The Coast guard ready force was activated only two years ago as Coast Guard Fleet until it was renamed " Coast guard ready force" in this may this year. Regarded as the mother unit of all units afloat of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Ready Force is comprised with a handful of dedicated personnel who humbly steered this command into the efficient and effective attainment of its mission. Thus, together we paid the price of having to face the insurmountable challenges brought about by being part of the Coast Guard Ready Force. No doubt we had so much work to do together to strengthen our focus of ensuring preparedness of our units afloat in order to play part in the achievement of objectives of the Philippine Coast Guard.

One of the focal issues we have dealt on during our early days in the unit was the rationalization of sea duty pay grants to Coast Guard officers and personnel. Based on CPCG's Command Guidance, we stood firm on our guard ground that sea duty pay should be solely for those who are in actual performance of duties aboardship. In the process, this action which had appeared seemingly harsh to some, prove constructive as this legitimized and rationalized the claim of this supposedly hard-earrned incentive.

The Coast Guard Ready Force has likewise emphasized discipline among uniformed personnel aboard PCG-manned vessels and crafts. As such, specific instruction has emanated from this unit to all Commanding Officers and Boat Captains to firm up their exercise of the " Command and Control" on their respective units. This opened the avenue for these Coast Guard skippers to harness their authority as enshrined in the Articles of War over erring subordinates which instituted and strengthen disciple in our units afloat. In like manner, this unit has been steadfast in its resolve to accord apposite punishments to uniformed personnel who commited serious misdemeanours or violations of the PCG Code of Conduct aboardship. These personnel who are found to have fouled-up aboard Coast Guard vessels and crafts are immediately reassigned at this headquarters to serve a certain retribution period where their virtues and principles as Coastguardsmen are renewed and rekindled.

The unit has also proposed SOP's and circulars which seek to institutionalize policies and guidelines with intention of developing and upgrading the scheme in the effective discharge of Coast Guard mandated functions. Among these are the proposed SOP on the Rules of Engagement, Circular on granting Sea Duty Pay for personnel assigned in Headquarters Coast Guard Ready Force and Headquarters Coast Guard Fleet and Circulars on the Ship and Small Craft of the Year. Moreover, the Ready Force, regarded as one of the Coast guard units having the most number of personnel, has thrived to keep the morale and welfare of its men through a comprehensive review which had identified the issues affecting career management of PCG personnel assigned aboardship. The upshot of this thorough study was the eventual turn-up of three proposed circulars which could be the ultimate solution to the perpetual concerns hounding the apposite career management of Coast Guard personnel performing sea-duty assignment which was then presented to the Guest-of-honor and speaker during the concluding day of the Coast Guard ready Force Anniversary Celebration - " Career Pattern for Shipboard Junior Billet", " Career Pattern Program for PCG Enlisted Personnel Assigned Aboardship" and "Selection and Designation of Boat Captain Assigned in the PCG Small Crafts and PCG Manned vessels.

Earlier, the Coast Guard Infrastructure Development Service, likewise acting on CPCG's Command Guidance, constructed sizable office spaces, operations center and transient quarters of the then CG Operating Forces at Pier 13,South Harbor which was later renamed to CG Ready Force.

Drydocking and repair works were also ahead in the line up of priorities of the Coast Guard Ready Force. Modesty aside, with HPCG's sound programming and rationalization of ships and small crafts repair activities, this unit was able to log-in the most number of floating assets on operational status over the past years, the most remarkable of which was the repair works on BRP Corregidor (AE-891) which led to the successful voyage of said vessel in Balikpapan, Indonesia for the MARPOLEX 2009. This unit has also prioritized the restoration of  operational status on the following vessels and crafts: SARV-001, SARV-002, SARV-3504, TB-271, the Presidential Craft(CGC-103), DF-302, DF-313, DF-311, DF-347, DF-25, to include DF-316 which was the first Coast Guard floating asset to arrive in the search and rescue scene of M/V Superferry 9 in Zamboanga Peninsula in the early morning of September 6, 2009. Likewise, this unit takes pride of being able to enhance the capability of the Fast Boat "Interceptor" by conducting hull preservation and other related repair works which gave a boost on its reliability.

