CAMP AQUINO, Philippines – The Philippine military in Northern Luzon is seeking to recommend setting up new radar stations to strengthen the country’s territorial defense efforts.
“We are proposing to put up littoral observatory stations in Batanes, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan and Aurora,” Major General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command chief, told reporters in a press briefing here Friday.
He said that there were 20 radar stations nationwide, with two in Luzon — Zambales and Pangasinan, but said that these were only “limited” and did not cover the whole area.
“We are not only interested in West Philippine Sea, but we are also much interested in the Pacific Ocean,” said Catapang.
“We have so much resources. They say the Benham Rise has as much resources as the Scarborough Shoal in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” he said.
The Benham Rise, a part of the Pacific Ocean located off Aurora province, was confirmed by the United Nations as part of Philippine territory on April 2012. It is 13 million hectares believed to be rich in tuna, mineral and gas deposits.
Panatag Shoal, or Scarborough Shoal, is also a resource-rich area located off Zambales and is part of the West Philippine Sea that is also claimed by China.
Early this month, the government accused the Chinese that they put up at least 75 concrete blocks scattered in a two-hectare area of the shoal.
“The LOS in Zambales monitors all movement at sea in that area in order to detect and monitor transiting surface vessels, aircraft in our area,” Catapang said.
“It is also tasked to report sea disasters, irregularities maritime violations that transpired in the area and to provide transiting vessels with pertinent information on movement of other ships, weather conditions, sea disasters and dangers to navigation and to monitor and record all active frequencies and conversations intercepted on the radio-monitoring equipment,” he also said.
Catapang said that the radar stations would help in maritime awareness, and would prevent incidents like in Scarborough and Batanes, however, he could not say how much these would cost.
Last May, a Taiwanese poacher was shot by Coast Guard personnel who are now facing criminal charges.
The Nolcom chief said that he recently talked with former Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama who is now with the coastwatch council. “He told me, ‘Greg if you have time you can show me your proposal. Maybe I can help you fine-tune your proposal,” he said.
“This is the new challenge that we are going to face, a globalized world that will need a credible force to protect our national interest,” Catapang added.
He also said he was looking at shifting from internal security operations to territorial defense in 2014.”I think I’ll declare the Nolcom [area of responsibility] as peaceful and ready for further development at the end of the year. Next year, we will start to shift to territorial defense.”