On the 10 and 11 of August, the National Coast Watch Center (NCW Center), with the support of the CRIMARIO project, organised a large-scale interagency Tabletop and Field Training Exercise in Manila.

The exercise aimed to test the interoperability and communication protocols of the NCW Center and demonstrate its capability to coordinate and support the agencies in detecting, identifying, and fighting maritime threats within their area of responsibility.

During the two days, personnel from 10 national agencies operated together in a simulated and real environment to address and solve a complex situation involving ships suspected of illegal drug trafficking and goods smuggling underway to Manila.

To facilitate the coordination and exchange of information, the participating agencies used IORIS, the Indo-Pacific Information Sharing Platform, a neutral, reliable, and user-friendly maritime information-sharing tool, which enables inter-agency communication in a protected environment. IORIS’s primary function is to provide maritime centres, organisations, and agencies with an inclusive and efficient means to analyse, plan, and coordinate maritime operations at sea connecting domestic and international stakeholders to address the evolving and complex challenges within the maritime domain.

The exercise highlighted lessons learned and techniques that will improve the joint response to real-world emergencies in today’s complex world. At the same time, IORIS proved to be a reliable communications platform for interagency planning and coordination at the national level, facilitating the gathering, analysis, and exchange of information to timely and efficiently respond to maritime complex incidents.

In his opening remarks CG VADM Roy A. Echeverria, Director of NCWC underlined: “As the Director of the National Coast Watch Center, I am truly grateful for the assistance provided by our foreign partners in this objective. The EU CRIMARIO has been instrumental in enhancing our monitoring capabilities and information sharing through their implementation of IORIS – a secured info-sharing platform for our maritime law enforcement agencies. This additional platform that was introduced in 2021 is crucial in maintaining a common operational picture among our support law enforcement agencies. This platform also supports the function of the NCW Center to ensure the timely sharing of information and intelligence and implement a whole-of-government approach to persistent maritime issues that consistently threaten our security, economy, peace and stability, or even the sovereignty of our country.”

Participating in the event, Frederic Grillet, First Secretary at the EU Delegation to the Philippines added: “As mentioned by EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen during her visit, the EU supports the rules-based international order, including in a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region. In this context, the EU and the Philippines will increase maritime cooperation, and projects like CRIMARIO are instrumental in this regard. I would also like to thank the Philippine government agencies, which have been great partners in the implementation of this project. In today’s challenging maritime environment, good cooperation between the relevant government agencies is key. Tabletop exercises like this one are extremely useful in building the necessary coordination capacity, and IORIS has proven to be a valuable information-sharing tool. ”

Alexandru Chiric, the CRIMARIO representative for Southeast Asia said, “The role of the NCW Center as the national coordinator and administrator of IORIS is paramount in supporting the use of the platform as an advanced and more efficient inter-agency coordination and planning tool.”

Martin Cauchi-Inglott, CRIMARIO project director concluded: “The Philippines has been at the forefront of welcoming IORIS to the region and is now set to lead the way in taking ownership of IORIS, allowing itself to drive the process internally, and bridge to external partners whenever it deems necessary. My hearty congratulations go to these most professional maritime agencies participating in the exercises in the past days and to the NCW Center for organising and playing an essential role in conducting it”.