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Marcos orders strengthening PH maritime security amid China's aggression in WPS

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has signed an executive order calling for the strengthening of the country's maritime security and maritime domain awareness amid China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said Sunday.

Marcos signed Executive Order No. 57 as he emphasized the need to strengthen maritime security and raise awareness on the maritime domain amid "serious challenges" threatening the Philippines' territorial integrity and the “peaceful existence of Filipinos.”

“Despite efforts to promote stability and security in our maritime domain, 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.

“Strengthening the country's maritime security and domain awareness is imperative to comprehensively tackle the crosscutting issues that impact the nation's national security, sovereignty, sovereign rights, and maritime jurisdiction over its extensive maritime zones,” he said.

Under EO 57, the National Coast Watch Council has been renamed and reorganized into the National Maritime Council (NMC) chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

The NMC will be responsible for formulating policies and strategies to ensure a unified, coordinate and effective governance framework for the country’s maritime security and domain awareness, among other powers and functions.

The NMC was also ordered to formulate and issue guidelines for the effective implementation of EO 57 within 60 days from its effectivity.

The said body will have as members the secretaries of the following departments:

  • Department of National Defense (DND);
  • National Security Adviser (National Security Council);
  • Department of Agriculture (DA);
  • Department of Energy (DOE);
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR);
  • Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA);
  • Department of Finance (DOF);
  • Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); and
  • Department of Transportation (DOTr).


The Solicitor General and the director general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency were also named members of the NMC.

Meanwhile, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) will be attached to the NMC. According to the PCO, the NTF-WPS will receive policy guidance from Marcos through the NMC.


Under EO 57, the NCWC Secretariat was renamed as the Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns (POMC).

The POMC "is tasked to provide consultative, research, administrative and technical services to the NMC and ensure the efficient and effective implementation of the policies of the council, among other functions," the PCO said.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Assistant for Maritime Concerns (PAMC) "may report directly to the President on critical and urgent matters and issues affecting the country’s maritime security and domain awareness," the PCO said.

The NMC on the other hand "is tasked to implement and coordinate maritime security operations, among others," it added.

The EO 57 was signed on March 25 and will take effect immediately upon publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.

Marcos ordered the strengthening of the country's maritime security days after China Coast Guard (CCG) ships used water cannons on a Philippine vessel, the Unaizah May 4, carrying supplies for Filipino troops stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel escorting the Unaizah May 4 was "impeded and encircled" by a CCG vessel and two Chinese militia ships on March 23.

The NTF-WPS slammed the CCG for the incident — the latest in a string of aggressive moves — which occurred in the waters of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"The actions of the agents of the PRC today in the waters of the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) show to the Filipino people, the region, and the world that the PRC recognizes no reasonable or legal restraint nor limitation upon its actions under international law," it added.

However, CCG spokesperson Gan Yu claimed that the Philippines conducted an "irregular resupply mission.''

"It is a deliberate and provocative move that infringes upon China's sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests and undermines peace and stability in the South China Sea. Despite repeated warnings and routing control by the Chinese side, the Filipino resupply ship tried to intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao forcefully," Gan said.

Gan said that the CCG implemented ''lawful regulation, interception, and expulsion in a reasonable and professional manner.''

The PCG on Sunday said that it will continue to have its presence seen in the West Philippine Sea, at the same time maintain peace in the area, amid China’s aggressive moves against Philippine vessels.

“Sa kabila ng mga naranasan nating mga panggigipit sa 'tin ng China Coast Guard at 'yung mga nangyaring incidents, nananatili ang mga tauhan natin na tapat sa kanilang tungkulin na ipagpatuloy 'yung utos ng ating pamahalaan na ilagay 'yung presensya natin doon sa West Philippine Sea at 'wag magpatinag doon sa nangyayari,” Balilo said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview.

(Despite the aggression we experience from the China Coast Guard and the incidents that have happened, our personnel remain faithful to their duty to follow the order of the government to put our presence in the West Philippine Sea and to not get swayed by what has been happening.)

The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have been embroiled in years-long territorial disputes over resource-rich features in the South China Sea, feared as Asia’s next potential flashpoint for a major armed conflict.

China claims the waters nearly in their entirety, despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling on a case filed by the Philippines that invalidated such an assertion. —KG, GMA Integrated News