OATH-TAKING. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leads the oath-taking of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel at Malacañan Palace on Thursday (Jan. 26, 2023). In his speech, Marcos renewed his call to PGC to continue protecting the country’s maritime territory, citing how recent events have made their mission “more intense” compared to the past years. (Photo courtesy of Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday renewed his call to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel to continue protecting the country’s maritime territory, citing how recent events in the South China Sea (SCS) have made their mission “more intense” compared to the past years.

In his remarks during the oath-taking of PCG personnel at Malacañan Palace, Marcos recognized the PCG’s primary role in search and rescue and patrolling the boundaries, but noted that “many duties that once belonged to the Philippine Navy have been transferred to the PCG.”

“The reason for this is very simple. We do that so that we will not raise tensions by putting units and assets of the Philippine military into the area. At because sinasabi natin (we are saying) these are not military vessels, they are Coast Guard,” he said.

“…As many of the incidents have started to show over the past few years, that mission has become more, shall we say, intense. Now you are expected to defend not only the coastline, but to defend our nationals," he added.

Marcos described PCG personnel as “frontliners” ready to confront threats coming through the country's coastlines.

“That is why we must guard ourselves; we must be ready and aware and industrious in the work that we do to make sure that we do not have any untoward incidents, that we do not have any mistakes, we do not have any misunderstandings that might cause the problem to escalate out of our control,” he said.

He, likewise, vowed continued support for the PCG’s modernization program, including upgrading the PCG’s capabilities, facilities and equipment.

“I’m confident that all of our officers know this mission, that all our officers know how to fulfill that mission. And that is why we continue to support you in every way that we can so our citizens feel safe," he said.

“This is something that is critical to the safety of the citizens of the Philippines. It is critical in the defense of the Republic. It is critical to the defense of our territory,” he added.

The PCG, an attached agency of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), is mandated and responsible to perform maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, marine environmental protection and maritime security.

In 1967, the Republic Act 5173 or the Philippine Coast Guard Law was enacted by Congress, enabling the creation of the PCG as one of the major units of the navy. However, its military character prevented PCG from receiving capability upgrades from other foreign countries.

After the PCG’s functions were reorganized to be civilian in nature, it was transferred to the Department of Transportation Communications (DOTC) in 1998.

The Philippines, China and several other littoral states have overlapping claims in the SCS.

In a 2016 arbitral ruling, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that Beijing's nine-dash line, a demarcation that covers almost 80 percent of the South China Sea, is illegal. China repeatedly ignored the PCA ruling. (PNA)