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Phl agencies, EU collaborate to enhance inter-agency coordination in maritime jurisdiction

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Philippine national maritime law enforcement agencies worked together this week to facilitate and enhance national inter-agency information sharing and operational coordination among them with the main goal of securing the Philippine maritime jurisdiction.

The national agencies participating were: the National Coast Watch Center (NCW Center), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG), Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Armed Forces of the Philippines Command Center (AFPCC), Intelligence Service of Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). Other maritime agencies also attended the event: Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine Space Agency, Maritime Industry Authority, Department of Justice-National Prosecution Service, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Air Force, Department of Trade and Industry-Strategic Trade Management Office, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan and Philippine Ports Authority.

The Command Post Exercise “PAGHAHANDA” 2023 was jointly organised by the Philippines’ National Coast Watch Center (NCW Center) and the European Union funded project CRIMARIO II and was held in Manila from 28 November to 01 December 2023. The Exercise facilitated fruitful discussions among the representatives of the Philippines maritime law enforcement agencies on the benefits, impediments and relevant solutions enabling inter-agency information sharing and coordination in addressing maritime security challenges.

More importantly, it created a suitable venue for buidling up national inter-agency Standard Operating Procedures for coordination and information exchange which will be used in facilitating coordination in IORIS the Indo-Pacific Information Sharing Platform.

IORIS is a neutral, reliable, and user-friendly maritime information-sharing tool which enables inter-agency communication in a protected environment. IORIS’s primary function is to provide maritime centres, organisations, and agencies with an inclusive and efficient means to analyse, plan, and coordinate maritime operations at sea connecting domestic and international stakeholders to address the evolving and complex challenges within the maritime domain.

The Comand-Post Exercise “PAGHAHANDA” 2023 aimed to test the IORIS coordination and communication protocols in effectively facilitating the joint detection, identification, and interdiction of maritime threats within the Philippine maritime jurisdiction.

The successful conclusion of the exercise on IORIS demonstrated the willingness and commitment of the Philippines’ national agencies and governmental bodies to work and collaborate together, with the NCW Center as the main catalyst for interagency coordination. The exercise highlighted how strengthening cooperation and coordination could improve the joint response to real-world emergencies in today’s complex maritime world.

At the same time, IORIS proved to be a reliable communications platform for interagency planning and coordination at the national level, facilitating the gathering, analysis, and exchange of information to timely and efficiently respond to complex and evolving maritime threats.

In his opening remarks, Philippine Coast Guard Vice Admiral Roy A Echeverria, the Director of the NCW Center, shared the importance of diverse group of participants working together towards one goal. He also emphasized the importance of the participation of maritime law enforcement agencies in operationalizing IORIS in their organization and for improved information-sharing among the Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies which will also benefit for strengthened and effective maritime security operations.

Participating in the event, Frederic Grillet, First Secretary at the EU Delegation to the Philippines added: “By participating in inter-agency exercises like PAGHAHANDA 23 and working towards the establishment of a national governance of IORIS, the Philippine sets an example for the countries in the region and transmit the message that the country is ready to cooperate regionally in addressing maritime security challenges. This will also determine the rate of expansion of IORIS in the region, because you will be the proof of its added value in strengthening Maritime Domain Awareness and increasing your country’s contribution to the blue economy and prosperity through a safe and secure maritime trade ”

Alexandru Chiric, the CRIMARIO representative for Southeast Asia said, “The role of the NCW Center as the national coordinator and administrator of IORIS is paramount in supporting the use of the platform as an advanced and more efficient inter-agency coordination and planning tool.”

Martin Cauchi-Inglott, CRIMARIO project director concluded: “The Philippines has been at the forefront of welcoming IORIS to the region and is now set to lead the way in taking ownership of IORIS, allowing itself to drive the process internally, and bridge to external partners whenever it deems necessary. My hearty congratulations go to these most professional maritime agencies participating in the exercises in the past days and to the NCW Center for co-organising and playing an essential role in conducting it”.

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