PCG to use add’l confidential funds to boost West Philippine Sea protection
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is preparing for the possibility of receiving a higher budget allocation for 2024 in terms of protecting the West Philippine Sea (WPS), as the House of Representatives allocated a part of the slashed confidential funds (CF) to the agency.
During the hearing of the House special committee on the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, Rizal 2nd District Emigdio Tanjuatco III asked agencies if the House’s decision to realign P1.23 billion of the CFs to offices securing the WPS had any effect already.
While PCG spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela explained that the effect cannot be felt as the proposed budget has yet to be enacted, he agreed with Tanjuatco when the lawmaker asked if PCG had been preparing its wishlist.
“I think the intention of the House of Representatives and also with the Senate to boost our funding would definitely support our operational capability in performing our role in the West Philippine Sea […] the effect will still be felt next year since the budget has yet to be passed for fiscal year 2024,” Tarriela said when asked by Tanjuatco.
“But in line with this, the Philippine Coast Guard is preparing your, let’s say, wishlist or your additional requests in line with that realignment or reprioritization?” Tanjuatco asked.
“Yes sir, definitely sir, if you’re asking if we have already anticipated the positive impact of our increase with our fiscal budget, I definitely believe sir that it has a tremendous impact on the Philippine Coast Guard in performing our mandate, not just in the West Philippine Sea, but in other parts of the country,” he added.
Defense Undersecretary Ignacio Madriaga issued the same sentiments, saying that any additional funding can be used by Department of Defense establishments towards ensuring the integrity of Philippine territories.
“Of course, sir any addition to our resources or allocation would be a welcome development for us, and you can be sure sir that these additional resources will be put to good use in defending our sovereignty, sovereign right, jurisdiction, and national integrity sir,” Madriaga told Tanjuatco.
Last October 10, the House ultimately decided to completely remove the CF request for 2024 of these five agencies:
- Office of the Vice President (OVP): P500 million
- Department of Information and Communications Technology: P300 million
- Department of Education: P150 million
- Department of Agriculture: P50 million
- Department of Foreign Affairs: P50 million
CF requests of other agencies were trimmed down, resulting into a total amount of P1.23 billion saved — which were then reallocated to the following defense offices:
- P300 million for National Intelligence Coordinating Agency
- P100 million for the National Security Council
- P200 million to the PCG for intelligence activities and ammunition
- P381.8 million to the Department of Transportation for airport development and expansion of Pag-asa Island Airport.
Calls to pump more funds into the PCG — which has been at the forefront of defending the WPS — started after Senator Risa Hontiveros said that Congress must increase its allocation after continuous harassment from Chinese vessels in the disputed region.
Then last September 26, Hontiveros maintained that the PCG deserves to get more funds after learning that the agency only had P117 million worth of CF in the last 17 years — whereas some agencies like the OVP allegedly spent its P125 million CF for 2022 in just 11 to 19 days.
Eventually, before the House passed the General Appropriations Bill on third reading last September 27, party leaders made a commitment to realign CFs to PCG and the other agencies.
The said House committee is conducting a hearing for agencies involved in securing the WPS to brief Congress about recent incidents — particularly the collision between a PCG vessel and a Chinese Coast Guard ship last October 22, during a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre beached at Ayungin Shoal.
The incident is the latest in a recent string of Chinese intrusion near Ayungin, which is located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, which stretches 200-nautical miles from its shores.