CHINESE and Philippine coast guard personnel yesterday held maritime drills in Manila Bay to improve interoperability in times of emergency, setting aside differences related to the South China Sea dispute.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo said the drill, held days after the visit of China Coast Guard chief Maj. Gen. Wang Zhongcai, was focused on joint search and rescue operation and firefighting.
“We have to help one another in the rescue of people, regardless of their nationality, whether they are Chinese or Filipinos. If lives are at stake, we have to set aside differences that we have,” said Balilo.
Balilo said the two coast guards have to conduct such drills so “we will know how to respond and react to save lives” when there are emergencies at sea. “The focus is search and rescue exercise.”
The exercise involved four PCG ships and a China Coast Guard ship 5204 that took part in the morning drill.
“The activity allowed PCG and CCG to exercise interoperability and strengthen their capabilities in responding to such crises,” said Balilo.
“The joint maritime drills on SAR and combating fire at sea are part of the week-long activities of CCG’s port call in Manila to strengthen understanding, mutual trust, and cooperation between PCG and CCG towards the promotion of maritime security and maritime law enforcement in the West Philippine Sea,” added Balilo.
Balilo said the two sides worked on a scenario where a vessel caught fire and its crew members jumped into the sea. A patrolling PCG Islander plane then spotted the distressed vessel and crewmen.
The plane reported the incident to the PCG Action Center, prompting the deployment of PCG ships to rescue five passengers and eight crewmembers of the distressed vessel. The PCG also sent a notice to nearby ships to render assistance.
“The ships responded and launched rubber boats to rescue the people….Afterwards because the vessel is on fire, the ships in the area conducted firefighting operations,” he said.
The rescued individuals were transferred to a PCG vessel where they were attended to by a medical team. “Eventually, the troubled vessel was declared fire out, with no casualties recorded,” said Balilo.