statement noted, ‘It [The NCWC] is established as a coordinating and implementing mechanism in a whole-of-government approach to address current and future maritime safety, security and environmental protection challenges in the Philippines.’ Groups contributing to the NCWC include the PCG; Philippine Navy; PNP-Maritime Group; Philippine Centre on Transnational Crime; National Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Customs; National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice; Bureau of Immigration; and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The NCWC’s tasks are as follows: synthesise and disseminate information; maintain interagency communications; coordinate surveillance and response operations; oversee security operations; coordinate cross-border operations; support prosecutions; periodically assess maritime security; regularly engage stakeholders with seminars, etc; facilitate training and exercises; and act as crisis management office for human-induced threats within and adjacent to Philippine maritime borders.

Possessing 10.2% of the world’s coastline, the Philippines faces daunting maritime challenges such as human trafficking, illegal fishing, pollution, criminal activity, piracy, terrorism and smuggling. A PCG spokesman told Shephard, ‘With the increasing volume of maritime traffic and trade, the risk of maritime incidents has likewise risen proportionately. With increasing commerce and movement of people, the probability of crime on the high seas also threatens the country’s security and the safety of various stakeholders.’

President Benigno Aquino signed Executive Order 57 on 6 September 2011 to establish the National Coast Watch System (NCWS) and NCWC, thereby expanding Coast Watch South that was created in Mindanao on 28 November 2008. The original CWS had twelve radar stations in Mindanao, but the full NCWS will feature approximately 20 stations with all-weather radars sited to cover main sea lines of communication.

The Philippine government spent US$900,000 to establish the NCWC building, while the US government has financed $20 million to date through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Raytheon designed and constructed the facility, while the USA has also provided mission-essential surveillance and weapons of mass destruction detection equipment.

The NCWC will fuse information from various sources to build up fuller awareness of the country’s maritime domain, though under phase one the NCWC cannot monitor the entirety of the country’s coastline. Currently it only encompasses waters near Manila and Palawan. The US Embassy stated, ‘Future incremental improvements are planned to fully realise the potential of the centre.’ It added that, ‘The project, when complete, will tie together more than a dozen stations and sensors, as well as ships of the coast guard, to provide a more comprehensive picture of ships and vessels operating in or near Philippine waters.’

The Philippines is concerned about an inadequate level of maritime domain awareness, especially with China’s activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines lodged a complaint against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration over its territorial claims, which include features within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Nueva Vizcaya (SARV 3502) Ilocos Norte-class / (Pacific-class) patrol vessel


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