SANTA RITA, Guam — In an enduring commitment to regional stability and cooperative security, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam personnel participated in a bilateral Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) with the Republic of Palau, alongside U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) and the U.S. Department of State representatives in Palau from Nov. 14 to17, 2023.
The JCM, spearheaded by Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman and President Surangel Whipps Jr., with support from U.S. Ambassador to Palau, Joel Ehrendreich underscored the significance of the Compact of Free Association (COFA) in fostering mutual defense and security strategies.
The U.S. Coast Guard's active role in this engagement included delivering key presentations on past achievements and charting the course for future initiatives. Notable accomplishments featured engagement with Palau Community College students, educating them about opportunities at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the contribution of supplies for navigation safety, presented to Gov. Sharp Sakuma of Ngaraard State.
"Through our steadfast collaboration with the Republic of Palau, we are not only enhancing our mutual maritime security but also nurturing a partnership that respects our shared values and responsibilities," said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. "Our participation in the Joint Committee Meeting, regular visits, and around 45 patrol days spent in the Palau exclusive economic zone in Fiscal Year 2023 reflect our unwavering commitment to regional stability and the prosperity of our Pacific partners."
Looking forward, the U.S. Coast Guard will further solidify its support to Palau through the Palau Search and Rescue Exercise in early 2024, the deployment of the Microbeacon Barge to Oceania, and the continuation of shiprider operations under the enhanced bilateral agreement. The recent success of the USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) in Palau's exclusive economic zone exemplifies the strengthened partnership and mutual dedication to maritime governance.
The crew conducted crucial surveillance, compiling eight observation reports highlighting potential maritime governance threats, including identifying six Philippine-flagged fishing vessels operating without valid permits near Palau's EEZ. These observations signaled serious violations of WCPFC regulations.
A follow-up patrol leg in the Palau EEZ revealed a positive shift, with reduced unauthorized fishing activities. Additionally, in response to a request from the Palau Joint Operations Center, the crew disposed of two fish aggregating devices, directly addressing illegal fishing concerns. This patrol exemplifies the U.S. Coast Guard's commitment to enforcing international fishery laws and strengthening its partnership with Palau, thereby enhancing regional maritime stability and resource sustainability.
The JCM concluded with a shared vision of enhanced security cooperation and a unified approach to defense responsibilities, with both nations reaffirming their commitment to peace and stability in the region.
The U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam team focuses on maritime safety, security, and stewardship in Oceania. With a primary presence in Guam and Saipan and over 300 members across Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the team maintains a strong U.S. presence in the Micronesia sub-region and adjacent areas, closely tied to local communities.