The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Northern Mindanao has beefed up its patrol in the region in time for the Maritime Week celebration, said Joseph Covme, deputy commander of Coast Guard District Northern Mindanao.

“Our role here in Northern Mindanao essentially covers the safety, security, and environmental protection. The safety aspect requires our inspection for departing ships both foreign and local shipping,” said Covme.

On September 29, PCG, together with other agencies will conduct a sea jacking exercise that will showcase the PCG’s capability in conducting emergency evacuation, neutralizing terrorist threats with their Special Operations Group (SOG), firefighting and support, oil spill management, and handling survivors comprising wounded and casualties.

“Port and ship security is also one of our obligations, thus making sure that departing vessels and its passengers are secure. We also check ships if they are in compliance with the marine pollution requirement and in compliance with our maritime environmental protection standards,” said added Covme.

One of the busiest areas covered by the PCG has been Northern Mindanao.

This area is covered by PCG district based in Cagayan de Oro City, from Zamboanga del Norte to Surigao del Norte. It has a coastline with the length of 986 kilometers and a maritime area of 750 square nautical miles where there are 108 ports along its seven provinces, nine coastal cities, and 17 coastal municipalities.

Data from the PCG revealed that presently they have four - 56 meters search and rescue vessel from Australia, the largest with helipad and recompression chambers treatment for divers undergoing deep sea search and rescue (SAR) operations. They also have a multi-role response vessel from Japan, four 35 meters SAR vessels and 33 smaller gunboats. Augmenting the PCG are 10 smaller patrol gunboats from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which are manned by PCG personnel.

Coyme pointed out two of the most challenging tasks of PCG personnel.

“Two of the most challenging task and with a high risk for our personnel is during SAR operations as they might also get injured or worst loss their life in the process of doing their job. Another would be enforcing maritime law where our SOG are used during high-risk boarding,” said Coyme.

“Here in Northern Mindanao, we only have one 56 meter ship the BRP San Juan, a BF-311 patrol gun boat, a marine control surveillance ship and 18 aluminum fast boats,” said Coyme who added that the need for additional watercrafts would be greatly appreciated, “If we have more vessels, we would be able to conduct more regular seaborne patrols, thus making us more effective in our task and operations.”

Environment and Natural Resource Undersecretary Arturo Valdez of the Anti Environmental Crime Task Force recognizes the crucial role of the PCG on environmental law enforcement.

“As an archipelago, the task of the PCG in enforcing environmental law is crucial since the minerals and logs that will be mined and harvested in the field will be transported through the ships. With better equipments and boats, the PCG will be a very dependable asset in our fight against environmental crime,” said Valdez.