Philippine Coast Guard Fleet Celebrates 15th Founding Anniversary Amid Modernization and Expansion Efforts

The Philippine Coast Guard Fleet celebrated its 15th Founding Anniversary on Monday. This ceremony coincided with the handover of equipment by the United States to the PCG. PCG officials highlighted the growth and modernization of the fleet, using examples from this year. Such examples include the force’s largest deployment to the West Philippine Sea and procurement of its largest vessel to date. Various commands, vessels, and organizations were recognized. 

The arrival of BRP Melchora Aquino (MMRV-9702), second of the Teresa Magbanua-class, in Manila after construction (PCG Photo)

Fleet modernization and expansion were heavily emphasized throughout the ceremony, with many remarks made on the arrival of the two new Teresa Magbanua-class multi-mission response vessels. In the presentation video, the necessity for these vessels was recognized:

“With the multifaceted role of the Philippine Coast Guard, and the growing tension near the country’s disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea the Coast Guard Fleet plays a vigorous role in ensuring the success of the arrival, naming, and commissioning of the two largest vessels. Which are now considered the flagship vessels of the organization.”

MAROPLEX 2022, a recent multilateral regional pollution control exercise, was also mentioned with the PCG deploying recently commissioned BRP Teresa Magbanua to train with Indonesian and Japanese counterparts. It was the first deployment of the vessel, and the largest PCG ship to join a foreign exercise of this scale.

PCG buoy tenders lay down navigational aids in the West Philippine Sea (PCG Photo)

The Fleet’s largest deployment, consisting of five PCG vessels, to the West Philippine Sea earlier this year was another highlight noted during the ceremony. In May the flotilla of five PCG vessels consisting of, BRP Corregidor (AE-891), BRP Bojeador (AE-46), BRP Habagat (TB-721), BRP Capones (MRRV-4404), and BRP Suluan (MRRV-4406), left Manila for the Kalayaan Island Group to lay buoys. These buoys in question are navigational aids and demonstrated Manila’s sovereignty in the area. This was the first time such a deployment was done and shows how far the PCG Fleet has come.

While the bulk of the ships in the PCG patrol service is of Japanese origin, France’s OCEA built one OPV for the PCG. Prior to the arrival oBeforeresa Magbanua-class vessels, these were the largest vessels in the fleet. (OCEA Photo)

In the final parts of the ceremony, awards and plaques of recognition were given out to various vessels, officers, foreign officials, and companies. Of these awards, some noteworthy mentions include those given to Japanese and French companies. Specifically, Mistubishi Shipbuilding and OCEA. These two companies built the bulk of the PCG Fleet from 2016 onwards, and are expected to provide more vessels in the coming years as the PCG further modernizes and expands. 

BRP Batangas (SARV-004) in between USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) and BRP Kalanggaman (FPB-2404) in an Exericse held in 2019. For many years, the Australian San Juan and Ilocos Norte vessels were the only major patrol assets in PCG service.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson)

The Philippine Coast Guard Fleet, a part of the broader PCG, was founded on August 22, 2007. At the time the PCG only had dedicated search and rescue vessels in the form of the Australian-made Ilocos Norte and San Juan classes. Today, the PCG Fleet has been rapidly expanding thanks to foreign assistance. Almost all PCG vessels to date have been procured via financial aid, loans, and other foreign initiatives. PCG procurement since 2016 has been a mix of French and Japanese vessels. These vessels, and foreign aid, have allowed the PCG Fleet to rapidly progress its mission.

However, the PCG Fleet still recognizes the need to keep moving forward. PCG leadership reiterated throughout the ceremony that there is still more to be done. PCG ambitions reflect this, with the force reportedly interested in procuring more Teresa Magbanua-class, Gabriela Silang-class, and Boracay-class vessels. 

Cover Image Courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard