BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Philippine Coast Guard modernization program continues, and it is set to acquire two more Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), similar but much bigger than its brand new and modern ship BRP Gabriela Silang, that docked at the Bredco Port in Bacolod City on Dec. 18, its commandant, Admiral George Ursabia, said.
The two OPVs from Japan are expected to be received by PCG in 2022, Ursabia, who was the guest of honor and speaker during the Coast Guard District Southern Visayas 4th founding anniversary Friday in Bacolod City, said.
BRP Gabriela Silang is the newest and biggest ship of the Coast Guard that can be used for recovery operations and search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, and surveillance, and to respond to maritime environmental pollution, like oil spills, using its containerized anti-pollution equipment.
Ursabia said they are pushing to acquire more OPVs. “There should be enough number of OPVs for us Coast Guard to be able to address the issues at the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
With the Armed Forces of the Philippines taking the lead in patrolling the territorial waters of the country, especially in the disputed WPS, Ursabia said they expect to have an active role soon as talks are ongoing in the higher echelons of government.
“But we have to capacitate the Coast Guard, especially in terms of appropriate sizes of the vessels, such as the BRP Gabriela Silang,” he added.
The modernization program of the PCG, that is being pushed by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and President Rodrigo Duterte, also includes the purchase of helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts, aside from patrol vessels, to monitor the country’s maritime domain 24/7 on real time. Ursabia added that they are now in the process of increasing the manpower strength of Coast Guard, from 18,500 to 40,000 personnel, that is enough to cover the 37,000 kilometer coastlines of the Philippine archipelago.*