AUSTRALIA AND PHILIPPINES STRENGTHEN PORT SECURITY
The Philippine Government, with the support of the Australian Government, held live simulation exercises at the Cebu International Port on 19 March to test the coordination and preparedness of local ports in handling security incidents.
Australian Ambassador Rod Smith said the Philippine Office for Transportation Security (OTS), the Cebu Ports Authority, the Philippine Ports Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard participated in scenarios involving simulated attacks to vital port facilities.
“The exercise served as the culminating activity of the Philippines-Australia Port Security Capacity Building Project (PAPSCBP) managed by the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government,” Ambassador Smith said. “It tested the security plan at the port and in doing so showcased the capacity of Philippine agencies which have been enhanced through the project.”
The capacity building project, funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), was part of the A$10 million Counter-Terrorism Assistance Package to the Philippines from 2003-2010. The package seeks to strengthen the capacity of key government agencies to prevent terrorist threats with a particular focus on law enforcement, border control, port security and regional cooperation.
“The PAPSCBP built the capacity of the Philippines to combat terrorism by developing a national maritime security framework that will reduce the vulnerability of port facilities to security risks,” Ambassador Smith said.
“The Philippines now operates ship and port security plans that meet international standards. This facilitates more secure and quicker movement of goods leading to improved trade for the Philippines and neighbouring countries.”
The five-year project which commenced in July 2004 enabled the Philippines to meet its obligations for the implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS). The Code requires countries to take preventive measures against security incidents that may affect international shipping.
The Australian-funded project also assisted the OTS formulate a National Security Program for Sea Transport and Maritime Infrastructure which is the basis for security measures being followed by commercial vessels and port facilities operating in domestic trade.
More than 900 ship and port security plans have been implemented since the beginning of the project and more than 4,500 government and private maritime personnel have received training on ISPS verification requirements and other port security- related matters.
“The Australian Government will continue to assist Philippine authorities in developing and implementing strategic measures that will protect the transport sector from possible terrorist threats,” Ambassador Smith said. “We also look forward to the passage of the Philippines Transportation Security Bill which will provide the legislative framework and funding for the continued oversight of transport security in the Philippines.”
Australia and the Philippines share a strong bilateral defence and security relationship that aims to counter global and regional threats. Australia is the Philippines’ second largest counter-terrorism and defence cooperation partner and is the second largest bilateral grant aid donor to the Philippines.