House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Thursday assured the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that Congress has been working closely with Malacañang to identify sources of funds needed to boost its personnel, naval and air assets, and establish the Philippine Coast Guard Academy to further promote professionalism in its ranks.
Romualdez said this as he took his oath as Commodore in the PCG Auxiliary as Coast Guard Commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. donned the lawmaker’s rank during the ceremony held at Cape Santiago Lighthouse in Calatagan, Batangas.
“For several months now, I have been in constant dialogue with the top officials of the Philippine Coast Guard ably led by our Commandant, Admiral George Ursabia Jr., to determine what more can be done to improve the service capability of our organization and to uplift the working condition of our uniformed personnel,” Romualdez said
“This is in line with the directive of our Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, to ensure that the Philippine Coast Guard is in top shape to carry out its primary task of enforcing laws within our territorial waters,” Romualdez said.
The Leyte solon, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution (Philconsa) and the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), stressed that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has been supportive of the proposals to improve the PCG.
The event also celebrated the 38th founding anniversary of the Coast Guard District Southern Tagalog (CGDSTL) with the theme “CGDSTL: 38 years of Selfless and Dedicated Service, Soaring High with Greater Humility and Compassion.”
The PCG also unveiled the historical marker of the Cafe Santiago Lighthouse, and signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) between CGDSTL and the local government led by Calatagan Mayor Peter Oliver Palacio on the restoration of the lighthouse.
Romualdez commended the PSG for performing their duties and responsibilities for the nation.
He cited the PCGA’s support in the timely delivery of essential goods and services during national emergencies, including recent disasters and the national lockdown due to the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“It is a great honor to stand before you today as I formally join the ranks of the gallant men and women of the Philippine Coast Guard,” he said.
“I consider it a great privilege to be part of this organization — the oldest armed and uniformed service in the country in-charge of maritime safety, marine environmental protection, and maritime security.
“I also stand proud, knowing that I now share uniform with an armed service that gives high regards to professional qualifications, specialized skills and distinctive competencies of its personnel,” Romualdez pointed out.
But more than these assets, Romualdez said he is personally interested in institutionalizing a mechanism that would push forward professionalism in the PCG.
He also vowed to ensure that uniformed personnel are provided with the proper training suited to a constantly evolving organization.
“That was the reason why my wife, Tingog Rep. Yedda (Romualdez) and I filed House Bill 4161 that seeks the establishment of a Philippine Coast Guard Academy.
“The exclusive PCG academy will be akin to the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy and would serve as the primary source of its commissioned officers through education and training in maritime law enforcement and administration.
“With so many challenges in the maritime environment, there really is a need to professionalize our personnel with training that will focus on skills peculiar to coast guard functions.
“We also hope that with the establishment of our own academy, we can help promote a unified culture and environment within the uniformed service,” Romualdez said.
Currently, commissioned officers and other personnel of the maritime security service are trained in different maritime schools such as the US Coast Guard Academy, the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, and some from the Philippine Military Academy.
“Most of them were graduates of four-year college courses with only one year of additional training before proceeding to train for the officer’s corps. These different sources of education and training of their personnel, I was told by your officers, cause disparity in culture within the service,” Romualdez said.
“I am happy to report to you that a Committee Report on the bill has already been prepared by the House Committee on Transportation, and that this will be calendared for plenary debates when we resume session next month.
“We expect to approve the bill on final reading before Congress takes its Christmas break or God willing, even before the President’s State of Nation Address this July,” he said.
Another Romualdez pet bill that he hopes to steer into approval as Majority Leader is HB 4287 filed by Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montala, which proposes to strengthen the organization of PCG and make the rank of its officials equivalent to that of other uniformed personnel.
“Last month, our office facilitated a meeting with Rep. Deloso, House Committee chairman Edgar Sarmiento and Coast Guard officials in order to ensure the swift passage of the bill. As a result, a Technical Working Group report was already prepared, and this will be prioritized in the upcoming meetings of the House Committee on Transportation,” he said.
“With these twin measures, we in Congress hope that the men and women of the Philippine Coast Guard will be better- equipped to meet whatever challenges they face in the future. We owe it to them. We owe it to their families. We owe it to our nation,” Romualdez said.
“God bless, Philippine Coast Guard, and thank you again for this honor. Mabuhay kayong lahat! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” he ended.
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