Philippines Receives U.S.-funded Coast Guard Repair Facility Amid South China Sea Damages, Modernization Efforts

May 15, 2024 4:47 PM
U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Y. Robert Ewing and PCG officials Deputy Commandant for Administration Vice Admiral Allan Victor Dela Vega, Maritime Safety Services Command Commander Vice Admiral Joseph Coyme, and Coast Guard Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Edgar Ybañez unveil the plaque of the PCG’s new Fleet Maintenance and Repair Group Workshop. U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Photo.

The Philippine Coast Guard received its first dedicated facility for vessel maintenance and repair from U.S. officials last week. 

With numerous patrol vessels damaged in incidents in the South China Sea and an upcoming fleet modernization program, the Pentagon and State Department-funded $950,000 Fleet Maintenance and Repair Group Workshop wants to bolster Manila’s civilian law enforcement agency’s capabilities. 

“The MRG Workshop enables the Philippines to conduct more continuous and reliable vessel operations out at sea, counter illegal fishing, strengthen maritime domain awareness, and address unlawful activities from aggressive foreign actors,” U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Y. Robert Ewing said during the unveiling ceremony.

Located at the entrance of Manila Bay at the Cavite Buoy Base in Sangley Point, the 400-square-foot workshop is equipped with a machine shop, welding shop, electrical shop, staff office space, and storage room. The design of the workshop is derived from U.S. Coast Guard support facilities, according to a release by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. The facility is also a short sail from the PCG’s berthings in the Port of Manila. 

The facility’s establishment comes amid several incidents in the South China Sea, where numerous Philippine civilian vessels, including those from the PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, were damaged in rammings and water cannon blasts from China Maritime Militia and China Coast Guard ships. 

In the latest water cannon incident near Scarborough Shoal, Philippine government vessels BRP Bagacay (MRRV-4110) and BRP Datu Bankaw (MMOV-3004) suffered damage to their superstructures and navigational equipment. 

As the primary force deployed in the South China Sea to protect Philippine interests in the disputed region, the PCG is looking to expand its fleet. The U.S. release also noted that the new facility will “enable more extensive maintenance support for the PCG’s rapidly expanding vessel fleet.” 

Since 2016, the PCG has received vessels through capacity-building programs with Japan and France. While this has yielded a fleet of 13 patrol vessels, the agency has recognized that more assets are required to cover territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone of the Philippine archipelago, which consists of 7,641 islands. Within the last year, the agency has secured an additional five patrol vessels from Japan and is examining the procurement of two Guardian-class patrol boats from Australia. The PCG’s Acquisition Plan aims to procure up to 192 vessels, including 30 offshore patrol vessels and 10 ocean patrol multi-role response vessels. 

Alongside the Maintenance and Repair Group Workshop, the U.S. has held various educational programs and initiatives to help Philippine Coast Guard personnel maintain their vessels. Last summer, the U.S. turned over a $4.5 million 42,000-square-foot training facility in Balagtas, Bulacan to the agency

PCG deputy commandant for administration Vice Adm. Allan Victor Dela Vega echoed this American commitment to help sustain the Philippines.

“This new workshop from the United States is a game-changer for the PCG,” he said. “It will help us repair our ships faster and keep them in tip-top shape to better protect the Philippine waters.” 

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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