MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police-Maritime Group will put up its own elite unit similar to the US Navy Seals (Sea, Air and Land Forces) to strengthen antiterrorist and counterinsurgency efforts on the seas, a police official said on Friday. Senior Superintendent Napoleon Estilles, deputy chief for administration of the PNP Maritime group, said this elite unit will also be closely monitoring the so-called Coral Triangle.
The Coral Triangle consists of marine and coastal ecosystems in East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands.
Its six million square kilometers of ocean and coasts, where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet, are home to 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs and represent 75 percent of the known coral species.
“We want to preserve [the Coral Triangle] while at the same time enhance our antiterrorist campaign because this area is also where terrorists usually pass when they want to cross borders,” Estilles said after the weekly media forum at Camp Crame.
The elite unit will also be used in anti-kidnapping operations, especially when the abductions occur at sea like that in Zamboanga City last January 24 when kidnappers intercepted a boat and forcibly took teachers Rafael Mayonada, Quezon Freires and Jannette delos Reyes.
“If, for example, the abduction takes place near the shoreline or on a ship, the elite unit should be the one to respond,” Estilles said.
Former members of the Philippine Navy are set to train select members of the PNP Maritime Group for the elite unit “within the year,” Estilles said.