A MEASURE seeking to modernize the capability of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been filed in the House of Representatives.

Romblon Representative Eleandro Jesus Madrona said that House Bill 5112 seeks to upgrade the capability of the PCG in guarding the country’s more than 36,000-kilometer coastline and territorial waters.

“The capability of the PCG, compared to coast guards of the country’s neighbors in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, is just below par,” said Madrona.

He added the country is also facing challenges brought by China's aggressive claim in the West Philippine Sea, which includes areas within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The lawmaker said that the dedication and commitment of PCG personnel as rescuers and law enforcers could be further enhanced if technologically improved material capabilities are introduced and integrated into the coast guard organization and systems.

“Admiringly, despite its inadequate capabilities, the PCG has continued to perform its mandates with intensity and enthusiasm,” Madrona said.

Madrona said that in order to address the concerns of the PCG, there is need for a modernization plan and program that would enhance its capabilities to guard effectively the entire Philippine archipelago, its territorial waters and coastlines.

“The PCG, despite its very limited resources, has continued to discharge its functions,” said Madrona.

He said that aside from maintaining presence within and out of territorial waters, “it is equally vital for the country to be able to protect its fishing industry and people traversing the internal waters of the Philippines.”

Under Republic Act 9993 or the Philippine Coast Guard Law of 2009, the PCG is tasked primarily to enforce applicable laws within Philippine waters, conduct maritime security operations, safeguard life and property at sea, and protect the marine environment and resources.

The PCG is attached to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and currently maintains a presence throughout the archipelago with 12 coast guard (CG) districts, 63 CG stations and 238 CG detachments from Basco, Batanes in the north to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in the south.

Madrona said that the modernization program components include organization development; professionalization of its human resources; doctrinal development; infrastructure development; and equipment and facilities acquisition and modernization.

The PCG Modernization Trust Fund that will be administered by the DOTC Secretary shall be used exclusively for the PCG modernization program, excluding salaries and allowances.

The funds to be appropriated by Congress shall be treated as a distinct and separate budget item from the regular appropriations for the PCG and shall be administered by the DOTC Secretary.

The proposed program shall be based on a ceiling of P50 billion for the first five years and may be increased commensurate to the increase in the gross national product.

PCG public affairs chief Commander Armando Balilo welcomed the bill.

“That’s a big help definitely. We hope that it would be included in the priority measures of Congress,” said Balilo.

The PCG is expected to receive the first batch of the 10 brand new multi-role vessels which were acquired from Japan before the year ends. (Sunnex)