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PBBM creates National Maritime Council amid 'range of serious challenges'

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AGGRESSIVE ACTION. A Chinese Coast Guard ship blasts a Filipino resupply boat with water cannon in Ayungin Shaol on March 5, 2024. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on March 25 signed Executive Order 57 creating the National Maritime Council (NMC) to strengthen the Philippines' maritime security and increase maritime domain awareness among Filipinos amid China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea. (Photo courtesy of AFP Facebook)
MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has signed Executive Order (EO) No. 57 creating the National Maritime Council (NMC) to strengthen the Philippines' maritime security and increase maritime domain awareness among Filipinos amid China's aggressive tactics and threats in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In a six-page EO 57 signed March 25, Marcos emphasized the need to strengthen the maritime security and raise awareness on the maritime domain amid "a range of serious challenges that threaten not only the country's territorial integrity, but also the peaceful existence of Filipinos."
"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, Marcos renamed and reorganized the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) to the NMC to formulate policies and strategies to ensure a unified, coordinated and effective governance framework for the country's maritime security and domain awareness, among other powers and functions.
The NMC, chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, is tasked to formulate and issue guidelines for the effective implementation of EO 57 within 60 days from its effectivity.
The members of the NMC are the Secretaries of the Departments of National Defense (DND), Agriculture (DA), Energy (DOE), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Foreign Affairs (DFA); and National Security Adviser (National Security Council).
The Secretaries of the Departments of Finance (DOF), Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Transportation (DOTr) are also members of the NMC along with the Solicitor General, and the Director General of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).
The NCWC Secretariat, which was renamed as the Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns (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.
Presidential Assistant for Maritime Concerns Andres Centino is named POMC head and is tasked to directly report to the President on critical and urgent matters and issues affecting the country's maritime security and domain awareness.
Meanwhile, the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), created to orchestrate, synchronize, and operationalize the employment of the capabilities of different agencies for a unified actions in the WPS, will be attached to the NMC and will receive policy guidance from the President through the NMC.
The EO 57, signed by Bersamin by the authority of the President, will take effect immediately upon its publication in the Official Gazette, or a newspaper of general circulation where a complete list of the NMC's power and functions, and the support agencies are stated along with the functions of the POMC and the National Maritime Center.
Marcos issued the EO following the water cannon attack of China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia on a Philippine supply vessel in Ayungin Shoal that heavily damaged the ship and left three Filipino crew members injured.
The President earlier said a "response and countermeasure package" will be implemented by the government to counter China's aggressive and dangerous actions in Philippine territory.
READ: Marcos mounts 'countermeasure' vs. China aggression in WPS
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including maritime features in the WPS that are well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled to dismiss China's sweeping historical claims to the waterway, but Beijing has refused to acknowledge it.
'Chinese statement a reflection of isolation'
The DND earlier said that Chinese statement claiming that the Philippines is straying down a "dangerous path" in the WPS highlights their isolation.
"China's defense ministry statement clearly reflects their isolation from the rest of the world on their illegal and uncivilized activities in the West Philippine Sea," the agency noted.
The DND also said this also shows the inability of the Chinese Government to conduct open, transparent, and legal negotiations.
"Their repertoire consists only of patronizing and, failing that, intimidating smaller countries," it pointed out, adding that the whole world had seen and knows that the Filipino people are not aggressors.
"We will never seek a fight or trouble. Neither will we be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience," it said. "We do not yield. We are Filipinos."
Deescalate tensions
House of Representatives Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan said the Philippines and China should "exhaust all diplomatic avenues to de-escalate the situation."
Libanan is worried that international news reports of worsening tensions might dampen the Philippines' efforts to attract additional foreign direct investments and create jobs.
"We are very concerned that prospective foreign investors might misperceive and misunderstand the tensions as a looming security risk," Libanan said in a statement.
Libanan said President Marcos himself has been visiting other countries "precisely to encourage their corporations to put up factories in the Philippines."
Libanan cited the need for the Marcos administration "to reassure potential foreign investors that regardless of the maritime dispute, the Philippines remains highly conducive to profitable business activities."
"We must stress that despite the tensions, the Philippines offers a stable, peaceful, and safe haven for the gainful production of goods and services by foreign investors," Libanan said. (PNA)

Last Modified: 2024-Apr-01 08.06.58 UTC+0800