Additionally, the undersized personnel of this unit worked hand in hand to realize and accomplish improvements and developments of the Coast Guard Ready Force headquarters. With the allocation from Higher Headquarters, this unit was able to put up a basketball court which heightened the morale and welfare of personnel of the Ready Force and which other Coast Guard uniformed personnel from other units benefit from. We have also started giving series of facelifts on our facility with some parts of the building and office spaces already repainted and considerably improved. The construction of the units signage and the flagpole has also given a sense of dignity and pride to uniformed personnel of Coast Guard Ready Force. Similarly, we have refurbished our service vehicle, the KIA Van into a presentable and reliable vehicle which was even utilized as one of the primary Coast Guard assets for land mobility during the onslaught of typhoon "Peping" in Manila areas.

With communication as vital aspect in the effective and efficient discharge of functions of Coast Guard vessels, we have also worked out the acquisition of a Single Side Band (SSB) Radio and VHF Marine Band Radio which are now installed in the operations office of Headquarters Coast Guard Ready Force. The availability of this equipment in this headquarters provided the much-needed link to units afloat deployed in various areas in the archipelago twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. With this development, Coast Guard Ready Force has served as the primary point of contact of our vessels which were deployed for search and rescue efforts in Zamboanga peninsula involving Superferry 9.

In the fact of shipboard training , we have revised existing and established new-fangled curricula to be more responsive in qualifying our officers and enlisted personnel for assignments aboardship and in order to align in our training standards in accordance with the provisions of STCW 95 in the coming years. It maybe next to impossible but the Coast Guard Ready Force is resolve to put this into reality. As a matter of fact, officers and enlisted personnel who just joined this unit were already subjected to this training program in collaboration with PHILCAMSAT, a world-class maritime training institution. Their respective trainings will then be officially certificated upon satisfactory completion of the courses taken which later will be useful credential while performing safely function in shore units.

After having registered these modest accomplishments in more than a year of public service, the able Officers and Enlisted Personnel of Coast Ready Force continue to live up to our pledge of genuine and selfless service to the Philippine Coast Guard. Greater challenges may come along our way but the Coast Guard Ready Force, with its six hundred eighty three dedicated and willing officers and personnel, will continue to chart a new course and trail on its voyage plan to reach our destination of a better Philippine Coast Guard.

The hazard in k9 handling. For many, it may be attractive to be a CGK9 handler – Geared with an elegant desert blue uniform that decorated with badges and equipped with a well-trained and well-groomed detection dog and performing duties in front of large crowd of travelers and tourist on our major ports, but behind all these privileges, hazard do come as those are associated with the nature of their job.

            During the handler`s  training and even during the actual performance of their duty,  the students often contract numerous dog bite wounds and scratches.

In addition on that, rabies, which is very fatal zoonotic disease, incurred from dog bite, can be easily contracted by veterinaries and students handlers due to their close association with dogs. Other diseases such as brucellosis, leptospirosis, scabies, and several forms dermatitis can also infect them through their dogs.

            CGK9 handlers are also exposed to additional health hazards such that explosive ordnance may cause serious physical injuries when it accidentally explodes or it may cause a disease that was left unnoticed due to the fumes of the chemical used to manufacture such. Similarly, in the actual performance of their duty, CGK9 handlers are in danger of being seriously harmed or killed in case they respond to a bomb threat. CGK9 and EOD personnel are the first responders to those kind of emergencies and they are also considered by terrorist group as the biggest hindrance to their unlawful acts and intentions.

            CGK9 personnel are always present on our ports, becoming the first line of security provided by the Philippine government. Almost all baggage and cargo go through their inspection and paneling which resulted not only in the apprehension and confiscation of illegal explosive and narcotic contrabands but also other smuggled item such as agricultural fertilizers  and other hazardous substance, pirated DVD, clothing, electronics cellular gadgets and accessories, and others. Due to their proactive participation, they are sometimes under the litigation of some influential syndicates involved in drug smuggling, gun running and other unlawful acts.

            With all these, it is true that being a CGK9 handler is a well appreciated and respected job, but also associated with hazards and sacrifices in order to deliver the PCG`s  mandated task.

