PNP activates Special Boat Unit

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Philippine National Police Maritime Group formally activated last week its Special Boat Unit with the completion of its headquarters and boatyard facilities in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

“This is a dream come true,” said PNP chief Director General Jesus A. Verzosa as he joined United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn and top PNP-MARIG officials led by Chief Supt. Villamor A. Bumanglag in formally opening the facilities located in a 2,000-square meter lot in Barangay Sta. Lourdes.

Verzosa said the Special Boat Unit will strengthen the capabilities of the PNP-MARIG in enforcing maritime and environmental laws and other police functions against insurgency and terrorism.

Ambassador Kenney cited the importance of “doing things together, sharing experiences, expertise and resources” when she spoke at the opening of the facilities.

“The SBU has become an example of effective collaboration to protect the country, keep sea lanes open, promote the rule of law and respect for human rights and safeguard the environment,” Kenney said.

The MARIG Special Boat Unit is the equivalent of the elite Navy Special Warfare Group with its commandos on a 24-hour alert to respond to any emergency at sea.

According to Bumanglag, US-trained seaborne commandos led the training and selection of the first 40 members of MARIG unit who were chosen from 97 officers who completed a MARIG field training program in Puerto Princesa City.

“We have chosen the best and the brightest among new MARIG officers,” said Bumanglag.

The graduates underwent a special boat handling and navigation course under the supervision of US-trained instructors who are experts in counter-terrorism, deep-sea diving and search-and rescue operations.

The new commandos will perform rescue, relief and retrieval operations and respond to any criminal and terrorist activities at sea including piracy, smuggling and sea jacking.

Verzosa is fast-tracking efforts to fully modernize the 1,400-strong MARIG.

Former MARIG director, now Police Regional Office 9 director Chief Supt. Angelo H. Sunglao, said the PNP leadership’s Integrated Transformation Program must be credited for the modernization plan of MARIG.

The MARIG is also expecting the arrival of six brand-new 18-meter long rigid inflatable boats donated by the United States government. There are also plans to procure more patrol boats, rescue vessels, diving gears and underwater cameras.

Out of the 34 brand-new patrol boats procured by the MARIG in 1995, only seven are fully operational. Ten are already beyond economical repair while the rest are no longer ideal for use at sea.