Jun 19, 2024

The Philippine Coast Guard is in charge of the maritime protection of the country. Photo by Philippine Coast Guard.
The Philippine Coast Guard is in charge of the maritime protection of the country. Photo by Philippine Coast Guard.

December 1, 2023 — Canada is deploying a state-of-the-art surveillance system to help the Philippines protect its sovereign waters.

This announcement was included in a November 17, 2023 statement issued by the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following his participation in this year’s leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in San Francisco.

APEC is a forum of 21 member economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Nearly one year since the launch of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, the meeting was an important forum to deepen Canada’s collaboration with regional economies on supply chain resilience, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, digital trade, and economic security,” the statement from the prime minister’s office noted.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy was launched in 2022.

The statement noted “significant progress in its implementation”.

This includes the signing of a five-year agreement with the Philippines to “provide Canada’s Dark Vessel Detection system which offers state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies to heighten the Philippines’ maritime domain awareness and support their efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing within their sovereign waters”. 

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada will deploy the system to multiple monitoring facilities in the Philippines as of November 20, 2023,” the prime minister’s office stated.

“Dark vessels” are ships that switch off location-transmitting devices in order to evade monitoring.

 An October 14, 2023 report by the Philippine government-owned Philippine News Agency explained that the agreement between the two countries will allow the Philippines to “access for free Ottawa’s satellite-based technology”.

The PNA also reported that the Canadian Embassy in Manila had said that the two countries signed the deal during the 6th Canada-Philippines Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation meeting in Canada on October 13, 2023.

The news agency also reported that the satellite-based system would provide the Philippines with “near-real-time monitoring capability”.

Moreover, this technology will help the Philippines “enhance its maritime domain awareness and boost its capability to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, as well as protect its marine environments”.

A separate report by TV station GMA in the Philippines on October 16 explained that Canada’s Dark Vessel program uses satellite technology to locate and track ships even if they switch off their location transmitting devices to evade surveillance.

GMA recalled its interview last May with Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who said that Canada is committed to help the Philippines defend its sovereign rights in the South China Sea. 

“There is a clear recognition that there is, indeed, heightened tensions in the region, particularly in the East and South China Sea and that upholding international norms is at the core of keeping the region stable and peaceful,” Joly told GMA.

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