Strengthening the Philippine Coast Guard’s Fleet to Counter West Philippine Sea Threats

In this handout frame grab video footage on March 21, 2024 and received from Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on March 22, shows a Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) maneouvering past a Philippine Coast Guard ship near Sandy Cay reef, near the Philippine-held Thitu Island in Spratly Islands, in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard on March 22 accused a Chinese vessel of "dangerous manoeuvres" as it attempted to block Filipino scientists from reaching a reef in the South China Sea.
Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP
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The Philippine Coast Guard’s Pursuit of Enhanced Maritime Capabilities

The acquisition of the Guardian-class 39.5-meter patrol boat is just one aspect of the Philippine Coast Guard’s pursuit of enhanced maritime capabilities. In addition to acquiring these patrol vessels from Australia, the PCG is also investing in other areas to strengthen its fleet and improve its operational effectiveness.

Development of Personnel

One key area of focus for the PCG is the development of its personnel. Recognizing that a well-trained and skilled workforce is essential for effective maritime operations, the PCG is investing in training programs and capacity-building initiatives. This includes providing specialized training for its officers and crew members, as well as collaborating with international partners to exchange knowledge and best practices.

Fleet Modernization

The PCG is also investing in the modernization of its existing fleet. This involves upgrading and retrofitting older vessels to extend their operational lifespan and enhance their capabilities. Additionally, the PCG is exploring the possibility of acquiring new vessels, such as offshore patrol vessels and multi-role response vessels, to further bolster its maritime capabilities.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Another important aspect of the PCG’s pursuit of enhanced maritime capabilities is the strengthening of its partnerships and collaborations with other maritime agencies and international organizations. Recognizing that maritime security is a shared responsibility, the PCG actively engages with regional and international partners to enhance information sharing, joint patrols, and coordinated response efforts.

Collaboration with Philippine Government and Armed Forces

In line with this, the PCG is also working closely with other branches of the Philippine government, such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to ensure a coordinated and integrated approach to maritime security. This includes joint exercises and operations, as well as the sharing of intelligence and resources.

Concerns about Funding

The lack of sufficient funding for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been a long-standing concern among lawmakers and maritime security advocates. Given the agency’s crucial role in safeguarding the country’s waters, it is imperative that the PCG receives adequate resources to effectively carry out its duties.

Efforts to Increase Funding

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the escalating threats in the West Philippine Sea, which has prompted the House of Representatives and the Senate to take action. Lawmakers are now pushing for larger funding allocations specifically for the PCG, recognizing the agency’s indispensable role in maritime protection and security.

Historical Funding Situation

It is disheartening to note that the PCG has historically received meager intelligence and confidential appropriations. The current funding situation for the PCG underscores the urgent need for increased financial support.

Partnerships with Other Countries

To further bolster its maritime capabilities, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has also been exploring partnerships with other countries. One such ally is the United States, which has been providing assistance to the PCG through its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program.

Collaboration with Japan and Australia

In recent years, the PCG has also been working closely with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) to enhance its capabilities. The JCG has been providing technical assistance and training to the PCG. Australia has been a key contributor to the PCG’s modernization efforts, providing new Guardian-class patrol boats and potential acquisition of Austal vessels.

Challenges and the Way Forward

Overall, the PCG’s modernization efforts, along with the support of its Philippine allies and international partners, have significantly improved its maritime capabilities. However, challenges still remain, particularly in the face of escalating threats in the West Philippine Sea. Adequate funding and continued collaboration with international partners will be vital in enhancing the PCG’s capabilities and maintaining maritime security in the region.

Source: The Manila Times

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