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Marcos creates maritime council amid escalating tensions in West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the strengthening of the country's maritime security and domain awareness as tensions between the Philippines and China escalate over territorial disputes. 

Marcos signed Executive Order 57 on March 25 "to comprehensively tackle" the cross cutting issues that impact the country's national security, sovereignty, sovereign rights, and maritime jurisdiction over its extensive maritime zones. 

"Despite efforts to promote stability and security in our maritime domain, the Philippines continues to confront a range of serious challenges that threaten not only the country's territorial integrity, but also the peaceful existence of Filipinos, including their fundamental right to live in peace and freedom, free from fear of violence and threat," read the document, a copy of which was made available on Sunday. 

The issuance of the order came after Marcos said the Philippines will implement countermeasures against "illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks" by the China Coast Guard and the Chinese maritime militia. 

Under the order, the National Coast Watch Council (NCWC) has been renamed and reorganized as the National Maritime Council. It 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 and domain awareness. 

The council will be chaired by the executive secretary. Its members include the heads of the following agencies:

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (WPS) will be attached to the council. The task force is responsible for orchestrating, synchronizing, and operationalizing the employment of the capabilities of different government agencies to achieve "unified action" in the WPS.

The NCWC Secretariat has been also renamed as the Presidential Office for Maritime Concerns, which will provide consultative, research, administrative and technical services to the council. 

The Presidential Assistant for Maritime Concerns may report directly to the chief executive on critical and urgent matters affecting the country's maritime security and domain awareness. 

EO 57 also