MANILA — Recent developments in the maritime sector, the massive oil spill from a sunken tanker in Oriental Mindoro that has already affected four provinces, and the continued Chinese incursions and aggressions in waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone highlight the need to modernize the fleet of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to make it more responsive to emerging sea emergency trends, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said.
“Imbes na magturuan o magsisihan sa nangyaring pagkalat ng oil slick dulot ng paglubog ng MT Princess Empress, hanapin natin ang solusyon dahil mauulit at mauulit ang mga ganitong aksidente,” Estrada said.
In filing Senate Bill No. 2016 or the proposed Philippine Coast Guard Modernization Act, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security said it is high time that the country’s oldest and only humanitarian armed service be upgraded in terms of logistical support.
Estrada took cognizance of the recent revelation of PCG officials that the agency’s current assets are not enough to patrol the country’s territorial waters and protect Filipino fishermen against foreign aggressors.
“The PCG is vested with powers to perform five major functions of maritime safety, security, search and rescue, law enforcement, and environmental protection. With the colossal task of enforcing regulations in accordance with maritime international conventions, treaties, and national laws within the country’s jurisdiction, surely a ‘fleet’ of merely three offshore patrol vessels would not suffice to carry out their perilous and critical tasks,” the veteran lawmaker pointed out.
The bill proposes a 15-year modernization program to allow the PCG to significantly upgrade its assets, further expand its capabilities and ensure the fulfillment of its mandate as provided under the laws.
Estrada’s proposed modernization program aims to hasten response time during search and rescue operations and contribute substantially to securing maritime zones and territorial waters from terrorism, lawlessness, and other threats to national security and territory among many others.
In modernizing the PCG, Estrada’s proposal includes the restructuring and streamlining of its units and offices to simplify procedures, professionalization of its human resource, acquisition and upgrade of basic and support facilities for administrative and operational services, and procurement of modern and state-of-the-art equipment.
As the “guardian of the sea,” Estrada said the PCG should have a well-maintained vessel interfaced with the latest cutting-edge technology for ease of operation, remotely operated submersibles equipment for deep-sea search, retrieval, and monitoring operations, weapons that are marine environment resistant and designed primarily to disable hostile personnel and equipment, uninterruptible internal communications seamlessly interoperable with other agencies as well as communications with commercial vessels operating within the Philippine maritime zones and territorial waters and other technologically current navigational equipment.
“The country’s EEZ is a maritime expanse larger than our total land area. It is imperative for the government to have an effective Coast Guard organization that can protect and preserve the diverse resources found in our maritime territory and defend the same against intruders, lawless elements, and destructive activities,” said Estrada.