The phraseology of President Decree No. 601, otherwise known as the Revised Coast Guard Law of 1974, shows an intent to create a Coast Guard organization having a legal mandate that is broad and flexible enough for it to pursue its fundamental missions alongside other government agencies having parallel, if not superior, legal mandate.

The general mandate of the law that brings the PCG at the forefront of martial law enforcement is given further clarity in bilateral and multilateral agreements with the Bureau of Customs (BoC), the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), among others. These agreements lay down the operating procedures and prevent duplication of efforts between operatives of different government agencies operating within overlapping areas of responsibility. It must be emphasized, however, that in the performance of these functions, that were forge based on agreements the PCG follows the “lead agency” concept wherein me Coast Guard only plays an assisting role during the conduct of operations and it is still the agency with the principal mandate that takes the lead role.

On 21 June 2008, the entire country was distraught by the damages brought about by the wrath of typhoon “Frank”. The worst incident, which has left the nation astounded, was the capsizing of Sulpicio Lines flagship passenger vessel the M/V Princess of the Stars at the vicinity of Sibuyan Island, Rombion Recorded to be the biggest maritime disaster that occurred last year, it will always be a painful memory to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives during the incident and uncertainty for the relatives of those who are still missing.

On the other hand, the incident had also served as an “eye-opener” for those who are in the forefront of promoting the safety of life and property at sea. It stimulated the entire maritime industry to strengthen its efforts and adopt measures to prevent such incidents from recurring.

For the PCG. The lessons learned from the disaster of M/V Princess of the stars has become the driving force to initiate programs and to strengthen its prevention efforts within its mandate to mitigate catastrophic effects of typhoons in the maritime environs.

Today, more than a year after that unfortunate incident, the despair, frustration and injury to the PCG brought by the wreckage of the Princess of the Stars is outweighed by the satisfaction PCG got from the various initiatives undertaken and vigorously pursued by the Command geared towards strengthening preventive measures and the improvement of response system to such similar disasters.

The Philippine Coast Guard’s year in review is replete with both traditional and new challenges. As a 24/7 sea-going services that perpetually looks into the safe, environmentally sound, and source passage of capability of the PCG to save lives and property at sea, protect the marine environment and resources, neutralize maritime transnational threats, and secure ports and ship has been put into greater test.

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Strong Republic Nautical Highway Project has effectively linked our waterways, islands, merchant vessels, port, terminals, maritime tourist destinations, coastal communities and fishing villages into a maritime trading and seafaring nation. This maritime transportation system thus becomes the lifeblood of our national economy. It fuels our collective development as a maritime nation.

With increased maritime activities characterized by economic globalization, technological advancement competing needs over marine resources, economy of operations, and also with the ensuing  effects of climate change, the challenges during the past year have likewise increased, and the stakes have grown even higher. Our vulnerabilities in the form on unwanted maritime incidents, oil and chemical spills, security threats, and transnational crimes have thus indicated the need for our organization to be further developed as a multi-mission maritime and mission-ready humanitarian service.