PCG: Sovereign markers at critical areas show resolve to protect waters
Five navigational buoys or sovereign markers have been successfully installed in “critical areas” of the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard said Sunday.
The buoys, installed near Patag Island, Balagtas Reef, Kota Island, Panata Island and Juan Felipe Reef carry the Philippine flag and signify the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the country’s exclusive economic zone, the PCG said.
The move also highlights the country’s unwavering resolve to protect its maritime borders and resources and contribute to the safety of maritime trade, the PCG added.
The PCG’s Task Force Kaligtasan sa Karagatan led by Vice Admiral Joseph Coyme led the placing of buoys.
Meanwhile, PCG said that they are currently monitoring several alleged Chinese militia ships anchored inside the country’s territory.
In an interview, Coyme said that there is no heightened tension between the country’s law enforcement agencies and Chinese vessels in the area.
“Our approach is diplomatic,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “We are not yet in the situation where tensions are heightened. With our ships there, we are normally conducting our law enforcement functions pertaining to maritime safety—and this is not provocative in nature.”
In April, more than 100 Chinese vessels were seen lingering near the West Philippine Sea, and the PCG reported provocative tactics by the ships, including a Chinese coast guard ship that sailed into the path of a PCG vessel, almost causing a collision.
In July 2016, the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s expansive nine-dash claims covering the entire South China Sea and recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the area within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Beijing ignored the international ruling and deployed hundreds of militia vessels in the disputed areas, including those belonging to the Philippines.
Earlier this month, the PCG also released a video of its personnel challenging via radio the Chinese militia vessels spotted in Sabina Shoal, which is within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.
The Chinese vessels dispersed after the radio challenge, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said.
Also on Sunday, the PCG and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Leody Tarriela urged Congress to approve and pass the ‘PCG Modernization Act.”
“[The current maritime] challenges require the PCG to operate with the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness to safeguard the country’s maritime interests and territorial integrity. The current capabilities of the PCG, however, are insufficient to execute its mandates,” Tarriela said.
House Bill No. 8028 was filed by Tarriela on May 10 in recognition of the need to enhance the capability of the PCG to guarantee the efficient execution of its mandates.
“This bill, therefore, proposes a modernization program that aims to acquire state-of-the-art air and floating assets and implement interoperable communication systems to safeguard the country’s maritime interests,” the legislator said.
Tarriela said HB No. 8028 will be divided into four tiers of development, with the first tier focusing on constructing PCG response bases and improving Coast Guard’s maritime domain awareness capabilities.
The second tier will cover PCG infrastructure development and the acquisition of state-of-the-art vessels and equipment to advance its interdiction and maritime law enforcement capabilities.
The third tier will pave the way for strengthening the Coast Guard’s coastal defense by acquiring and developing more offshore patrol vessels similar to BRP Gabriela Silang from France.
The third tier should also include the acquiring of air assets and providing more capacity-building opportunities for the Coast Guard Aviation Force to bolster airspace security within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Lastly, the fourth and last tier focuses on the construction of more PCG training facilities to continuously enhance the skills and abilities of its workforce, as well as shipyards and hangars to secure Coast Guard assets and equipment.
Each tier would take three years to be fully implemented, covering a total of 12 years for the complete execution.
PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu welcomed the development and expressed gratitude to Tarriela for recognizing the need for the PCG’s modernization.
Senator Christopher Go has filed Senate Bill No. 2112 as a counterpart to the House measure.