Philippines Coast Guard in the spotlight

The growth in criminal and terrorist activity in the south of the Philippines has increased the focus on the role of the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) within Philippine security, writes Prashanth Parameswaran in the latest edition of The Diplomat.

He noted that the focus of foreign media outlets had tended to be on outside assistance given to the Philippines to help it in its anti-terror fight, but Parameswaran noted that the PCG was part of a wider trend in the region towards the increased emphasis on coast guards. He said that the recent Marawi siege, combined with a greater emphasis on trilateral cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, had catalysed Manila’s emphasis on its coast guard capabilities.

He said that perhaps the clearest illustration of this was last month, when the PCG took over security operations for all seaports in Mindanao from the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Ports Authority, under an order issued by the Department of Transportation. That order is expected to remain in force at least until martial law in Mindanao is lifted. The PCG has also established a Recommended Transit Corridor (RTC) between the Moro Gulf and the Basilan Strait, which would be monitored heavily by nearby law enforcement units.

The current officer in charge of the PCG, Commodore Joel Garciasaid recently that the organisation could set up a new regional office in Negros Island Region (NIR). Negros is close to Mindanao and straddles the Sulu Sea, and would therefore enable the PCG to react faster to threats.