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Coast Guard patrols diverted to COVID-19, disaster response
“We have been patrolling the West Philippine Sea using our 44-meter multi-role response vessels and our islander, a fixed wing aircraft. But during the pandemic, unfortunately, we have to pull out one of our multi-role response vessels from Palawan to undertake COVID-related tasks,” Ursabia said at a virtual press conference.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Coast Guard patrols diverted to COVID-19, disaster response

Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - March 4, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard cannot regularly deploy its assets to patrol the West Philippine Sea because of commitments to COVID-19 tasks and disaster response, PCG commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. admitted yesterday.

“We have been patrolling the West Philippine Sea using our 44-meter multi-role response vessels and our islander, a fixed wing aircraft. But during the pandemic, unfortunately, we have to pull out one of our multi-role response vessels from Palawan to undertake COVID-related tasks,” Ursabia said at a virtual press conference.

He cited the offshore patrol vessel BRP Gabriela Silang that can be used in maritime patrol in the disputed West Philippine Sea, but cannot be deploy currently as it is being used for COVID-19 efforts.

“And obviously, it cannot conduct continued patrol in that area. Not to mention also weather disturbance and the monsoon is also affecting the area, so we have to schedule the patrol there, which means it is not really done continuously,” he added.

But Ursabia clarified they are “trying their best” to be present in the West Philippine Sea through available assets. The official revealed PCG is expecting offshore patrol vessels from Japan by February next year, as well as two more Gabriela Silang-type vessels.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate called on the PCG to deploy its vessels amid reports that some fishermen are allegedly being harassed after China passed a domestic law allowing its men to fire at perceived intruders in what it claimed as its territorial waters. 
Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said China is keen to work closely with the Philippines to pave the way to achieve economic recovery and social development.

He added that China stays committed to upholding the stable and unhindered global industrial and supply chains and continuously building an open world and regional economy. – Pia Lee-Brago

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