HGK9 Moved To Coast Guard Base Taguig. On 22nd may 2009, the headquarters Coast Guard K9 was officially transferred Coast Guard Base Taguig just in time for celebration of its 7th founding anniversary. The new home of the CGK9 includes a spacious operation center, a class room and accommodation for its personnel. The dog were also housed in the kennel building designed to be well ventilated without the use of fans. The kennel also features a surgery room, a nursery/delivery room, a stock room and a sleeping quarter while its surrounding

area is fenced to be used as training ground in addition to the parade ground for its dogs.

            A number of improvements followed its transfer to Coast Guard Base Taguig. The joint graduation of k9 Handlers Course Class 05-09 and convening of the K9 Handlers Course Class 06-09 on the 2nd week of September was a historic event for the Coast Guard K9 as they were able to produce twenty-eight(28)newly trained detection dogs along with twenty-nine(29) new handlers. This was the biggest number of class so far. And during the same day, the Coast Guard K9 convened another thirty(30) new candidate detection dogs along with thirty-five(35) new candidate handlers. The new set of trainee dogs mostly came from the CGK9 breeding program. These new handlers were augmented to existing K9 detachements along nautical highway and other vital ports nationwide.

            Aside from the operational aspects of the CGK9, students are taught the techniques in handling a CGWD. Likewise, students are taught to train their respective dogs in either explosive ordinance or narcotics detection.

            In addition to dog handling, students are also taught basic dog health care, nutrition and grooming, kennel facility management and hygiene in order to equip them with knowledge of keeping their assigned CGWD healthy, thus extending their serviceable years.

            Explosive Ordinance Reconnaissance Agent Course and Anti- illegal Drug Investigation Seminar conducted by the Philippine Bomb Data Center and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency respectively were included in order to equip the students with the knowledge on the procedures in case they successfully detected an explosive ordnance or illegal drug.

            Furthermore, several modules were incorporated in the said course in order to equip the handlers with various skills necessary in the performance of respective duties. Sport Scuba Course for the handlers to augment the regular SOG divers when the need arises, Special Swim and Survive Course making the handlers qualified life-savers  and competent swimmers, Practical Shooting and Close Quarter Battle Training in order to be ready in any eventuality, and Lectures on the `Use of force` for the handlers to be well versed in the rules of engagement.

CGK9 along SRNH. Most of Coast Guard K9 Detachment are strategically placed along the different sections of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, which is one of the priority economic development project of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. On the Western Nautical Highway,  there are CGK9 detachment in the ports of Batangas City, Calapan City, Roxas Oriental Mindoro, Katiklan, Ilo-ilo City, Bacolod City and the Port of Muska in illigan City.  While on the Central Nautical Highway, there are CGK9 Detachment in the port of Masbate City, Cebu City, Cagayan De Oro City. On the right side of the archipelago, there are CGK9 Detachment stretching from the ports of Matnog in Sorsogon, in northern Samar and Suriago City Comprising the Eastern Nautical Highway.

            CGK9 plays an important role in the maintenance of peace, order and security in the above mentioned ports as it does not only serve to detect explosives ordinance and narcotics substance but also serve as deterrent to unlawful elements who might want to create terror and promote chaos. And in doing so. CGK9 indirectly contributes to the national and local economic development by boosting the confidence of businessman in continuing their trade that relies on these very valuable sea routes.

            CGK9 Breeding Program. Due to the high cost of purchasing material(Candidate Detection)dogs, CGK9 intensifies its breeding program in order to help the Command save valuable resources. At present, CGK9 has 25 puppies born in the month of July and August of the current year alone. These puppies will be raised and puppy trained in order to increase the possibility of qualifying them from detection dog training. Then recently concluded CGK9 HC 05-09 shows that progenies of our CGWDs also become good detection dogs and ten(10) out of the twenty dogs that will be trained in the incoming CGK9 HC 06-09 will also come from the CGWDs breeding program.

            After training, these dogs will be deployed to the Coast Guard Operational Areas    in order to reinforce its current deployment strength and to serve more sea ports especially those along the Strong Republic Nautical Highway. And in order to cope up with the ever increasing demand for CGK9 services, it will continually bread its pool of CGWDs and train them in the CGK9 school.

