MANILA, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will beef up its patrol fleet with more brand new and modern patrol boats, a helicopter and weapons beginning next year as it plans to further strengthen its maritime patrol capability, a lawmaker said on Sunday.
Rep. Johnny Pimentel, a member of the House appropriation committee, said the government has set aside 6.7 billion pesos (130.1 million U.S. dollars) of its 3.767 trillion pesos (73.15 billion U.S. dollars) budget for 2018 to build up the PCG with a fleet of new boats, helicopters and weapons.
"The fresh funding will help pay for the acquisition of 10 newly built 44-meter patrol boats from Japan, of which five have already been delivered to the PCG," said Pimentel in a statement.
He said the PCG is also acquiring four 24-meter fast boats for delivery in 12 months, an 82-meter boat for delivery in 2019, and two 94-meter, high-endurance boats for delivery in 2020 and 2021.
Pimentel said the PCG is also spending 922 million pesos (17.96 million U.S. dollars) for firearms, 686 million pesos (13.4 million U.S. dollars) for a helicopter meant for deployment aboard a boat and 682 million pesos (13.3 million U.S. dollars) for smaller watercraft.
"These new assets will go a long way in enabling the PCG to perform its mission to enforce our maritime laws, conduct sea disaster search and rescue when needed and protect our marine environment," Pimentel said.
Pimentel said the PCG is also procuring high-performance rigid inflatable boats (RIBs), ranging from seven to 15 meters, which can be used to deploy troops from bigger patrol vessels or shores, and can also serve as lifeboats.
"These high-speed RIBs will be helpful in vessel interdiction and non-compliant boarding team operations. They can also help fight off terrorists as well as drug smugglers aboard motorized boats," Pimentel said.
He said the 2018 budget also includes the hiring of 4,000 new PCG personnel to man the new assets and equipment that will be acquired. "We've increased from 8,930 this year to 12,930 in 2018 the authorized positions for uninformed PCG personnel," he said.
At present, he said the PCG has filled up 8,792 of the 8,930 authorized positions for uniformed personnel. The PCG also has 506 positions for civilian employees, of which 352 are filled.
Of the 6.7 billion pesos (130.1 million U.S. dollars) in new appropriations, he said 3.1 billion pesos (60.2 million U.S. dollars) is lodged in the budget of the PCG itself, while 3.6 billion pesos (70.1 million U.S. dollars) is in the allocation of its mother agency, the Department of Transportation.