Philippines Coast Guard Increases Patrols In Controversial Waters

18 February 2023

The Kalayaan Island Group, which China claims is a part of the South China Sea, and the Spratly Islands are two strongly disputed areas where the Philippine Coast Guard has boosted patrols. In response to a direction from President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr., the Coast Guard has sent its flagship BRP Teresa Magbanua to the area. The ship’s official purpose since being commissioned in May 2022, less than a year ago, is to defend Filipino fishing boats. Officials with the Coast Guard expect a significant rise in the number of Filipino fishing boats operating in the area as the summer fishing season gets going.

The recent laser light incident between the Chinese and Filipino coast guards prompted the Philippine Coast Guard to be sent to the area. According to the Philippines, on February 6, the Chinese fired lasers at one of their ships, disrupting a supply convoy heading for a base there. Chinese officials denied the allegations, claiming that their crew utilised a handheld laser speed detector and a handheld green light pointer to monitor the speed and range of the Filipino ship. The Philippine Coast Guard came across a Vietnamese fishing vessel that was illegally using Philippine seas three days after the incident. The patrol boat Teresa Magbanua escorted the fishing boat out of the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone while rigid hull inflatable boats were sent to tackle it.

The Philippine Coast Guard said its enforcement operations will continue “firmly committed to safeguarding Philippine interests.” Coast Guard officers also used the recent incidents as a further demonstration of the need to continue the efforts to support the plans for the modernization of the PCG. They are calling for funds to acquire more offshore patrol boats so that they can continue the patrols of the Philippine EEZ.

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