The Philippines has a unique archipelagic wilderness set-up in its forests, mountains and coast lines. The country's eco-tourism is very dynamic teeming with selections of tropical and cultural ambience. Though an insular Southeast Asian nation, it is very rich in outdoor destinations, boasting of the 4th longest shoreline in the world, and as one of the sites in the center for an extensive marine biodiversity in the coral triangle, and as having several uncommon verdant forest covered mountains distributed throughout (mostly) the islands. During the late 80's, sports, tourism and industrial activities 'invaded' these areas. People from the urban centers started to want to get the feel of the wilderness, looking for adventure, recreation, economic opportunities or just peace of mind.

Aside from the scenic beauty it offers to the travelers and migrants, the country is frequented by series of typhoons and by the strange effects of climate change. Every provinces and regions have its share of such natural challenges.

And on the same plane, like in most places in the world, the health infrastructures are commonly situated in the major economic and industrial hubs, with healthcare facilities blooming abreast with that of the advanced nations. In Manila alone, within ten to fifteen minutes travel along the main roads, one will find a secondary or tertiary hospital. But it is not so in the periphery of the countryside where scattered populace and travelers are also establishing its increasing head counts.

The good news is that the government maintains its crusade to provide primary health to the remote communities. There are on-going programs on putting doctors and nurses in all islands. There are various agencies (like the Coast Guard) which are reaching out and helping in the community during disasters and emergencies. But the fast phase evolution of pre-hospital care (particularly wilderness rescue) is still shorthanded. Wilderness Medicine is still a strange 'sub-specialty' of medicine in the country; amidst the sporadic and swelling cases of outdoor injuries from diving, mountaineering and adventure racing in the wilderness. Not to mention the on-going destruction of lives and properties caused by a wide array of typhoons which usually hit the vulnerable rural areas.

Based on the PCG deployment history, mos incidents occur in areas where immediate help is not available like that of Superferry 14, SF-9, Princess of the Stars, Ginsaugon Landslide, Quezon landslide Botolan flood, and many more. Complications and even untimely death occur due to delay of admission to any definitive care owing to distance (and even shorthanded skills on austere medicine). Sadly, most life support training employ equipment which are only present in the urban areas. But the knowledge of wilderness medicine will bridge this gap, as one is calm and steady enough to practically apply common sense. Some examples of austere medicine adjustments are the concoction of sugar or honey as antiseptic in lieu of a Betadine; or using the boots and caps and backpack with straps as substitute for head blocks, neck collar and backboard; or using ropes and strong and straight branches of trees or kayak oars as stretcher, or even using cobweb as stopper for bleeding Tom lacerated wound in the scalp area.

Hence, with such driving force, the PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD SPECIALIZED MEDICAL ASSISTANCE RESPONSE TEAM (SMART) has enhanced its capabilities by training its rescue team members on how to address medical emergencies in the high seas, in a deserted shoreline or even in the forested and mountainous areas, where definitive care and advanced life support (ALS) transport is not readily available. The Commandant, ADM WILFREDO D TAMAYO PCG, further escalated the capabilities and number of the Deployable Response Group (DRG) of which CG SMART is part of, as the first line entities in every incident call out. And with the challenges brought by the evolution of time, sophistication of technology, and the tremendous loss caused by disasters, CG SMART 'revolutionized' its training protocols and operational skills by gearing to a new rescue paradigm: Excellence in the Austere, Wilderness, and Outdoors Medicine and Rescue.

The training modules, basically include the following: Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) under Rescue One Training & Solutions, Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS), Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support PHTLS) under Australian Paramedic, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technicians' (WEMT) course, Extreme Tropical Survival training under the Saving Lives Together (SALT), Standard Water Safety and Survival training, Aquatic Emergency training, Basic Rescue Course under the BFP-SRU, Dive Medical Technicians course, Aeromedical Evacuation training, Outdoors and Austere Medicine Course, Expedition

Medicine, Navigation training, Rescue Escape & Evasion training, Outdoor Tracking techniques, Extensive Rope Rescue Course under the Mt. Everest Team, Mountain Rescue training, Basic and Advanced Disaster Life Support courses, Rescue Parachute and Para-jump Operations training under the American Parachute Association, and Jungle Survival under the Force Recon Marines. This program is the first of its kind being offered in this country to any operational unit which is designed to work in the most difficult situations.

