Since its standoff with the Chinese coast guard at Scarborough shoal in 2012, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has gradually upgraded its vessels and facilities.
The confrontation at the disputed shoal underlined the PCG’s lack of equipment, as confirmed by a Commission on Audit (COA) report on December 9, 2013 which revealed that half of the PCG’s 14 ships and 33 boats were no longer serviceable.
The report said only eight ships and 21 boats in the PCG’s fleet were seaworthy, with 40 percent of its assets considered to be beyond repair.
“The unserviceable floating assets… are already beyond economic repair. These are just left in piers and a burden to PCG because personnel need to be assigned in the area to guard them,” the COA report stated.
Thus, six months after the Scarborough standoff, the country announced the purchase of five patrol boats from France worth $116 million to beef up the PCG’s capabilities to secure the country’s territorial waters.
On September 2013, the PCG moved to acquire 10 40-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRV) from Japan, a 54-meter pre-owned naval vessel from France, seven Bell helicopters, four 24-meter fast patrol boats, and an 82-meter offshore patrol vessel.
It also acquired equipment for use during disaster relief and emergency response operations, which include 90 rubber boats, 80 rigid-hauled inflatable boats, 300 aluminum-hulled rescue boats, and six jet ski personal watercraft units.
Early in 2015, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) concluded talks with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the construction of 10 MRRVs. The vessels will be delivered on a staggered basis starting on the third quarter of 2016 up to third quarter of 2018.
The DOTC awarded the contract to the Japan Marine United Corporation. The procurement is being implemented as an Official Development Assistance (ODA) project with P7.373 billion out of the total project cost of P8.807 billion loaned from JICA. The remaining P1.434 billion will be provided by the Philippine government as counterpart fund.
The MRRVs will be used by the PCG for the enforcement of the country’s maritime laws, sea patrol, transport of personnel and logistical support, and use as primary rescue vessels and platforms for rapid response during relief operations, among others.
The PCG, now headed by Rear Admiral William Melad, also plans to acquire two new helicopters and recruit additional personnel.
It is also in the process of constructing 113 lighthouses, while 109 more lighthouses are planned to be built as soon as the government acquires the needed lands for the purpose.
Last year, a National Coast Center was also constructed. It will serve as the national maritime point of contact for maritime security coordination in monitoring the country’s 36,289-kilometer coastline, the fourth longest in the world.
The PCG, under the law, is considered the third armed and uniformed service of the country after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police.
Under Republic Act (RA) 5173, the PCG was originally a major unit of the Philippine Navy, one of the three branches of the AFP which include the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force
RA 5173 was, however, repealed by RA 9993 which establishes the Coast Guard as an armed and uniformed service under the DOTC. In times of war however, control and supervision of the PCG will revert back to the Department of National Defense.
Its functions are civilian in nature. Among them are the enforcement of the country’s maritime laws, maritime safety and security, search and rescue, and environmental protection.