In the wake of the growing challenges to the country’s territorial security, a party-list lawmaker is insisting on a modernization program for the Philippine Coast Guard.
“Most nations have invested greatly in the safeguarding of their ports, waterways, and coastal security,” Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano pointed out when he filed House Bill No. 111, entitled “An Act providing for the modernization of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and for other purposes.”
Alejano stressed that the proposed modernization program shall develop and enhance the capabilities of the PCG in order to effectively and efficiently perform under the following functional areas: (a) Maritime Safety; (b) Maritime Search and Rescue; (c) Maritime Security; (d) Maritime Law Enforcement; and (e) Maritime Environmental Protection.
The components of the modernization program shall include: (1) Organization Development; (2) Human Resource; (3) Doctrine Development; (4) Infrastructure Development; and (5) Equipment and Facilities Acquisition and Modernization.
The author said that the funds to be appropriated by Congress under the proposed Act shall be treated as a distinct and separate budget item from the regular appropriation for the PCG and shall be administered by the DOTC Secretary.
The proposed program shall be based on a ceiling, for the first five (5) years, of fifty billion (P50-Billion) which may be increased commensurate to the increase in the Gross National Product (GNP).
Among other salient provisions of the Act, the DOTC Secretary is mandated to submit to Congress, through the Congressional Oversight Committee, copies of multi-year contracts and other agreements or arrangement to enable Congress to appropriate funds.
Likewise, the PCG shall, as far as practicable, give preference to Filipino contractors and suppliers and secondly to foreign contractors and suppliers, willing to locate a substantial portion of, if not the entire, production process of the terms involved, within the Philippines.
Alejano also proposes, among others, that “in order to reduce foreign exchange outflow, generate local employment opportunities and enhance national productivity, provisions shall be incorporated in each contract/agreement on special foreign exchange reduction schemes such as counter trade, in-country manufacture, co-production, or other innovative arrangements or combinations thereof.”
To emphasize his point, Alejano said many nations have realized the immense responsibility in securing their territories, ports, and their economic interest.
“Ports in Romania have been equipped with state-of-the-art infrared motion detection device which provides employees with immediate awareness of specific security breaches in their ports,” he pointed out.
Another example is the Port of Manzanillo in Mexico which employs the use of 20-foot high portable guard towers which provide a cost-effective way of enhancing security in port facility, Alejano added.
Alejano noted that in the Philippines where there are twelve (12) CG Districts, sixty-three (63) CG Stations and two hundred thirty eight (238) CG Detachments strategically situated from Basco, Batanes to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, the PCG continues to perform with very limited resources.
“While other countries are investing heavily in their ports and improving their coastal security, the capability of our PCG to secure our vast coastline and waterways lags behind,” he lamented, stressing that “we have to act now!”