Simultaneous with the program is the lofty plan of coming up with the 1" NATIONAL WILDERNESS & OUTDOORS RESCUE AND MEDICINE (WORM) handbook which is already awaiting approval. It is actually the Author's proposal for the Staff Course completion - the standardized rescue guide book designed for austere environment to be used by ALL PCG personnel or any outdoors professional operating in the rescue field. The book contains almost all of the items mentioned in the training modules for CG SMART. It will serve as a 'quick look' field guide.

The training can be useful not only in the usual cases one encounters in the field, but also in the aspects of survival where medical problems would compromise the over-all situation resulting from unplanned events, such as being stranded while trekking in a deserted place, or lost during a deep-water ocean sailing, or in the aftermath of a ground combat or disaster, or being afflicted with illnesses contracted in a remote locality. It deals with medical hazards and their prevention, starting with general statements requiring little background knowledge of the subject discussed and a more detailed medical and technical information then follows. The belief of being unlearned (and subsequently unprepared) will offer related feelings of apathy and helplessness because you could not treat yourself and others' in this austere environment. The ability to treat others or yourself increases the morale and aids in the survival and eventual return to safety. One man with a fair amount of basic medical knowledge in the wilds can make a difference in the lives of many.

With this program, the PCG SMART will pioneer the genuine capability of doing 'Medicina Bona Locis Malis' or Good Medicine for Bad Places.

long as

     Twenty or so typhoons hit the country every year. During these times, as work and schools are most I likely to be suspended and people take refuge in their own abode, the PCG is on heightened or full alert as prescribed by PCG SOP 03, with the maximum number of Coast Guardsmen manning the various operating units and vessels ready to respond in case of maritime eventualities or disasters. These are the days that the PCG is doubly working - from disseminating weather broadcasts to operating units and the shipping sector, to enforcing sailing regulations where vessels of smaller sizes are prevented from departing and checking that appropriate precautionary measures are employed by ships allowed to depart, to the round the clock monitoring of distress radio frequencies and other communication lines with personnel and equipment on standby and ready for dispatch. The PCG, being a multi-task agency, operates not only on water but also on land, especially during calamities, such as floods. As an active member agency of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), close coordination is assiduously maintained.

     When PAGASA forecasted that typhoon "Ondoy will be passing thru Luzon, little did we expect that the said storm would bring incessant rainfall for 6 hours, the volume of which is recorded to be the highest in 42 years. That relentless rainfall from 8 am to 2 pm of calamitous 26 September 2009 was measured at 341 mm, breaking the 334 mm recorded in June 1967, resulting to 25 provinces and the whole Metro Manila to be declared under state of calamity.

     It was about noon of that fateful Saturday, when the Coast Guard Action Center (CGAC) started receiving calls and texts thru the PCG hotlines, asking for help as rising floodwaters continue to endanger people in their homes. The calls and messages continue to pile up, turning the CGAC into a virtual market place and telephone lines buzzing with countless requests and anguished cries for help. An ensuing debacle is again in the offing. It is a familiar scene for the CGAC, similar with that of the Superferry 9 when it tilted 40 degrees in the vicinity of the Zamboanga Peninsula a few days ago, when passengers and/or their relatives swamp the PCG hotline/hot text (0917PCGDOTC) with pleas for rescue and relief.

     With flashflood imminent, at that particular moment, then Command Duty Officer, CDR WILLIAM S ISAGA, wasted no time as he went thru with the checklist of procedures set for such type of emergency Though confirmation is important prior to any dispatch the situation no longer warrants it since the volume of information already speaks for itself. He immediately informed the NDCC and activated the PCG Crisis Management Committee and initiated the mobilization of the Deployable Response Teams presently on standby.

     As reports of flooding and stranded people endangered by the rising and rushing flood continue to be received, the number of affected areas also increased. This time it's not only the perennial CAMANAVA area that the PCG had been familiar with but also Marikina, Pasig, Taguig, Cainta and even parts of San Juan, QC, Manila and Makati, were flooded neck high.

