Phl beefing up sea patrol assets
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Amid a festering dispute in the South China Sea, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will be getting new assets in water, air and land transport for better mobility and capability in search and rescue operations.

Ten brand new ships, 25 light trucks and more than a hundred motorcycles are due to arrive next year.

“We are expecting the delivery of the 10 brand new 40-meter multi-role vessels from the Japan government,” PCG commandant Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said yesterday.

Isorena said that they expect the ships – acquired through a loan from Japan – to start arriving by the third quarter of 2015.

While there still is no definite assignment for the 10 new ships, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said he is not ruling out the possibility that some of these would be sent to patrol the West Philippine Sea.

He said the vessels are ideal in maintaining a “white-to-white ship” presence in the disputed area, which means that coast guard vessels rather than military ships are deployed to defuse tension.

“We want to send a diplomatic message and not to provoke,” Balilo said.

Likewise, since these ships are considered multi-role, they can also be utilized to perform the PCG’s other functions, such as search and rescue missions, vessel safety inspections and marine environment protection.

Bidding will be held for the PCG’s procurement of two new helicopters to boost its air capability. The helicopters are expected to arrive in the second half of 2015.

The new helicopters are essential in search operations of the Coast Guard because they can cover a vast area in a short time, especially when searching for survivors of maritime mishaps.

At present, only one of the PCG’s two helicopters is functioning.

Isorena added that they would also be working toward the purchase of 25 new light trucks and more than 100 motorcycles next year.

Since these new land transportation vehicles have yet to undergo the bidding process, Isorena said that they are targeting delivery of the new trucks between July and September next year.

The light trucks would be used to assist in the conduct of land rescue operations, particularly in securing the safety of citizens in times of calamities, such as floods.

Meanwhile, the new motorcycles would be distributed to various PCG stations and detachments for mobility and for information-gathering missions.

Isorena believed that the procurement process for the motorcycles would be easier because, unlike new ships that take time to be built, there are several sources of ready-to-use two-wheeled vehicles in the country.

Balilo said that “with the tremendous responsibility given to the Philippine Coast Guard, (there is) need to beef up our maritime capability.”

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