A TOTAL of 72,000 Coast Guard personnel are needed to watch over the country's entire coastline, according to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Admiral Artemio Abu.

"We have 36,000 kilometers of coastline, so we need 72,000," said Abu in an interview on Saturday.

Abu said he intends to have at least two Coast Guard personnel in every kilometer of the coastline of the country.

"Our recruitment is ongoing. In fact, the population of the PCG has expanded exponentially," he said. "In 2016, our strength was only 8,500. Now, we are at 25,000," he said.

However, the continued increase in the PCG population is still subject to the availability of funds.

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"We will wait and see how much the [Department of Budget and Management] will give us in our budget for 2023," he said.

Nevertheless, Abu pointed out that they are expecting at least 4,500 new recruits next year.

Related to this issue, Abu said he is pushing for the renaming of the Philippine Coast Guard Officers' Basic Education and Training Center to the Philippine Coast Guard Academy "in order to elevate the PCG to the next level and to expand it further."

Since the PCG does not have its own service academy to produce its own officers, it relies on the graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy, Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific, and Coast Guard Officers' Course as sources.

In September 2019, House Bill 4161 which seeks to establish the PCG academy was filed at the House of Representatives. This bill seeks the establishment of the Coast Guard's own academy similar to the existing Philippine service academies as its primary source of commissioned officers who are principally educated and trained in maritime law enforcement and administration. The Philippine Coast Guard Academy will be patterned after the United States Coast Guard Academy.

The PCG is a constantly evolving organization, thus the need for training of its personnel on skills unique to PCG's functions, Abu noted.

"We need to have our own distinct identity that we can call our own," said Abu. "With so many challenges in the maritime environment, we need to professionalize our personnel with training that will focus on skills peculiar to coast guard functions."

He added that the move will also promote a unified culture and environment within the uniformed service.

"Nothing precludes us from thinking big and being ready to start small," said Abu.

"So, initially, I think there is nothing wrong with putting a new name, semantics [and] title first," he added.

Abu stressed that safety and security at sea is the main thrust of the PCG that has a direct effect on the economic progress of the country.

"A large volume of maritime commerce passes through the sea, so we cannot talk about progress without peace and order. This is why we really have to ramp up the human dimension of the PCG, our human resource," Abu said.