The Philippine Coast Guard station in Catanduanes has asked the provincial government to procure six big motorized bancas for use in coastal patrolling in view of the dearth of “floating assets.”
Answering the query of Provincial Board Member Arnel Turado on whether the PCG is capable of protecting Catanduanes against intruding foreign vessels, Coast Guard Station-Virac commander Christian Jazmin admitted that the agency lacks water assets.
Of the four aluminum speed boats of CGS-Virac, three were damaged during the rampage of super typhoon Rolly in the southern half of the island while the fourth is in a state of disrepair in Pandan town.
Cdr. Jazmin disclosed that while the provincial government has offered to buy two jetskis, he has asked the latter to buy instead five to six large motorized, outrigger bancas capable of operating in the open sea.
Manned by the PCG, the bancas will be able to accommodate composite teams from other law enforcement agencies like the police, he added.
The admission came during the Peace & Order committee hearing last Feb. 11, 2021 on the privilege speech delivered by PBM Edwin Tanael during the Feb. 1 session regarding the “Jia Geng” incident off Bato.
On the “Jia Geng” incident, he told the committee that the National Coast Guard Center began monitoring the Chinese vessel when it entered the country’s territorial waters on Jan. 27 and monitored it anchoring two kilometers off Pananaogan, Bato inside Cabugao Bay.
Cdr. Gazmin did not confirm that the vessel failed to contact the PCG station before it entered the bay and that it was the Coast Guard which first hailed the Jia Geng by radio.
He only said that, using a motorized banca hired from a Pananaogan fisherman, they tried to board the ship in the evening of Jan. 29 but the captain told them the ship had diplomatic clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
They were forced to return to shore and then contacted PCG Manila for confirmation of the ship’s clearance.
Informed of that the Chinese embassy indeed requested for the ship’s clearance on Jan. 28, the PCG deployed its personnel to monitor the ship while it was at anchor, posing as fishermen on board local fishermen’s bancas.
Gazmin informed that at the time, Jia Geng had 23 scientists on board and was conducting research in open sea before it was forced to shelter off the island due to rough weather.
He stressed that even if an international ship enters the territorial waters of another country, the ship remains foreign territory and can only be boarded when docked in port.
Responding to committee chair PBM Robert Fernandez’s question on what the PCG can do if such a vessel is deemed a threat to national security or the marine environment, the PCG officer said they can only monitor to make sure the vessel and its crew do not do something against Philippine laws.
“Our action will be based on sea conventions,” he stressed.
PBM Rafael Zuniega later asked the PCG officer to submit a list of specific equipment they need as the SP will pass a resolution asking Coast Guard headquarters to provide suitable floating assets to Catanduanes.