The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) turned over to Palawan on Tuesday a new coast watch building facility equipped with radar and day and night surveillance cameras for enhanced maritime domain safety and security in the province.
Called the National Coast Watch Station Palawan (NCWSP), the building is located in the headquarters of the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP) near the Puerto Princesa City port.
Rear Admiral Joel Garcia, director of the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), said the new station building is part of the National Coast Watch System (NCWS) that was established in September 2011 through Executive Order No. 57, issued by former president Benigno Aquino III.
The NCWS is the central-agency mechanism for a harmonized and a sound approach on maritime issues and security operation towards an enhanced governance in the country’s maritime domain.
“Its purpose is to have maritime electronic eyes in our maritime domain. It aims to provide us what we call maritime domain awareness in all aspects, not just security, but economic as well,” he said.
The coast watch station, stated Garcia, is going to be a regional center that will enable the NCWC to have knowledge of what is going on in the country’s maritime domain in Palawan.
“The Palawan government will be embarking on a maiden trade voyage towards Kudat with the end view of going to Kota Kinabalu, and this regional coast watch center is very important towards attaining this,” he said.
He emphasized that the U.S. government’s investment in Palawan will be “successful to” the country’s “collaborative and coordinated sharing of valuable strategic information” towards attaining a safe and secured maritime domain.
Dr. Robert Pope, the director of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program of the DTRA, for his part, said the maritime cooperation project should boost the security of the maritime domain in Palawan as it is designed to be the operations center of all agencies involved in maritime security.
“It works to share information and ensure a coordinated and coherent approach to maritime security,” he said.
He said the capabilities of the center include radar, radio communications, automatic identification system, surveillance cameras for day and nighttime operations, and other operational fixtures to be able to send valuable data to the NCWC.
“It will have training capabilities to support professionals who will operate all of these new equipment,” he said.
The operation of the coast watch station, which is part of the U.S. DoD DTRA’s USD50 million support fund package, will be led in Palawan by Commodore Joselito dela Cruz, commander of the CGDP.
“It’s an honor and with humility that I accept the duties and responsibilities as the officer-in-charge of the NCWS Palawan, one of the regional coordinating centers of the NCWC,” he said.
Dela Cruz said as its pioneering team leader, there is a lot to be done, but all agencies that will be involved will work hard to achieve the purpose of the donated building facility.
Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, on the other hand, said the coast watch station’s establishment in the province balances Governor Jose Alvarez’ administration goal to ensure maritime border security against various threats, as well as other issues.
“We need all the help we can get from all quarters. We are grateful to the government of the United States, especially the DTRA, for having selected Palawan as the site of this coast watch station,” he said.
Socrates added the province appreciates the development as it is timely and coincides with the ignition point of a rapidly growing economy, where safety and security, protection of the people, and the environment are a primordial concern.