Just recently on 17 April 2009, the Government of Japan officially turned over to the Philippine Government “The Japan Grant Aid Project for Enhancement of Communications System for Maritime Safety and Security.” The occasion was made by the Ambassador of Japan to the Philippines, His Excellency Makoto Katsurato the Secretary of Department of Transportation and Communications, Honorable Leandro R Mendoza, representing the Philippines.

Background:

     Pursuant to Republic 5173, it is the mandate of PCG to enforce regulations pertaining to maritime communications which are not delegated to some other government agencies. The PCG endeavors to improve its capability to perform its role in the maritime industry. To perform the mandate, the PCG formerly relies its communications system to the old equipment provided by the Philippine Navy. After the PCG’s separation from the Navy, the communications system was among the affected areas as the agency has to rely on existing equipment and whatever else was on hand. The access to the AFP established long lines of communications and PCG had to find ways to improve its own internal communications system. As required by law, the PCG should have a maritime communications infrastructure that would cater the requirements pertaining to SOLAS regulations, particularly the capability to distress monitoring and rendering of SAR operations in time of sea accidents or disasters.

       The first major development on the PCG communications infrastructure was the transfer of the operations of the “Maritime Communications Project (MCP) facility in 30 January 2002 from TELOF, DOTC to the PCG by authority of DOTC Department Order Number 2000-32 dated 24 March 2000. The MCP improved the PCG capability of ensuring efficient and reliable maritime communications services. With the promulgation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS) implemented in 19999, a new safety system technology for maritime communications was introduced. TELOF, DOTC spearheaded the project of the GMDSS with the objective that PCG will take over the operations upon the project completion. However, some setbacks were encountered during the project implementation phase.

    To address this major necessity, the PCG included in its 15-Year Capability Development Plan the establishment of the formidable, robust and effective communications system thus the “The Project for Enhancement of Communications+ Systems for Maritime Safety and Security” was formulated.

    Since the PCG is mandated to perform in accordance with RA 5173 and International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations, the maritime communication enhancement of the PCG has to be put in place.  Thus, in May 2003, PCG requested to the Japanese government for a grant aid that will improve the internal communications and the rehabilitation of the MCP facility to conform to the GMDSS requirement. After almost (6) years, the project was completed and turned -over the PCG in 27 April 2009. Through the said project, the maritime communications of the PCG again embarked a digitally equipped and latest technology system in accordance with the international standard composed of the following: VSAT, GMDSS (DSC & NAVTEX), MICROWAVE SYSTEM and ENCRYPTED HF/VHF VOICE RADIO.

 

The New Pcg Communications System.VSAT – The PCG VSAT Satellite Communications System uses satellite repeaters to relay communications. The primary use of the system is for voice and FAX communications between the major units of the Philippine Coast Guard. The VSAT System is composed of one (1) Hub Station located at Operations Center (OPC) in Mandaluyong , nine (9) Fixed Stations which are distributed to all PCG Districts except NCR-CL and a transportable VSAT Station for deployment to emergency operations. The VSAT system is integrated with the microwave system for communications to the Manila Coast Stations (OPC, TX Station, RX Station), PCG Headquarters, CGD NCR-CL-MANILA, and MSSC Headquarters at Sangley Point. Each VSAT station is equipped with telephone units, a FAX machine, desktop PC, and back-up generator. With the VSAT Communications System, voice and FAX communications is possible using Voice-Over IP Technology (VOIP). It is an independent and secured network and does not reply on private telephone companies.

NAVTEX - PCG is now broadcasting maritime safety information (MSI) such as weather forecast from PAG-ASA, notice to mariners (NOTAM) from PCG and other messages need by mariners. All ships equipped with NAVTEX receiver unit can receive the NAVTEX regular information from the PCG within the area coverage of the medium frequency (MF) network. NAVTEX transmission can reach as afar as 1000 NM hence, the Philippine Archipelago is almost covered by its broadcast.

MF/HF/VHF – for distress monitoring of vessels and other sea-craft with GMDSS equipment, the PCG has DSC capability over MF, HF and VHF frequency. Likewise for non-GMDSS equipped vessels, PCG continually monitor the radiotelephony distress and calling frequency (VHF-Channel 16, MF-2128.0 and HF- 4125.0, 6125.0, 8291.0, 12290.0 and 16420.0). The terrestrial communications system of the PCG operates the high powered transmitters and receivers hence long range area coverage on GMDSS and conventional voice radio is possible.

    With the abovementioned capability of PCG on maritime communications system, indeed the PCG has significantly improved and will continuously pursue the still enormous requirements for communications capability.

Proposed Future Improvement of Maritime Communications. PCG is presently in Coordination with the Bureau of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Telecommunications Office (TELOF) for co-location VHF radio repeater on their existing facility. If not, PCG can assume the operation of these facilities for maritime communication purpose.

     For improvement of distress monitoring on short range radio communications, PCG will be establishing a VHF repeater in Tagaytay City and this improved the VHF marine band coverage particularly those radios with weak signal. This project will be replicated in other locations like the Romblon, Marinduque and other Bicol provinces.

     To effectively enforce the maritime communications function of the PCG in reference to SOLAS regulations for domestic ships, the joint enforcement of the Shipboard communications equipment carriage of vessels covered by regulation of NTC was signed in February 1981 which defines and designates the PCG to do enforcement.

    Pending the signing of the revised MOA, NTC and PCG is formulating the Circulars on the regulations for the mandatory carriage of NAVTEX receiver to certain sizes of ships and power driven tug boats and barges that are engaged in Coastwise trade.

 

The PCG is also presently evaluating the following maritime communications enhancement project:

  1. Phase 2 of the Japan Grant Aid Maritime Communications System Enhancement Project – the project component is envisioned to establish. Radar Vessel Traffic System at PCG stations in Basco, Balabac and Bongao linked to PCG Headquarters through satellite system; equip the remaining PCG districts and their stations with HF and VHF communications systems that were not included in the just completed Phase 1 of JICA Project; establish PCG ground to air communications and set-up of VHF-GMDSS in the areas of Batangas, Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga and Cagayan De Oro.
  2. Philippine MS3 (Safety, Security and Surveillance) System Project (GICOMS System) – basically involves the upgrading and/or replacement of existing information and communications systems, equipment and facilities that the Philippine Coast Gurad (PCG) presently uses in the conduct of various maritime service operations and the performance of its legally mandated functions. The proposed upgrading and/or replacement is envisioned to be carried out through the provision of advance technologies and equipment and the development and installation of a number of application and database systems that will automate most of PCG’s systems and processes. This proposed project is also envisioned to be a sophisticated system that the PCG will be able to operate and use for a long period of time. It therefore becomes imperative that the technologies that will be specified in the proposed MS3 System are the latest and most advanced that will enable the system to withstand the test of time and the progressions that may be imposed upon it in the future.

   With all these premises, the PCG vision of a safe clean and secured maritime environment is finally realized thus making the PCG communications system enhancement a significant contribution to the country’s economic progress.