By Leonel Abasola

(File photo)

MANILA – Another Senate lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to modernize the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) amid continuing tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said Senate Bill (SB) 2516, or the PCG Modernization Act which filed early this December, will provide for a modernization program that aims to enhance PCG’s assets and facilities, bolster its capabilities and strengthen the effective implementation of its mandate under Republic Act 9993 or the Philippine Coast Guard Law.

The proposed measure also provides for the creation of the PCG Modernization Trust Fund, which shall be allocated an initial amount of PHP1 billion.

“Given the vast expanse of the country’s maritime domain, it is imperative that our government provides the necessary support to have a responsive and well-equipped PCG with enhanced technical and legal capabilities in maritime safety, maritime security, maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, and maritime environmental protection to ensure our maritime presence,” Gatchalian said in a statement on Monday.

He said the proposed measure is intended to enhance the PCG’s capability in upholding the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and sovereign rights of the country, ensuring the safety and security of its maritime domain against all forms of maritime incidents and transnational crimes, among others.

The bill, he added, specifically aims to develop a more mobile and visible coast guard force that will establish its vision of a “world-class guardian of the sea” by 2025, acquire and upgrade appropriate technology and equipment, and strategically improve and construct bases, installations and other PCG facilities.

Gatchalian underscored the crucial role of the PCG in the country’s pursuit of ensuring maritime safety and security, environmental protection and search, rescue and disaster response.

“With the advent of various maritime issues currently faced by the country from maritime disasters and incidents such as oil spills, ship collisions, and grounding to ongoing harassment in the West Philippine Sea, there is a need to continuously modernize and enhance the capabilities of the PCG to respond to all these incidents effectively,” he added.

Last July, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go filed Senate Bill No. 2112 seeking to modernize the PCG and strengthen its capabilities in guarding the country’s maritime resources.

Under his bill, Go seeks to upgrade PCG’s vessels, aircraft and equipment to international standards to significantly improve its response time when there are maritime incidents and emergencies.

Go’s bill also aims to help in the enforcement of Philippine laws in the maritime zone, minimize pollution and improve response times for recovering and mitigating spills.

SB 2112 also seeks to provide training and capacity-building programs for the PCG personnel to make sure they are well-prepared for any challenges that may arise. (PNA)