     Initially, only 12 rubber boats were deployed as these were the only available units in the PCG inventory in Manila and adjoining areas, which already includes those in the PCG SAR vessels equipment that have to be pulled out for the purpose. But calls from other areas - Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga - continue to pound the CGAC. It came to a point where the PCG, and other Similar agencies, were rendered virtually helpless to the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy - no more available rubber boats can be deployed to respond to varied distress calls. A PCG dilemma, but this did not deter the PCG from performing the task, as boats and rafts from the shipping companies were loaned from Aboitiz and Sulpicio Lines in order to react to the call of duty. The Red Cross thru Sen. Richard Gordon also added 7 new rubber boats for mobilization by the PCG in the SAR operations. The PCGA also provided the needed force and equipment multiplier for the PCG. During those 3 critical days of disaster response operations, the PCG was able to deploy 35 teams while others conducted operations by foot. The PCG Islander also provided the needed aerial reconnaissance to identify other areas where rescue teams are more needed, while the PCG Helo distributed relief goods from NGO, World Vision Philippines.

     Though the devastation brought by typhoon Ondoy is a traumatic experience, it is also an awakening that rendered new lessons to be learned. As the teams proceeded to the designated areas identified by the lead agency, NDCC, another problem arose. Available PCG and vehicles bringing our rescue teams and equipment had a hard time reaching the distressed areas due to heavy flooding and congested traffic along the route. But this did not deter the conviction of our teams to save lives, as alternative means were initiated, such as using the LRT/MRT just to reach their deployment areas. A new dogma learned from the Ondoy operations.

     In the other end, NDCC untiringly provided the direction and unity of action required during that disaster response operation. The problem on lack of resources was mitigated by providing the needed coordination and direction thru integrated approach to optimize utilization of limited equipment and soliciting additional help from others, like the private sector. The NDCC did provide that direction. On the overall, the PCG rescued/assisted more than 2,300 persons.

     Similarly, coordinative approach to disaster response had also been exhibited in the PCG-LGU efforts in Botolan, Zambales on 7-9 August 2009 during the evacuation, rescue, medical treatment and assistance to 800 residents of the area affected by severe flooding following the collapse of the San Juan dike due to continuous heavy rains brought by Tropical Storm "KIKO".

     The same integrated approach to disaster response was also evident during the MV Superferry 9 incident on 06 September 2009. When the first distress message was received by CGAC at around 2:30 AM from a relative of a passenger onboard the vessel, the PCG wasted no time in going thru the usual procedure for such incident. While alerting for deployment PCG vessels nearest to the site and informing NDCC and other government entities capable of responding, such as the Navy and Air Force, the CGAC immediately initiated the broadcast of Notice to Mariners thru NAVTEX informing transiting ships within the vicinity of the presence of SF9 in distress and instructing them to render assistance as prescribed by the SOLAS and the COLREG Convention. With the distress vessel within the Zamboanga Peninsula, the nearest PCG response asset was a small craft in Zamboanga City, PCG SAR vessels within Mindanao were to originate from Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao while a Buoy Tender with Oil Spill equipment was in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Under the principle of optimization of resources, no PCG SAR vessel was deliberately deployed in Zamboanga since the Philippine Navy concentrates its assets in the area which is a hub of the AFP's internal security effort

     The recent SF9 SAR operation has proven another PCG doctrine effective and was another example of a successful coordinative response action. Not only is the low casualty rate attributed to the vigilance of the passengers but foremost, to the early arrival of responding ships in the area. MV Myriad of Aboitiz and MV Ocean Integrity of Oceanic Shipping Lines (both containerized cargo ships) together with fishing boats Charito, Julius, Sierra and other passing boats were first in the scene to pluck passengers from the sea followed by the responding Philippine Navy assets from Zamboanga. The Air Force also flew its choppers and the US Navy in the area also deployed rescue boats. But most of all, we salute our duty Sea Marshals onboard SF9 for helping the ship's crew conduct an organized abandon ship. They have bravely put the performance of their sworn duties first despite imminent danger, with total disregard to their personal safety in order to save lives. The Task Force Sea Marshal was under the supervision of the Commander, Coast Guard District NCR-CL who have been deployed to provide security to high interest vessels, like passenger ships. It was composed of personnel from the CG, AFP and PNP. The team leader, PO3 Samuel B. Bonio PCG and companion SN 1 Oliver S. Cogo PN, being the last to abandon the ship ensured that no passenger was left inside the ill-fated ship.

