The Filipino people deserves a credible and strong Philippine Coast Guard to perform it’s mandate and task, nothing more, nothing less

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750), left, moves in formation with the Philippine Coast Guard vessels Batangas, center, and Kalanggaman during an exercise May 14, 2019. Bertholf is in the midst of a Western Pacific patrol under the tactical control of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson.

The Philippines, an archipelagic nation surrounded by oceans and seas, therefore, it is necessary to maintain a reliable force to ensure maritime security and protect territorial sovereignty. In the context that China is increasingly using Coast Guard vessels to assert its unruly sovereignty claim in the South China Sea and the East China Sea without the participation of its army. Observers say this move by Beijing could cause tensions to escalate in the South China Sea. This also shows the increasing role of Coast Guard ships, or “white-body” ships, in sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea. It is a fact that public opinion often focuses on the development of naval power, while not paying much attention to the development of the Coast Guard. However, what is happening shows that while naval power is increasing, the number of Coast Guard ships in the region is also increasing at a rapid rate. Since the early 2000s the Philippines has put four San Juan-class patrol vessels into use. These ships were built by Australian shipbuilding company Tenix, they specialize in and are designed for search and rescue and other maritime emergencies.

BRP EDSA II SARV 002

The San Juan-class consists of four vessels: BRP San Juan, BRP EDSA II, BRP Pampanga and BRP Batangas. When completed, the ship has a standard displacement of 540 tons, a length of 56 meters, a beam of 10.55 meters and a draft of 2.5 meters. The hull is of all-welded construction with grade 250 steel with aluminum superstructure including flight deck. Stern door constructed of aluminum alloy to reduce weight.

BRP Batangas SARV 004

Main propulsion consists of two medium speed Caterpillar 3612, producing 5440 horsepower at 1,000 rpm mounted with a flexible coupling connecting the flywheel to a clutchable Reintjes LAF 3445 reduction gearbox. There are also two Caterpillar 3406TA Generators generates a maximum of 260 kilo watts of electricity and one Caterpillar 3306TA Harbor Generator. Each propulsion train and ancillary systems are capable of operating independently. Main engines and auxiliaries are fueled by 109,762 liters of diesel, sufficient for an operational range of 1,000 nautical mile at speeds of 24 knots and 2,000 nautical mile at speeds of 15 knots, both with 10% remaining fuel. The maximum speed of the ship is 26 knots. Seakeeping features includes sustained speeds of 12 knots in Sea State 4. The standard operating crew is 37 people, including 13 officers, two rescue divers, a corpsman and twenty-one ratings.

BRP Pampanga SARV-003

The firefighting capability is provided by a main reduction gearbox driven pump supplying two fire monitors mounted on the aft end of the bridge. Each monitor is capable of providing a seawater throw of 100 meters at a rate of 300 cubic meters per hour.

BRP San Juan (SAR-001)

San Juan-class patrol vessels were acquired through soft loans from Australia initiated in 1997, each ship originally cost 19 million Australian dollars, reduced to 16.7 million Australian dollars. The procurement of patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard is said to be a practical requirement for maritime security and safety, including the prevention of illegal activities at sea. In which China is the “main impetus” that causes the Philippines and other countries in the region to race to improve the capacity of the Coast Guard force.

As countries increase their deployment of Coast Guard vessels to disputed areas in the South China Sea, the risk of confrontation and dangerous conflict may increase, especially as the region currently has no code of conduct for Coast Guard vessels. So far, the most popular approach has been to rush to buy new ships, like a Coast Guard vessels race. However, because more and more Coast Guard vessels are being deployed, it is increasingly difficult to avoid collisions. As a result, the South China Sea situation will become more complicated when other countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, also deploy naval forces to the area. In this figure, it is clear that Filipinos deserve a stronger and more reliable Coast Guard to carry out their duties.

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