MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Japan Coast Guard conducted mock operations at the Manila Bay on Wednesday, May 6, “arresting” 6 armed men who were trying to hijack a cargo vessel.
“The target of this exercise is mutual interest [of both countries], such as pirates and trafficking of firearms and drugs,” Captain Koichi Kawagoe, exercise director for the Japanese side, while on board BRP Batangas with foreign observers from the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies and journalists.
BRP Batangas is a search and rescue vessel.
At the Manila, 1.8 nautical miles north of San Antonio, Cavite City, the PCG's helicopter Helo 1636 confirmed that "pirates" were hijacking a cargo vessel.
The coast guard members of both countries – with more 40 from the Japanese side – responded on board the Japanese ship PLH22 Yashima and the PCG's BRP Nueva Vizcaya.
In the simulation of the maritime law enforcement (Marlen), PLH22 Yashima happened to be at the Manila Bay, so it positioned itself at the starboard bow of the hijacked vessel to block it.
BRP Nueva Vizcaya, on the other hand, hoisted the “Kilo” flag, which signals its intention to communicate with the cargo vessel. It approached the stern of the hijacked vessel, then deployed two rubber boats for “horsehoe maneuvers.”
As the coast guard members' rescue vessels attacked the hijacked cargo vessel, the PCG sent the Diesel Fast-312 with anti-terrorist units and canine and investigating teams to reinforce the two teams. Japan's helicopter Bell 412 evacuated a pirate who was injured in the firefight for medical treatment.
“Japan is constantly updating the technical skills of our people. They are monitoring how well we are learning, but there is really a move enhancing the cooperation between the Japan and the PCG,” Captain Artemio Abu, exercise director for the Philippines, told reporters.
“There is a constant coordination should there be a development when it comes to technology and we are testing if we are improving our skills and interoperability. This is one of it,” he said.
Abu and Japan's Kawagoe both downplayed questions on whether the joined maritime security exercises of the two countries are meant to counter the threat posed by China in disputed waters.
Kawagoe, who is also the director for Japan’s Internal Affairs Administration Division and Guard and Rescue Department, said that the two countries will only launch an operation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) if it is a case of piracy.
“As long as the incident is related to piracy we would coordinate efforts [with the PCG],” he said.
“Piracy is an international crime – the reason why we are forward-looking. We must prevent pirates and strengthen our capability. We have to be prepared all the time. We must always be on guard,” Abu said. – Rappler.com