IT SEEMS as if the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is finally getting an upgrade. Recent news declared that for the first time the guardians of our coastlines have acquired its biggest and most modern patrol ship with the launching by the French shipbuilder OCEA of an 83.6-meter offshore patrol vessel to be dubbed the BRP Gabriela Silang and bought by the Philippines, including other naval patrol boats, to the tune of P5.6 billion way back in 2014.
The modern patrol ship is expected to flex its naval prowess by the end of the year and boasts the following: maximum speed of not less than 20 knots, a travel range of up to 8,000 miles, a sustained operational presence and activity of up to 22 days, designed and capable of conducting general coastal patrol of territorial waters, law enforcement operations and maritime surveillance operations.
According the report it is also capable of responding to natural or artificial disasters such as marine environmental pollution like oil spills. The news item also states that the said modern patrol ship can accommodate a helicopter on its flight deck and is complemented by two 9-meter rigid hull inflatable boats with a speed of 40 knots. The ship is actually the first offshore patrol vessel of the Philippine Coastguard and will be the first one in their inventory to use a diesel-electric engine.
This is indeed welcome news for the Coast guard who has the thankless job of patrolling 36,289 km of coastlines in the country.
It is already an admitted fact that illegal drugs are shipped into the country either through customs - when bribery or threat is used to facilitate its entry - or through the very porous coastlines which are very difficult to patrol and monitor 24/7. This is one of the dilemmas pestering the authorities tasked to stem the tide of illegal drugs that continue to swamp our society.
If we are to prevent the surreptitious entry of illegal drugs into the country through its lengthy coastlines then the PCG which has the primary task of patrolling said coastlines should be equipped with the latest and fastest boats and ships, armed with hi-tech gadgets and weaponry, and fully capable of effectively interdicting any illegal drug shipment that comes their way. The acquisition of a big and modern patrol ship is just one step to enhance the capabilities of the PCG, it should not stop at one modern ship but should also seek to acquire two or three more modern patrol ships as well as an additional number of helicopters and even perhaps one or two submarines.
Our country is bounded by water and therefore the national government should strive to fully modernize its PCG and even the Philippine Navy in order to effectively patrol the country’s borders, coastlines and other marine territories thus projecting and protecting our sovereignty. There is no short cut in the plan to modernize the PCG and the Philippine Navy but what we can say at this point is that finally the government is focusing on strengthening the country’s maritime capabilities. This will go a long way in telling our neighboring countries that the Philippines is quite capable of protecting its territory.