MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is establishing at least two search and rescue (SAR) bases during the remaining term of President Aquino to help speed up response during maritime disasters.
PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that after the groundbreaking ceremony of a SAR base in Barangay Culasi, Roxas City, Capiz yesterday, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is planning to put up a second SAR base in Laguindingan, Cagayan de Oro City.
Balilo said having a SAR base is a “dream come true for the PCG. Since 1998 there were already plans to have a SAR base.”
The SAR base in Roxas City is expected to be completed in February next year, according to the PCG.
“This is the first SAR base that would be put up and this would be a great help in the performance of search and rescue missions. It can accommodate big vessels, even Navy ships and those that need to take shelter in times of bad weather,” Balilo said.
DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya has reportedly encouraged the youth to join the PCG and get the chance to be stationed at the SAR base since they would be familiar with the territory.
Also present in yesterday’s event was Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who hails from Capiz.
Aside from the groundbreaking of the SAR base, national and local officials also inaugurated the newly constructed P11-million PCG station in Roxas City.
Commodore Athelo Ybanez, PCG Western Visayas District commander, said that once the SAR base in Roxas City is complete and functional, the response time during a maritime disaster would be cut down from days to mere hours.
Ybanez said the facility is strategically located at the port area of Roxas City. “If you look at the Philippine map, this is the center, so if there is an incident at the western side of the Philippines, it could even respond to incidents in Mindanao.”
At present, most of the PCG’s floating assets and other support facilities are located in its headquarters in Manila, so whenever there is a maritime incident in the Visayas and Mindanao, it would have to wait for additional help that would come from Luzon. “It usually takes them a few days to reach their destination,” but with the SAR base in Capiz, they would be able to shorten the response time to mere hours,” Ybanez said.
He added that the PCG is also pre-positioning for the effects of climate change which in the past few years, have brought intense rain and heavy flooding.
In the SAR base, Ybanez said the PCG plans to build a mini-hospital to accommodate survivors, a maritime rescue monitoring center, a berthing space for PCG search and rescue vessels, a helipad, and a multi-purpose hall that can be utilized for sports and training activities.