MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has officially welcomed China Coast Guard (CCG) officials into the country, kicking off days of “historic” talks and exercises seen to project cooperation amid murky relations of the two organizations in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: LIST: China’s incursions in Philippine waters)
PCG chief Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia led the welcoming party on Tuesday, January 14, at the PCG headquarters at the Port of Manila.
Garcia marched alongside CCG chief Commandant Wang Zhongcai and his lieutenants to fanfare music, made their salutations, and immediately entered the headquarters without speaking to the media.
The welcoming ceremony came after a year of multiple incidents at the West Philippine Sea, where fishermen and Philippine Military reported sightings of CCG patrolling Philippine territorial waters – a violation of maritime laws.
“This is the first time in history that the PCG and the CCG formally sit down and talk to enhance relationship and establish smooth coordination in relation to maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, marine environmental protection, and maritime security,” Garcia said in a statement sent to journalists before the program began.
In an earlier briefing to reporters, Garcia said incidents in the West Philippine Sea such as the ramming and abandonment of 22 fishermen from Occidental Mindoro will be raised. In macro, Garcia said they will seek to establish a “safety mechanism” for fishermen.
Such talks, according to a bare schedule sent to the media by the PCG, are set on the afternoon of Tuesday.
The CCG officials will depart on Friday. PCG spokesman Armand Balilo said that until then, the two forces will hold joint exercises. – Rappler.com