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Fishers call creation of maritime security council ‘redundant, insignificant’

MANILA, Philippines — A group of small-scale fisherfolk criticized the government's countermeasures against China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea, including the reorganization of a maritime council, as “redundant and insignificant” to their needs.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the government to strengthen the country’s maritime security following the recent escalation of aggressive actions by the China Coast Guard (CCG) against Philippine vessels.

Executive Order 57, signed last week, renamed and reorganized the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) into the National Maritime Council (NMC). The council will act as the central body in charge of formulating policies and strategies to ensure a coordinated and effective framework for the nation’s maritime security. 

The council will be chaired by the Executive Secretary. Its members include representatives from the Department of National Defense, National Security Council, Department of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Solicitor General and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, among others.

In a statement on Monday, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said the creation of the maritime council is an “added bureaucracy.”

“The government agencies belonging to the newly-created National Maritime Council are already constitutionally mandated to uphold and protect our national territory and natural resources,” said Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of PAMALAKAYA. 

“Why the need to consolidate these agencies into a council with the sole purpose of maritime security, and despite an existing task force with the very same functions?” he asked.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) will be attached to the NMC, and will be responsible for synchronizing and operationalizing the capabilities to different government agencies to achieve a “unified action” in the WPS. 

“Walang kabuluhan para sa mga mangingisdang patuloy na bumabagsak ang kita at nawalan ng kabuhayan ang hakbangin ng administrasyong Marcos Jr., hangga’t hindi tuwirang napapaalis ang mga barkong pangisda at pandigma ng China at iba pang dayong bansa sa ating karagatan,” Hicap said.