MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Coast Guard is beefing up security in the disputed waters around the country by deploying three vessels to conduct round-the-clock monitoring and security.
The PCG has allocated the bulk of the P1.6 billion it received from the Malampaya natural gas project for major repair work on three of its old vessels, which would then be deployed to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), said PCG commandant Rear Adm. Edmund Tan.
Tan is the new Coast Guard chief, having taken over from retired Adm. Ramon Liwag last Tuesday.
Tan said the deployment of the three vessels, some of which had sustained damage from accidents, strengthen security in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where the disputed Spratly island group is located.
China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have overlapping claims on the potentially oil- and gas-rich islets and atolls.
“Instead of using the money to buy new ships, which could take up to two years, we will just repair our existing vessels,” according to Tan.
Only one vessel, the BRP Edsa, is now conducting patrols in the West Philippine Sea.
Repairs still have to be done on the BRP Batangas, whose propeller was reportedly damaged after running aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, said Tan.
The BRP San Juan also needed some overhauling, he said.
Tan said the cost to refurbish the two vessels may reach some P78 million. The PCG will also have to spend about P35 million more to revamp a search-and-rescue vessel, he said.
He said that once the three vessels are repaired, the Coast Guard would be able to provide security on a 24-hour basis on the territories claimed by the Philippines.
President Aquino earlier ordered the Coast Guard to position ships in the West Philippine Sea after a survey ship hired by the Department of Energy was reportedly harassed by two Chinese Navy gunboats off the Spratlys.