Oriental Mindoro Governor Arnan Panaligan welcomed the signing of the Philippine Coast Guard bill into law, saying it further empowers the Coast Guard to enforce maritime rules.
“The Coast Guard act will put more teeth to the power of the coast guard to enforce maritime laws,” Panaligan told The Mindoro Post on Wednesday.
“A strict and honest to goodness enforcement of maritime laws will greatly help in ensuring safety in sea travel,” he said.
After 10 years in Congress, the Philippine Coast Guard Act of 2009 was finally enacted and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed it into law on Friday in a bid to curb the recurring maritime accidents across the archipelagic country.
Republic Act 9993 formally transfers the PCG from the Department of National Defense to the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Coast Guard Calapan station commander Lieutenant Alfier Ricafrente said that under the new law, the PCG has the authority to enforce regulations on maritime safety standards.
“We can now detain vessels that are non-compliant with existing standards being implemented,” Ricafrente said.
“Also, the PCG can now check on the crews’ capability and readiness during emergency situations through the conduct of emergency readiness evaluation of vessels,” he said.
Under the law, the PCG has the core functions of enforcing maritime laws, marine environmental protection, and conducting search and rescue operations during sea emergencies, Ricafrente said.
Panaligan underscored the need for an effective enforcement of maritime laws.
“Considering that we are an archipelagic country where sea travel is a major means of transportation, an effective maritime law enforcement is imperative,” he said.
“As governor of an island province, I welcome the signing of the law but I call on the government to ensure a no nonsense implementation of the law,” he added.
Ferries are the backbone of inter-island travels in the archipelagic Philippines, where sea accidents are common because of frequent tropical storms, poorly-maintained ships and weak enforcement of maritime safety regulations.
During the holiday break, two passenger ferries sank two days apart.
Lubang Island-bound MV Catalyn B went down off Limbones Island in Cavite on December 24 after smashing into a fishing vessel, killing at least 27 of its passengers.
Two days later, MV Baleno 9 sank while sailing from Calapan City to Batangas, leaving six people dead and 46 still missing.
The twin sea tragedies highlighted the sorry state of the Philippine shipping industry and triggered a review of government regulatory agencies and maritime safety rules.