THE national government has set aside P6.7 billion for the Philippine Coast Guard next year to beef up its capability with a fleet of brand new patrol boats, a helicopter and weapons.
“The fresh funding will help pay for the acquisition of 10 newly built 44-meter patrol boats from Japan, of which five have already been delivered to the PCG,” said House appropriations committee member Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel.
The PCG is also acquiring four 24-meter fast boats for delivery in 12 months; an 82-meter boat for delivery in 2019; and two 94-meter, high-endurance boats for delivery in 2020 and 2021.
“The 94-meter boats in particular can operate continuously for 15 days, so they can help reinforce existing Philippine Navy and PCG vessels that are now guarding our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea,” Pimentel said.
The lawmaker said the PCG is also spending P922 million for firearms, P686 million for a chopper meant for deployment aboard a boat and P682 million for smaller watercraft.
“These new assets will go a long way in enabling the PCG to perform its mission to enforce our maritime laws, conduct sea disaster search and rescue when needed and protect our marine environment,” the lawmaker said.
Of the P6.7-billion appropriation, P3.1 billion is lodged in the budget of the PCG itself, while P3.6 billion is in the allocation of its mother agency, the Department of Transportation.
Pimentel said 4,000 new positions for PCG uniformed personnel have been also authorized in view of the upcoming new vessels.
Pimentel said the Coast Guard is also procuring high-performance rigid inflatable boats, ranging from seven to 15 meters, which can be used to deploy troops from bigger patrol vessels or shores and can also serve as lifeboats.
“These high-speed RIBs will be helpful in vessel interdiction and non-compliant boarding team operations. They can also help fight off terrorists as well as drug smugglers aboard motorized boats,” he said.
Pimentel said the country has at least three “hotspots” that require intensive coastal patrol operations, namely the West Philippine Sea, Northern Luzon and Sulu Sea.