PCG: More personnel, assets underway to strengthen coast guard functions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) — The Philippine Coast Guard is recruiting additional personnel and preparing more assets to strengthen its functions, the spokesperson of the uniformed service said Thursday.

PCG spokesperson Commodore Armanda Balilo told CNN Philippines' The Source that they are enlisting up to 4,000 personnel, pending budget approval from the Department of Budget and Management.

"We have 4,000 personnel na naka-ready for recruitment. Hinihintay lang natin ang go signal ng DBM. Kailangan talaga namin ng personnel and of course, assets," he said.

[Translation: We have 4,000 personnel who are ready for recruitment. We are just waiting for the go signal from the DBM. We really need personnel and of course, assets.]

Balilo bared that they are also hoping to receive at least two 94-meter multi-role response vessels from Japan, which would help sustain their monitoring activities in the West Philippine Sea.

"Nakikipag-negotiate din ang PCG para madagdagan ang offshore patrol vessels natin galing ng France," he added.

[Translation: The PCG also continues to negotiate so we can have more offshore patrol vessels from France.]

The PCG's only offshore patrol vessel is the BRP Gabriela Silang, an 84-meter OPV acquired from France last year.

Last April 23, the PCG and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources conducted joint maritime exercises in Bajo de Masinloc and Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

They are now preparing for the second leg of training exercises, which will be held in the Batanes Group of Islands and the Benham Rise, Balilo said.

"This is para ma-optimize 'yung aming operational readiness o para ma-train namin ang personnel namin for coast guard functions," he added.

[Translation: This is so that we could optimize our operational readiness and so that we could train our personnel further for coast guard functions.]

Last April 27, the PCG challenged at least seven Chinese maritime militia vessels anchored at the Sabina (Escoda) Shoal located 130 nautical miles west of Puerto Princesa, Palawan and east of Ayungin Shoal, which is well within the country's exclusive economic zone.

Balilo said they issued radio communications to the Chinese vessels which lasted for 20 minutes. The maritime militia eventually left, with the PCG even escorting them out of the area.

READ: How the Philippine Coast Guard challenged Chinese vessels in Sabina Shoal 

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has always been soft on China's incursions, said in his recent public address that the 2016 arbitral ruling affirming the Philippines' sovereign rights in its EEZ is simply "a piece of paper" which he could simply "throw in the waste basket.

China has consistently rejected the ruling.

Balilo and the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea assured that they will continue their maritime exercises in the disputed waters to assert our sovereign rights.