Coast Guard’s 3rd multi-role vessel arrives Tuesday

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -  The third brand new 44-meter multi-role response vessel will arrive at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) headquarters on Tuesday and will be deployed in Mindanao to conduct anti-piracy operations.

With 13 pirate attacks in southern Mindanao in the past six months, the PCG would be arming its new vessel – to be named BRP Malapascua – and deploy it in the vicinity of Zamboanga and Sulu to conduct maritime security patrols.

PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo yesterday said that despite the dangers facing travelers along the Sibutu passage in Sulu archipelago, many commercial vessels are forced to that route to save time and cost of re-routing.

“The Sibutu Passage serves as a shortcut for vessels. If they would use another route, it would incur additional travel days and add to the delivery cost that would be passed on to consumers,” he added.

Piracy in southern Mindanao is one of the biggest challenges confronting the coast guard, which will be deploying the latest acquired asset to help patrol the sea.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who once served as transportation secretary under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would witness the commissioning of the new vessel that was made in Japan.

“Our thrust is to address the sea piracy in Sulu so we would just install four units of 50 caliber (machine) guns and immediately it would be deployed to the southern Philippines,” Balilo said.

The PCG’s first two multi-role vessels BRP Tubbataha and BRP Malabrigo were also deployed in Mindanao.

“In a week’s time, the .50 caliber guns would have been installed on the BRP Malapascua and it would support the BPR Malabrigo in the Zamboanga-Jolo route,” he added.

The three PCG patrol ships were named after lighthouses in the country and were all built in Japan.

The PCG would be receiving seven more multi-role vessels until next year.

The vessels measure 44-meters and have a maximum approximate speed of 25 knots. Each is equipped with special features for search and rescue and law enforcement operations such as fire monitors, night vision camera, radio direction finder and a workboat. It also has a bulletproof navigational bridge.

The PCG and the China Coast Guard (CCG) are also set to hold this August the first joint bilateral training exercise at the contentious West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Balilo said that the three-day Second Organizational Meeting and Inaugural Meeting of Joint Coast Guard Committee (JCGC) was held from Feb. 20-22 in Subic to finalize plans for a joint bilateral training exercise.

This June, Balilo said there would also be a capacity building where they would send some 20 PCG officers and non-officers to China to undergo a monthlong law enforcement training.

By August, a CCG ship would dock at the Port of Manila for a short visit. Two PCG vessels would later escort the Chinese vessel to Guangdong province in China where PCG personnel would tour the maritime facility.

“Along the way, at the West Philippine Sea, both countries would conduct joint coast guard exercises on law enforcement, boarding exercise and search and rescue (SAR) exercise,” said Balilo. 

In Guangdong, there would be a professional exchange on Coast Guard-related functions such as search and rescue (SAR) and marine environmental protection. There would also be a sharing of good practices among coast guard agencies, said Balilo.

The PCG had previous training exercises with the United States, Japan and Indonesia but this is the first time that they would have a bilateral training exercise with China.

Balilo said that through the exercise with China “we would become familiar with their doctrine, insofar as the way they execute (their functions).”

For years, countries such as the Philippines and China have staked their claim over the disputed Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea. Maritime tension worsened in 2013 with reports of a standoff, the building of structures near Palawan and the vessels of the CCG chasing Filipino fishermen away from the fishing grounds in Panatag Shoal off Zambales.

But the Oct. 20, 2016 visit of President Duterte to China resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between their two coast guards particularly on the establishment of a Joint Coast Guard Committee on maritime cooperation.


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