Manila, Philippines — Increasing hostilities from Chinese vessels and its threats to the safety of Philippine Coast Guard necessitate greater funding for their intelligence operations, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said that beefing up the PCG’s intelligence funds — discreet funds an agency uses to gather information — would help it better perform its mandate in patrolling the West Philippine Sea.
She said this in her privilege speech on Senate Resolution 744, a recently filed resolution that calls for a Senate inquiry into measures that would strengthen the PCG and improve its role in protecting the country’s maritime zones.
Addressing her colleagues, Hontiveros urged them to back the increase of the PCG’s funds to be able to “arm them with advanced equipment – such as radar stations, automatic identification systems (AIS) hardware and others.”
This would make it more possible for the country “more effectively hold China accountable for her hostile, aggressive, and illegal actions in the West Philippine Sea,”
Hontiveros also pointed out that despite the PCG facing “a clear and present danger” from Chinese presence in the tense waterways, funding for PCG operations remains limited.
Since 2009, the PCG has only been receiving P10 million in intelligence funds annually, forcing the agency to rely solely on human intelligence to get up-to-date information.
Hontiveros said it is unacceptable that the PCG is receiving intelligence funds far less than those being received by civilian agencies with no direct relation to national security and protection of Philippine territory.
“I also must stress that the 10 million pesos for intelligence funds is not only for the PCG’s duties over the West Philippine Sea, but for the entire coastal areas and waters of the Philippines. Sa napakaraming banta na nararanasan ng Coast Guard, hindi ba dapat na mas malaki naman sa sampung milyon ang maibigay sa kanila?” she said.
Hontiveros added that the Senate should assist the public information efforts of the PCG over Filipinos’ lawful claims in the WPS, which are being hampered by a deluge of “orchestrated, pro- Beijing misinformation and propaganda.”
“The spreading of lies and online insults by China and their fake news peddlers continues. What’s disappointing is that some of our fellow Filipinos are actively undermining our Coast Guard, our Armed Forces of the Philippines, and even our fishermen,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.
“I believe we can shore up even more support for our Philippine Coast Guard, whether on the ground or on social media, so we can seriously defend the Sierra Madre, Ayungin, and the rest of our territories,” the senator added.
PCG Spokesperson Jay Tarriela said this week that China is the only South China Sea claimant that has repeatedly resorted to dangerous acts against Filipinos at sea even as it traverses the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. — Cristina Chi