Members of the Philippine Coast Guard are seen at the Port of Manila, May 16, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, Reporter

AMID recurring tensions with China in the South China Sea, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian has filed a bill seeking to modernize the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to make it a “world-class guardian of the sea” by 2025.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2516 aims to create the PCG Modernization Trust Fund, which will be allocated a seed fund of P1 billion. While it is the fourth proposed measure filed to modernize the PCG, it proposes a shorter timeline for the acquisition and upgrading of coast guard technology, equipment, and other related facilities.

“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,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

Three bills calling for the coast guard’s modernization are pending at the Senate national defense panel. SB 2016 sets a 15-year period to modernize the PCG, with a proposed budget of P50 billion.

SB 2307 also sets PCG modernization under a 15-year timeline, while SB 2112 indicates modernization should be done in 10 years.

The PCG has a proposed budget of P29.42 billion for next year.

It has been deploying vessels to escort boats conducting resupply missions to troops within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

Last week, China’s ships were captured on video aiming their water cannons at three Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to a military outpost at the Second Thomas Shoal.