US commits over P430M funding for PH maritime law enforcement agencies

Metro Manila, November 23 ------ The United States announced it will help beef up the capacity of Philippine maritime law enforcement agencies by providing $7.5 million, or over P430 million, worth of additional assistance.

The White House bared this on the same day of US Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Palawan — a province near the hotly contested Spratly Islands, where the Philippines and a number of other nations, including China, have overlapping territorial claims. The funding will strengthen the agencies’ capabilities to counter illegal fishing, improve maritime domain awareness, and provide search and rescue support, including in the disputed South China Sea, the US said.

The Philippines' long-time ally added that its Trade and Development Agency, “pending Congressional notification,” will back the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in upgrading and expanding its vessel traffic management system for improved maritime safety and environmental monitoring. The White House called Harris’ trip to Palawan “historic,” as she will be the highest-ranking US official to visit the province, known as the Philippines' last ecological frontier. There, she will engage with members of the PCG and tackle existing and future partnerships concerning the agency.

Meanwhile, Washington also said the United States Agency for International Development will launch a new initiative — including a grant to a local organization — to support traditional livelihoods and sustainable fishing practices in the country. It said this also aims to strengthen food security and advance the conservation of marine ecosystems in the South China Sea that are vulnerable to development and climate change.

Besides meeting with the PCG, Harris is also scheduled to visit the village of Tagburos where about half of the fish supply of Puerto Princesa comes from. She will meet with local leaders and residents to discuss the impacts of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, her office said.