RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 03/24/16 4:44 AM
MANILA - Less than 100 days before President Benigno Aquino steps down from office, the Palace has ordered the creation of a national task force for the West Philippine Sea, which is the subject of an ongoing arbitration case between the country and China before an international arbitral tribunal.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa signed Tuesday Memorandum Circular 94, creating the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea.
The task force will be chaired by the National Security Adviser. The members include representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs, National Defense, Justice, Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources, Energy, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Transportation and Communication and Finance, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the National Coast Watch System, Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and such other government officials and private citizens as the chairperson may designate from time to time.
The NTF-WPS shall be composed of permanent representatives from each of the relevant agencies with the rank of undersecretary as regular members. The National Security Council shall provide administrative and technical support to the task force.
The NTF-WPS shall receive guidance from the President, through the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace. It shall be responsible in orchestrating and synchronizing the employment of the different national objectives in the West Philippine Sea and in submitting such reports and/or recommendations to the President through the Security Cluster.
The function of the inter-agency coordinating committee on the West Philippine Sea shall now be transferred to the task force.
The circular also ordered the creation of area-level and tactical-level task forces. The area-level task force shall orchestrate and synchronize the efforts of the different government agencies at the area level.
The area-level task force may create tactical-level task forces composed of units, assets, capabilities and elements of different agencies.