The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is planning to hire 5,500 personnel within the year.
PCG commandant George Ursabia Jr. said the additional personnel will be needed to beef up its patrolling functions, especially in the country’s expansive maritime economic zone – excluding, of course, the disputed South China Sea that Beijing is claiming almost entirely.
Ursabia said 4,000 recruits would be deployed in its various offices throughout the archipelago, while the other 1,000 – who are regarded as extremely lucky – are to be fielded in the super-corrupt Bureau of Customs.
The PCG initiative dovetails the announcement by Malacanang that the country’s naval presence in the South China Sea will have to be more pronounced for the sake of local fishermen, in light of the new law passed by Beijing allowing its Coast Guard to open fire on intruders in their alleged territorial waters.
According to Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Navy plans to increase its visibility in the area through more naval assets, but this is not to wage war against China, but to “secure our own people.”
China is claiming some 90 percent of the resources-rich and strategically-important waterway, over the stringent objections of such countries as Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines.
China’s bully-boy tactics has raised the hackles of the US, UK Germany and France. Since then, the US has sent two of its biggest aircraft carriers to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations in the disputed region, much to the consternation of Beijing.