Coast Guard cries harassment vs SBMA patrol unit

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) denounced the alleged harassment made by members of the harbor patrol unit of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to their rescue divers conducting wreck diving and penetration training last weekend.

Commander Armando Balilo, PCG public affairs chief, said the elite divers from Coast Guard Special Operations Group (CGSOG) were having a joint training with Philippine Technical Divers (PhilTech) on advance technical diving and wreck penetration course last Sunday along the wreck site of "El Capitan" ship in Subic Bay when the SBMA Harbor Patrol suddenly approached them and ordered them to stop their activity.

The SBMA harbor patrol, which is under the leadership of retired General Orlando Madela Jr., invited them to their headquarters for interrogation and held them for hours but no case has been filed against the Coast Guard and PhilTech divers.

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Balilo said they are clueless why the harbor patrol police have almost arrested their personnel who were just doing enhancement capability for future rescue missions.

“Until now, we were shocked why the SBMA did that to our men who were just upgrading their capability so that they can perform their task to save lives of other people,” Balilo said.

For his part, Madela said that it’s only a matter of miscommunication between the PCG and the SBMA authority.

He said they are just worried about the safety of the CGSOG personnel but Balilo noted that they have proper coordination with the SBMA authority before the incident happen.

Balilo said the CGSOG divers are having their wreck penetration training to properly respond during times of crisis just like what they did during the collision M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and M/V Sulpicio Express Siete along Lawis Ledge in Cebu and during the plane crash of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo two years ago along the waters off Masbate.

“They are just enhancing their skills for future mission,” Balilo said.

Aside from the "El Capitan," the PCG divers are also having their training in the nearby wreck site USS New York.

Last March, the Subic Bay Divers Association (SBDA) accused the harbor patrol unit of SBMA of taking part in looting a shipwreck.

The group had reportedly secured video footage, photographs and witnesses that linked the SBMA harbor patrol men to the looting. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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