THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) installed a district headquarters in Negros Occidental to intensify its security presence in southern Visayas.
Captain Artemio Abu, commander of PCG-Southern Visayas District, said Monday that units from Western Visayas and Central Visayas formed the new regional unit, which covers the two Negros provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, and Antique province in Panay Island.
Negros Occidental and Antique belong to Western Visayas while Negros Oriental is part of Central Visayas.
The district office should be based in Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental but since there are no facilities yet in the area, the headquarters is temporarily holding office in the Coast Guard Station in Bacolod City.
Abu, who was installed as commander of the regional unit on November 13, said there’s “no threat” in Visayas, however, they have to be “proactive all the time” because “we are working for (the) future generation.”
He cited three reasons why Coast Guard created the Southern Visayas District headquarters.
First, the Tubbataha Reef, a protected area located in the middle of the Sulu Sea, is considered a “sensitive sea area.”
It means that all vessels weighing 15 gross tons and above will be prohibited from passing through the designated buffer zone covering the Tubbataha Reef, Abu said, adding that the Hinoba-an town in southern Negros Occidental is “very strategic.”
He pointed out “it is critical to put up a major Coast Guard unit in Hinoba-an to address the vessels plying in between Tubbataha and Negros province.”
Second, spillover of terrorism, he said.
“We are all aware that Negros province has a rich potential in tourism, so we have to make sure that terrorists from southern Philippines could not reach here,” he Abu said.
He added that the “nearest landing point” from Mindanao is southern Negros so the Coast Guard must be proactive in the area.
Also, Abu said the creation of the new unit in the region will expedite and improve delivery of services of Coast Guard.
“With the creation of Coast Guard district headquarters in this region, it will entail getting our share of assets procured by the national headquarters. We will be expecting ships and radar facilities to have good monitoring of activities,” Abu said.
He said that once the base will be established in Hinoba-an, a training facility capable of docking ships will also be set up.
“It’s progressive, we can’t do it overnight. By 2018, we will have a budget for that. We’re also asking the support of the local government units especially from the three governors,” he said.
Abu urged the public to register their motorized bancas with the Coast Guard.
“Most of the small motor bancas are used for nefarious activities. We want to have good inventory of them,” he said, pointing out that most of the motor bancas are unregistered.
The PCG commander said the registration for Safety Security Environment Numbering System is free.
He added that each motor banca, after registration, will be given a control number like the plate numbers in vehicles.
On smuggling, Abu said they have intensified their campaign against smuggling in whatever form.
“That’s why we have (new) headquarters here...The assets of the national headquarters will be downloaded here,” he said.