The Philippine Coast Guard hopes to ready thousands of its personnel for deployment as they prioritize the acquisition of over 20 new offshore patrol vessels.
This comes as Sen. Risa Hontiveros urges the Department of Foreign Affairs to arrange more security agreements to help deter China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channels’ “Headstart” on Monday, PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said the coast guard expects to have more than 30,000 personnel by the end of the year.
“Our personnel [are] receiving proper training from the United States — from the Japanese government, as well — in preparation for the acquisition of vessels. So, if we are going to recruit people now, [we have to] train them and prepare them for deployment in our various assets in the next years,” Tarriela said.
The PCG said the additional patrol vessels will not only be stationed in the West Philippine Sea, but will also be deployed in the Bashi Channel, the Celebes Sea, and other maritime areas that are within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Among the Coast Guard’s largest ships are three offshore patrol vessels and ten 44-meter multi-role response vessels.
“These are smaller compared to the OPV, but these ten 44-meter vessels are also being utilized in sustaining our presence in the West Philippine Sea.”
Tensions between the Philippines and China continue. The DFA said it has filed 77 notes verbale against China under President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s administration, with 10 of those filed in 2023.
Security deals with other countries
On Monday, Sen. Hontiveros said the Philippines should look at establishing defense agreements with other countries to maintain peace and stability in the region.
The China Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser against a Philippine vessel on a rotation and resupply mission within the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) earlier this month.
Beijing defended itself, claiming that Manila was encroaching on its territory despite a 2016 Hague ruling already invalidating its sweeping nine-dash claims over the South China Sea that included parts of the West Philippine Sea.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration also ruled that Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) is part of the Philippines’ EEZ and continental shelf as it is located within 200 nautical miles of Palawan.
China has called the ruling “illegal, null, and void” and accused the United States of using it as a geopolitical tool.
Manila and Washington have a decades-old mutual defense treaty, which the US repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to amid China’s harassment against Philippine vessels. Hontiveros said that a similar security framework with other countries should also cover joint patrols and the training of Philippine troops just in case tensions would escalate.
“Let us maximize the reinforcement of the international community and consolidate all this support once and for all,” Hontiveros said.