MANILA — The European Union on Monday expressed its desire to improve maritime cooperation with the Philippines to combat terrorism, crimes, and maritime conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
The EU invited the Philippines to join its maritime capacity-building initiative Critical Maritime Routes in the Indian Ocean II (Crimario II) to enhance maritime domain awareness through information sharing, capacity building, and training.
Martin Inglott, Crimario project director, said the project is aimed at promoting inter-agency and regional cooperation by building maritime capacity against drug trafficking, human trafficking, wildlife crime and many more.
It also offered the IORIS program where participant countries can easily coordinate with other countries on maritime issues.
"It is like a very, very secure Facebook for maritime security," Inglott said, referring to the IORIS where countries can talk to one another, for example, if there is a sinking ship in their territory or if there suspicious activities at sea.
Philippine Navy chief of naval staff Rear Admiral Caesar Valencia said that there are many maritime security challenges and the Philippines would need the help and support of other nations.
"These threats vary from unilateral attempts to limit freedom of navigation in attempts to shift the status quo, non-adherence to international law, piracy and armed robbery, maritime terrorism, illegal drug, firearms and human trafficking by sea, illegal unreported unregulated fishing and the intentional and unlawful damage to marine resources and marine environment," he said.
Inglott said countries may also request satellite imagery from the IORIS system if there are activities in specified areas, like if a fisherman reports to the Philippine Navy or Coast Guard that there is a foreign vessel in the territory.
"They [PH authorities] could request satellite imagery from Crimario II through IORIS for a specific area to identify whether there has been activity in the area," he said.
Vessels who turned off their sensors to hide from local authorities may also be found by IORIS through other means, Inglott said.
Valencia said the extension of Crimario II project in the Asia Pacific region will benefit many countries, including the Philippines in dealing with complex and intersecting maritime issues.
The Philippines has not yet formally joined the program but has already undergone training conducted by Crimario II.