     After these experiences, and though sad memories will forever be etched in our minds, it shall remain that no single entity, whether government or private, may it be in a first world country or not, can claim to have the capability to solely provide disaster response assistance. Just like in the US when it was struck by hurricane Katrina, and the Philippines by typhoon Ondoy, magnitude of disasters cannot be accurately foreseen and predicted. God forbid, but should another disaster befall this country, it is imperative to keep in mind that a coordinative approach to disaster response will always be a prudent route in rising up to the obstacles and save as many lives as possible.

     We can only surge ahead to greater safety, if we realize and accept that we are all united and collectively committed to greater responsibilities.

     During the early day of maritime travel, international ships relied on lighthouses to guide them safely out of the open sea and into Philippine waters. Once within Philippine waters, lighthouses marked treacherous points in the archipelago, pointing out sage passages leading vessels to ports of call.

   Paramount in lighthouse location is its obvious function of guiding the marine travelers, whether through wood fires on top of rocky peaks, or through sophisticated optics atop tall towers, an out-of-date signaling system.

     First, they serve as stationary points within navigational cross-bearing capability along primary and secondary maritime routes. Reference points and landmarks, lighthouses are navigational aids for charting ship position in the seas. Either beams of fixed or occulating light at night, or the sight of lighthouse towers by day allow navigators to establish their position en route to any Philippine port.

    Second, lighthouses are navigational tools that channel vessels safely to our ports and harbors. Scattered all over the archipelago, they direct vessels and fishermen to their home ports as well as pointing the route for larger vessels to maneuver through narrow Philippine straits and channels.

      Third, they warn navigators of treacherous sea condition surrounding the light station. Shallow seas, dangerous for unseasoned sailors, appear in early Spanish colonial records as the cause of numerous shipwrecks, together with inclement weather and grounding, and marine disasters that diminished after the construction of lighthouses.

      Fourth, lighthouses provided landfall lights to reveal approaching land to sailors, assist trade vessels sailing into Philippine waters either to dock in local ports or to sail through to other foreign destinations. Regardless of advanced electronic navigation aids, visual aids are still necessary to confirm the vessel's location.

      Lighthouses as the supreme icons of solitary human perseverance standing on remote typhoon-battered bluffs and inaccessible islands, are the stuff of romance for many. But the PCG as the sole agency responsible for maintaining these surviving historical structures of the country realizes otherwise, that they are not the stuff for romance but are instead stuff for challenge.

Problems Affecting Lighthouse Efficiency. Lighthouse deterioration has many causes. There is persistent concern about the deteriorated appearances and conditions of many lighthouses. With the Missions conducted by the members of FMIT, the Command has frequently observed and cited major causes of lighthouse deficiency:

1. Infrequent Inspections and Lack of Maintenance Management. Lighthouses comprise a small percentage of shore facilities, are among the most difficult to maintain because most are unattended and/or are remote and are exposed to the hostile marine environment. Managing lighthouses involves adequate knowledge on their preventive maintenance which consists of routine and scheduled inspections, tests, cleaning and preservation to maintain equipment performance at design standards and to keep buildings Tom deterioration. Lighthouse keepers play a vital role in maintaining and preserving lighthouses. It is deemed important that they should acquire enough knowledge on dealing, managing and troubleshooting lighthouses. An activity's maintenance effectiveness is closely linked to the spare parts support the activity is receiving. Repair parts and common hardware on hand must be those needed to correct failures experienced most Frequently. As these items are exhausted they must be promptly replaced in anticipation of future needs. The responsibility for monitoring and reporting the spare parts needed lies at the district level and most especially the lighthouse keepers-in-charge to make the headquarters of MSSC immediately furnish or procure The spare parts upon approval of fund requirement.

2. Inadequate knowledge and Training. It has also been noted that it is necessary to exert more effort in conducting regular training and short courses on lighthouse maintenance and operation. 

     The variety of systems on unattended lighthouses results in concurrent maintenance visits by personnel with different skills. Some situations require additional system maintenance training.

     Inspections are an integral part of lighthouse maintenance. Deficiencies which cannot be repaired during these visits shall be reported to the group commander, who will arrange for remedial action by an appropriate higher level maintenance force. Provisions should be made to ensure that an aid station is visited regularly. Too much time, money, and energy is being wasted with the wrong person going to remote sites to correct root problems that are not always apparent from superficial symptoms. District commanders should also ensure that lighthouse maintainers or personnel-in-charge on lighthouse are properly equipped and trained.

3. Discrepancies on Report and Inventory. Undeniably, there has been an existing problem on the reporting or communication system of the Command causing major discrepancies in monitoring and updating status of lighthouses coming from different districts. Generally, reports originate from lighthouse keeper's observation and inspection,submitted to district commands and subsequently forwarded to MSSC for spare parts availability and consolidation upon request at the same time update the records and developments of lighthouses to determine the over-all lighthouse operational efficiency. Aside from the conduct of repair as the primary objective of the FMIT, the actual inspection on the light station (LS) as a whole guaranteed this Command as well as the Districts the accurate/true status of LS. Likewise, this will ensure an updated and coordinated inventory of LS for this Command and the Districts.

MSSC FMIT In Action. Among the major thrusts of the PCG is to attain 100 percent operational efficiency of lighthouses in the Philippines higher than the IALA recommendation on lighthouse efficiency. Indeed, it is truly hard to realize this objective due to the constant damages caused by the inclement weather which visited the country plus the normal wear and tear of other lighthouses as time goes by. These said attributions to the decline of operational efficiency percentage, indicates that there is certainly a need to recurrently monitor and supervise the construction and rehabilitation of these historical icons. The Command in its best effort to achieve the prescribed efficiency target, has consecutively dispatched several Field Maintenance and Installation Teams (FMIT) which is composed of an Officer or of a Petty Officer who serves as a team leader and enlisted personnel preferably having considerable experience, training and a current knowledge of maintenance, installation and intensive repair of lighthouses to immediately restore defective lighthouses into operational ones under different Coast Guard Districts AOR.

     This mission, with the help and support of the District Commanders and personnel assigned in the respective areas resulted to successful repair and restoration of the various lightstations and manifested a remarkable over-all lightstation operational efficiency of 88.35%.

      It is worthy to note that Coast Guard District Southern Tagalog (CGDSTL) has made excellent work with the attainment of 100 percent lighthouse operational efficiency target of the Command. Other Coast Guard Districts such as Coast Guard District Northern Luzon (CGDNLZ). Coast Guard District Bicol (CGDBCL) and Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDPAL) are on their way to reach the goal of lighthouse operational efficiency of 99.9%. The rest are likewise giving their best shot to acquire the brightest light in the near future.

        As a solution to one of the problems affecting the over-all operation lighthouse efficiency, the MSSC Training Institute programmed training and courses on aids to navigation. In line with this, the ATON maintenance, repair and operation course Class 0209 was convened last 22 July-04 August 2009. This was composed of thirty one (31) enlisted personnel and nine (9) lighthouse keepers coming from different coast guard districts. Indeed, providing instructions and training program is one way of solving our deficiency problems on lighthouses. If time permits, the MSSTI will eventually assign mobile teams to conduct formal classroom instruction and training on aids to navigation to different coast guard districts. This team will also function as counselors and will be required to visit all districts at least semi-annually. These visits are scheduled to coincide with normal unit operations so the team participates in the unit's regularly scheduled work. Training teams are required, in part, to assist units in developing and conducting aids to navigation training program, provide instructions in the use of ATON, consult with unit commanding officer or officer-in-charge on the current status of the unit's library of manufacturer's instruction and Coast Guard aids to navigation directives and publications and discuss unit aids to navigation material allowance, making recommendations for change as required.

       Furthermore, as the Command's undertaking on preservation, development and most especially on the continuous optimum performance efficiency of aids lighthouses, it has formulated and conceptualized a book which will contain the compilation of Philippine lighthouses, erected by Spanish Engineers. This will likewise serve as a reference and guide for the the Philippine Coast Guard in monitoring the condition of the lighthouses and ensuring  the continuous preservation and modernization.

       With the continuous and undying commitment to service of officers, men and women of Maritime Safety Services Command, it has continuously worked for the realization of its vision and mission. The success of the Command in its mandated mission and functions greatly provides luminosity to one dream and one aspiration that reigns in the heart of every MSSC officers and personnel with the battlecry, "Always keep the light burning! Achieve the 99.9% operation efficiency!".