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The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has bolstered its interoperability with Indonesia's Directorate of Sea Transportation (DGST) and Japan Coast Guard (JCG) through the conduct of integrated maritime drills in the vicinity waters off Makassar, Indonesia, today, 26 May 2022.

During the ongoing Regional Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) 2022, the PCG, DGST, and JCG conducted search and rescue, firefighting, and oil spill response to test, evaluate, and improve their maritime capabilities.

According to Acting Director General Mugen Sartoto of DGST, the possibility of a major oil spill in the sea lane between Lombok, Makassar Strait, and Sulawesi Sea has grown since the implementation of the 3.5 meters keel to seafloor clearance for bulk oil carriers. It caused maritime traffic to increase, putting the said vicinity waters at a higher risk of an oil spill. 

The maritime exercise's general scenario was as follows: M/T Palu Sipat, a 200,000-tonner bulk oil carrier registered in Indonesia carrying 1.3 million barrels of oil, collided with a passenger vessel. Its hull on the starboard side cracked and spilled approximately 800 barrels of crude oil onto the water. A fire occurred due to the collision. Oil spill Tier 1 was activated.

Due to insufficient personnel and equipment, the situation was escalated to Tier 2. Equipment and personnel from nearby ports responded to the incident. However, the incident continued to escalate, causing the fire to grow bigger, while six of the distressed vessel's crew members jumped into the water.

After assessing the situation, the harbormaster of Makassar proposed to DGST to escalate the oil spill response to Tier 3 International level. DGST took over the operation control, but due to insufficient national resources, DGST requested assistance from the PCG and JCG.

Immediately, the PCG and JCG deployed their vessels near the vicinity waters of Indonesia.

BRP Cape Engaño (MRRV-4411) rendered assistance in the search and rescue operations of the missing crew members, while BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) provided firefighting assistance.

Moreover, BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) focused on the oil spill and recovery operations by laying its oil spill boom to control the further spread of spilled oil in the said vicinity waters.

BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701), on the other hand, served as the control vessel during the operations.

JCG's PLH Mizuno also assisted during the said maritime exercise that concluded with a sailing pass among the 19 participating vessels — 14 from DGST, four from PCG, and one from JCG.

The biennial MARPOLEX is an implementation of the 1981 Sulawesi Sea Oil Spill Response Network Plan Agreement. The Regional MARPOLEX 2022 is the 22nd conduct of the said maritime exercise since its establishment in 1986.