Zamboanga City

Military activates task force to bolster territorial defense in Western Mindanao

Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.

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Military activates task force to bolster territorial defense in Western Mindanao

ACTIVATE. The Western Mindanao Command activates the Joint Task Force Poseidon on Tuesday, July 9, to enhance maritime security and defense in Mindanao. Presidential Adviser Andres Centino (in polo barong) keynoted the ceremony at the Westmincom gymnasium in Zamboanga.

Teofilo P. Garcia Jr./Rappler

Presidential Assistant on maritime concerns Andres Centino says the Sibutu Passage in Tawi-Tawi and the Basilan Strait are two critical sea lanes that need to be strictly monitored

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) activated the Joint Task Force-Poseidon on Tuesday, July 9, to enhance maritime and territorial defense operations in the Southern Philippines.

Rear Admiral Francisco Tagamolila, chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), has been designated as the commander of JTF-Poseidon.

JTF-Poseidon will operate throughout the maritime area of Wesmincom, including the southern maritime border of the Philippines with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The primary focus of JTF-Poseidon will be on territorial defense operations, internal security operations, and supporting other law enforcement agencies.

“The activation of JTF-Poseidon is not merely a symbolic gesture; it represents a tangible commitment to action. We are prepared to deploy our assets, leverage our intelligence, and coordinate our efforts with unwavering determination to achieve our objectives,” said Lieutenant General William Gonzales, commander of Wesmincom, during the activation ceremony at Camp Basilio Navarro in Zamboanga City.

According to the NFWM, the main objectives of JTF-Poseidon are to protect Western Mindanao’s borders from external threats, ensure internal security by conducting operations against lawless groups at sea and in Tawi-Tawi, and support other government agencies in targeting illegal activities such as smuggling, piracy, and human trafficking.

JTF-Poseidon will be organized into groups, each assigned specific tasks: maritime patrol, territorial and coastal defense, air operations, and intelligence.

The Wesmincom also deactivated JTF-Tawi-Tawi, incorporating its forces into the newly activated unit.

Two critical sea lanes

Andres Centino, presidential assistant on maritime concerns, noted that two critical sea lanes fall within Wesmincom’s jurisdiction: the Sibutu Passage in Tawi-Tawi and the Basilan Strait.

Centino said an average of 50 vessels, both domestic and foreign, transit through the Sibutu Passage daily.

“This is a large number of vessels to monitor,” Centino added.

Centino said the command center of the Philippine Coast Guard recorded 22 maritime criminal activities in the Wesmincom maritime area during the first six months of 2024. These include piracy, robbery, transshipment of illegal drugs, illegal fishing, transport of illegal forest products, and transport of explosives.

In May and June this year, six Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy vessels – four in May and two in June – were monitored passing through the Sibutu Passage and Basilan Strait.

Request for more assets

Centino said he would ask the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to realign or allocate more vessels to Wesmincom for the use of JTF-Poseidon.

He said JTF-Poseidon need to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police Maritime Group and other agencies that maintain vessels.

Centino said they would also seek the assistance of seafarers in monitoring against intrusion and illegal activities in Wesmincom’s maritime area.

“Our lack of equipment should not be a hindrance but rather it should motivate us to work closely together,” Centino said.

Gonzales said one reason for activating JTF-Poseidon is to operationalize the Civilian Active Auxiliary Development Course and to implement the AFP’s transformation and development plan. –

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