By Izza Reynoso

GOPLAT 2024 PREPS. Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos (center) visits the Malampaya natural gas platform on Thursday (Feb. 8, 2023) ahead of the Gas Oil Platform Takedown and Recovery Training exercises. The joint exercises intend to foster interoperability between the facility’s on-site security personnel and Wescom troops. (Photo courtesy of Wescom)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan – The Western Command (Wescom) is beefing up security at the Malampaya natural gas platform located off the coast of this province to ensure its continued operation in case of any unforeseen threats.

In a press briefing Saturday, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, commander of Wescom, said securing the “energy crown jewel” is paramount, necessitating elevated security measures that include training the facility’s security personnel to collaborate with the military.

“In our pursuit of heightened security and preparedness, Wescom remains steadfast in its important role of safeguarding the energy infrastructure crucial for our nation’s sustenance,” he said.

Carlos disclosed that a joint exercise between platform security personnel and Wescom troops is being organized to better prepare the Malampaya facility for future security challenges.

The joint exercise, called Gas Oil Platform Takedown and Recovery Training (GOPLAT), is scheduled in the second quarter of the year, he added.

On Thursday, Wescom’s top officer visited the Malampaya offshore platform to assess existing security protocols and coordinate with on-site security personnel on the upcoming GOPLAT exercise.

The platform is located about 80 km. off the northwest coast of the Palawan mainland.

Carlos added that securing Malampaya is “of utmost significance” because it produces approximately 20 percent of the Philippines’ daily electricity requirements.

He explained that Wescom, operating through the Joint Task Force Malampaya, performs a substantial role in ensuring the uninterrupted and secure operations of the vital facility through close collaboration with key security and production personnel from the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Project.

Meanwhile, the third iteration of the maritime cooperative activity between Philippine and US allied forces in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) came to an end on Friday.

Carlos noted that the Maritime Cooperative Activity was conducted without any issues arising in contested waters during the war games.

He noted that the latest exercise reaffirmed the shared commitment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Indo-Pacific Command to bolster security and stability across the Indo-Pacific Region, while also showcasing their enduring friendship.

“These cooperative ventures serve not just as training for our forces at sea but as a clear signal of our shared resolve to maintain regional peace and security,” he added.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of collaborative maritime endeavors and joint patrols in the WPS, pointing out their broad implications that extend beyond national boundaries.

“We have to continue the exercise and to make sure that we can work together. I have no doubt that there will be many maritime cooperative activities coming up on the horizon, not just bilaterally; I would also expect multilaterally. There are other countries that are very interested in cooperating with the Philippines,” she said during a visit to Palawan on Tuesday. (PNA)