Last August 2008, I led the delegation of Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary which attended the US Coast Guard Auxialiary’s annual National Convention in my new capacity as PCGA National Director. It was there, during the International Round Table discussion, that the US Coast Guard Auxiliary presented the task of forming an alliance of Search and Rescue Organizations in the Asia Pacific Region. COMMO Ray Campbell, National Commodore of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association (AVCGA) and I, accepted the challenge and committed that we would try to form the alliance before the next USCGA National Convention in August 2009.
Three months after, on November 2008, being invited to attend the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association’s annual convention, I led four other flag officers to Brisbane, Australia. There we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the AVCGA, similar to what we have with the USCGA. After the convention, we had a meeting where we agreed to organize an Asia Pacific conference tentatively to be held in February or March of 2009 in Manila, Philippines.
With much effort, the Asia Pacific Conference of Maritime Safety and Environmental Concerns materialized in March 2009 in Traders Hotel, Manila. It was well attended by the representatives of seven countries and three organizations. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), and the US Navy, Thanks to the hard work and dedication of PCGA’s Internationals Director, COMMO Harold Wolf, backed up by RADM Buddy Mendoza and CAPT Ramon Moreno and many others.
Before the end of the conference, discussions led to the formation of the Asia-Pacific Network of Search and Rescue Organizations. Four countries immediately signed up for membership: the Philippines, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the IMO and IMRF were named as non-voting observers.
COMMO Harold Wolf was named Chairman of the Interim Governing Body, with COMO Everette L Tucker, former National Commodore of the USCGA; COMMO Raymond A Campbell ESM, National Commodore of the AVCGA; and Mr. Brook Archbold, Chairman of the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard, Inc. as members of the council.
The Asia Pacific Network of Search and Rescue Organizations aims to create a framework for international cooperation with the objective of sharing best practices, expertise, equipment, as well as Search and Rescue assistance, benefiting all members of the network.
During the recent USCGA, NACON 2009, a special meeting was held for the members of the Asia Pacific Network. Attendees were COMMO Ev Tucker and COMMO Ed Lott of the USCGA; COMMO Ray Campbell and Victory Deputy Squadron Commander Barry Cordwell of AVCGA; Mr. Bruce Reid, CEO of the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard; and of course, RADM Buddy Mendoza, COMMO Harold Wolf , COMMO Joey Dy, CDR Vanessa Garon and myself from the PCGA; and CDR William Isaga from the PCG. Also invited to the special meeting were Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary President and Chairman Malcolm Dunderdale, Citizens Rescue Organization Curacao President Adrian van der Hoeven and Vice President Curd Evertsz. US Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations, RADM Sally Brice-O’Hara was also kind enough to join us in that important meeting. They gave advice to the members of the Asia Pacific Network seeing how the organization was in infant stages.
Given the authority by PCG Commandant, Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, to represent and sign for the Philippines, I signed the Terms of Reference of the organization together with COMMO Ray Campbell of the AVCGA. Shortly after, I also signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Royal New Zealand Coast Guard. The documents were brought back by Mr. Bruce Reid for Mr. Brook Archibold to sign. COMMO Harold Wolf attended the recent annual convention of the Royal New Zealand coast Guard end of September, and formally shook hands with Mr. Archbold to reconfirm the partnership.
To date, the Philippines have special alliances with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
The US Coast Guard Auxiliary was so pleased with our initiative in organizing the Asia Pacific Network that during the plenary session of the recent USCGA National Convention, they surprised COMMO Harold Wolf and me conferring us Honorary Life Memberships with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. I was again privileged to speak twice during this recent USGCA NACON. My first talk was on our Search and Rescue capability at PCGA during the International Round Table discussion, where we were also learned the practices in other countries. My second talk was during the plenary session where I briefly reported about our very successful hosting of the Asia Pacific Conference on Maritime Safety and Environment Concerns and the formation of the Asia Pacific Network of Search and Rescue Organizations. I also took the opportunity to invite them to the second Asia Pacific Conference on March 25- 27, 2010 at Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Shortly before I spoke, CDR William Isaga read the speech of PCG Commandant, Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, who was unable to join the delegation due to ongoing senate hearings on the PCG Bill. His speech was incidentally well applauded.
Working together with these countries, especially with the establishment of the Asia Pacific Network is indeed a big step in achieving the PCG and the PCGA’s goals of having safer and cleaner seas.