To strengthen the government’s maritime law enforcement capability, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is planning to integrate its maritime units with the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, with a focus on the country’s boundaries with Malaysia and Indonesia.

The country’s southern borders are considered porous and are usually the routes of smuggling and human trafficking activities.

PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said their maritime units’ patrols will focus near the country’s shorelines and help in the ongoing campaign against smuggling, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes.

“We wanted to have a memorandum of understanding with (the PCG and Philippine Navy) to secure our waters against contrabands and including the campaign against human trafficking,” he told reporters after the presentation and blessing of newly procured police equipment at the PNP Grandstand in Camp Crame on Monday.

It dovetails with the statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Cebu on Monday, when he said in his talk to the Visayas Command troops that the mission of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has evolved amid the “most difficult and complicated” issue on the South China Sea in this part of the world and the “intensification of the competition of superpowers.”

“If before, we had what we say to be clear boundaries of our country, now that is being questioned and several things are happening… We are facing a more complex foreign situation in the Philippines. As they say, in this part of the world, here in the Philippines, the South China Sea is the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world,” the President said.

The PNP’s procurement of sea vessels, which is part of its modernization program, is currently focused on the western part of Mindanao. Two high-speed ships were among the equipment the PNP had blessed and presented on Monday.

PCG commandant Adm. Artemio Abu, who served as guest of honor and speaker of the event, vowed to work with the PNP in law enforcement activities.

“As the commandant of the PCG, it has been my advocacy to strengthen our partnership, coordination and collaboration with the stakeholders and other government agencies.”

“It is our firm belief that by working together we achieve great things, that of enforcing the law and addressing lawless activities in the community and in achieving this end, we both believe that the whole is far more than the sum of its parts,” said Abu.

International terrorists have used the Philippines’ southern border as their usual route for seeking refuge in the country and has been the favorite route of the Abu Sayyaf Group in its kidnapping activities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, members of the Foreign Armed Forces Attachés (FAFA) Corps paid a visit to Navy chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci at the PN headquarters in Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila Monday.

The visiting delegation was headed by the Defense Attaché of Spain, Vice Dean Col. Javier Martin Gil, together with other defense and assistant defense attachés from China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Türkiye, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States, and Vietnam.

“We are working together to promote security and defense as we are also here to help strengthen the Armed Forces,” Gil said, as he underscored the Corps’ contribution in maintaining and enhancing diplomatic ties among countries.

Adaci acknowledged the PN’s successful staff-to-staff engagements with FAFA Corps in the past, including proposals for exercises that materialized.

“These are the types of engagements that we are open to. It is nice to see you and listen to all of you. I know you also have your message to us in the Navy and we hope to reciprocate suggestions from the Corps,” he added.

Adaci expressed his gratitude to the defense attachés for “protecting, developing and promoting the defense interest of your respective nations here in the Philippines.”

“That is why I have continued to emphasize my command guidance in the importance of strengthening our partnerships with allies, in particular to the members of the FAFA Corps. May we continue to be committed to maintaining a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

In his speech to the AFP Visayas Command, the President also said: “This is why I say that the mission of the AFP has changed. And now we have effectively watched over matters that before we did not have to think much about. There was a time when we did not have to worry about these threats and the intensification of the competition between the superpowers.”

“For many, many years, we were able to maintain that peace and maintain that understanding with all our neighbors. Now things have begun to change, and we must adjust accordingly,” he said.

For its part, the Philippine Coast Guard said Monday it would make public all incidents of Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

PCG adviser for maritime security Commodore Jay Tarriela said this would compel China to react and acknowledge its actions.