MANILA: The Philippine Navy this week took the lead in efforts to prevent piracy attacks near the Arabian Gulf after it assumed command of a multinational response task force in Bahrain for the first time.
A 38-member multinational partnership known as Combined Maritime Forces established the so-called Combined Task Force 151 in 2009 to conduct maritime security operations aimed at countering piracy and armed robberies at sea.
Saudi Arabia, the US and Japan are also members of the CMF, which is headquartered at the US Navy base in Bahrain. Operations target terrorism, drug-trafficking, smuggling and other illegal activities.
“It is the first time for the Philippine Navy to command CTF 151, a very rare opportunity given to us,” Eduard Pablico, public affairs officer of the Philippine Navy, told Arab News on Wednesday.
“Piracy remains suppressed, but not eradicated, within the Combined Maritime Forces area of operations. It means that there are existing factors which detrimentally affect legitimate trade and may cause the re-emergence of piracy if not sustained.”
CTF 151 was set up in response to piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia that posed a threat to international fishing vessels and shipping. The force operates across about 3.2 million square miles of international waters, including some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
Leadership of the task force is rotated among member nations. The Philippine Navy assumed command after the South Korean Navy, which was in charge between February and August 2023.
During the change-of-command ceremony in Bahrain on Monday, CMF Deputy Commander Cmdr. Philip Dennis welcomed Philippine Navy Capt. Mateo Carido as the new commander of CTF 151.
The task force quoted him as saying that “the Republic of the Philippines makes history, taking command of CTF 151 for the very first time.”
Carido will lead a team of seven Philippine Navy officers supported by 11 officers and two enlisted personnel from 13 CMF member states.