PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. wants the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to go beyond its sea rescue mission and maritime patrol duties to strengthen the country’s territorial defense, according to the presidential palace.

Members of the PCG should become “frontliners ready to confront whatever threats are coming through the country’s coastlines,” Mr. Marcos said during an oath-taking ceremony for coast guard personnel in Malacañang on Thursday.

The PCG, a uniformed armed service, is under the Department of Transportation and is not part of the military.   

Mr. Marcos said many duties of the Philippine Navy have been transferred to the PCG but it remains a non-threatening unit as it is not technically part of the armed forces.   

“The reason for this is very simple: We do that so that we will not raise the tensions by putting in units and assets of the Philippine military into the area. Also, we are saying that these are not military vessels, they are coast guard,” he said.

“But as many of the incidents have started to show over the past few years, that mission has become more, shall we say, intense,” he added. “Now you are expected to defend not only the coastline, but to defend our nationals.”

The coast guard’s primary mandates include maritime search and rescue, maritime safety, marine environmental protection and maritime security.

The PCG used to be under the Department of National Defense before it was transferred to the Office of the President on March 30, 1998 through an order issued by the late President Fidel V. Ramos.

Less than a month later, Mr. Ramos eventually transferred the PCG to the Department of Transportation and Communications, which was split into two separate agencies in 2016 through a 2015 law signed by then President Benigno S.C. Aquino III.

At the ceremony, Mr. Marcos also cited the importance of upgrading the agency’s facilities and equipment, saying it is “critical to the safety” of Filipinos. 

“It is critical in the defense of the Republic,” he added. “It is critical to the defense of our territory.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza