The Musashi Exploration and the Philippines Maritime Patrol

by Joash Bermejo

Romblon – Provincial Government of Romblon, the Philippine provincial government that has the jurisdiction over the Sibuyan Sea area where the wreckage of the famous Japanese battleship Musashi discovered by an exploration team, was clueless about the search effort.

800px-Sibuyan_Island

Aerial view of Sibuyan Island in Sibuyan Sea. Photo from Wikipedia. 

In a statement issued last week, Romblon Gov. Eduardo “Lolong” Firmalo said that his province is unaware of the exploration made by the private exploration team of US Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.  Although the Province of Romblon welcomed the recent discovery, Firmalo reiterates that any sea exploration by a foreign vessel should first seek clearance from various Philippine government agencies like of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy.

“Claiming that they have been searching for Musashi for more than eight years, there has been no information shared nor coordination with the local authorities,” Firmalo said in a statement.

It was last week, March 4, when American billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced the discovery of the well-known Musashi battleship by his team in Sibuyan Sea, Philippines.

Musashi was discovered by the reseachers aboard Allen’s M/Y Octopus exploration vessel.

It was at a depth of more than 1km (3,280ft) on the floor of the Sibuyan Sea.

The Musashi and its sister vessel, the Yamato, were two of the largest battleships ever built and was used during the World War II.

Image of the wreckage of Musashi. Image courtesy of Paul Allen.

Image of the wreckage of Musashi. Image courtesy of Paul Allen.

US warplanes sank the Musashi on October 24, 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, believed to be the biggest naval encounter of World War II in which Philippines, American and Australian forces defeated the Japanese.

The recent discovery of the Musashi by a private exploration team that, in any form, did not seek any clearance nor inform the local authorities is a serious kind of problem that should be address by the Philippine government.

Though the discovery is a big development in history, especially in the World War II, there is a big problem that lies of this recent discovery. How come an alien yacht was able to just explore on a Philippine exclusive territory without even informing the Philippine government? The discovery just shows how poor the Philippine government’s way of patrolling its own territory.

Under Philippine laws, researchers are requires to seek permission from the Philippines’ National Museum to conduct any “underwater archaeological explorations or excavations.” Foreigners aboard privately-owned yachts or sailboats are also requires to secure a visa and inform Philippine agencies like of the Philippine Coast Guard “upon entry into the Philippines.”

Sibuyan Sea is a part of the Philippines’ internal waters. And foreign merchant vessels or yacht, in the case of Musashi exploration, are not allowed to travel in the internal waters of the Philippines without its consent even in the exercise of the right of involuntary entrance or innocent passage.

With what Allen’s team actions, it seems that they don’t recognize the Philippines government. They just get inside our territory and do explorations.

The Philippines is considered to have a long coastline, longer than the United States, so I understand that is very hard for Philippines authorities to patrols its coastline given its limited resources.

It’s high time for the Philippines government to get serious on protecting its own integrity and sovereignty by protecting its territory.

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