PH Coast Guard 'not considering' using laser technology amid Chinese incursions

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2023 12:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 23 2023 07:14 PM

Philippine Coast Guard handout 
Philippine Coast Guard handout 

PCG reaching out to US, Japan to craft 'approaches' in future laser incidents

MANILA (UPDATE)— The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Thursday said it is not keen on equipping its vessels with military-grade lasers after the Chinese Coast Guard used the same during an encounter earlier this month. 

Commodore Jay Tarriela, PCG's spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, admitted though that their procedure in responding to encounters like that needs revision. 

"Hindi plano ng Coast Guard gumamit ng laser technology as part of our weaponry for Philippine Coast Guard vessels," Tarriela said during a public briefing. 
"Ang sinasabi lang natin for us to revise is itong rules natin for the use of force, kung saan hindi pa kasi natin nailagay dito how would the Philippine Coast Guard respond to these kinds of threat towards the Philippine Coast Guard vessel," he said. 

"Definitely, the PCG is not considering putting laser weaponry onboard our Coast Guard vessels." 

The Philippines had accused a Chinese Coast Guard vessel of flashing military-grade laser on BRP Malapascua last Feb. 6 in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). It also complained against the continued presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the disputed South China Sea. 

In a separate interview on ANC, Tarriela said they have yet to come up with protocols on responding to similar incidents or harassments in the future. He noted that it is important for authorities to know and understand laser technology.

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"We still don't know much about how we are going to protect our crew from these kinds of harassments, whether it is lethal or non-lethal and impaired the vision of our personnel," he said. 

The PCG is currently reaching out to their counterparts in the US and Japan "for us to be supported in crafting right approaches" and protect its crew from laser flashing, he said. 


Tarriela said around 30 Chinese vessels are still moored in the West Philippine Sea as of Wednesday — 26 in Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, while four are in Ayungin Shoal. 

To counter their presence, Tarriela said they are intensifying their patrols in the areas by deploying one offshore patrol vessel and one of its multi-role response vessels (MRRV).

In the ANC interview, the official stressed the importance of more offshore patrol vessels. Currently, the PCG has three offshore patrol vessels, one of which came from France and two were from Japan.

"We need more offshore patrol vessels to sustain our presence in the West Philippine Sea. As Philippine Coast Guard, it is not just the West Philippine Sea that we are mandated to patrol, we also have issues... in Batanes... Benham Rise," he said. 

"We need additional coast guard response bases. Unfortunate that until now, the Philippine Coast Guard does not have its own port facility that can accommodate the boarding spaces of our vessels," he added. 

The Philippines protested last week the Chinese vessel's use of military-grade lasers, a claim which Beijing denied. 

China and the Philippines are at odds over the South China Sea, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over almost the entire area despite an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Saturday said he will not invoke the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty that allows Washington to aid Manila in case of an armed attack by a third party.

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