PHILIPPINE Coast Guard commandant Admiral George Ursabia yesterday said the COVID-19 pandemic has set back their planned recruitment of 20,000 additional personnel this year and next year.
Ursabia said the PCG was supposed to recruit 10,000 men this year and another 10,000 next year but the Department of Budget and Management only authorized the hiring of a total of 5,500 new men.
“We were supposed to recruit 10,000 for this year but unfortunately because of COVID, what the DBM allowed is from the 10,000 quota, it slashed it to 1,500, because obviously the government needs funds to fight COVID,” Ursabia said.
“We lost 8,500 (personnel). It’s a setback for us in projecting our growth in terms of manpower,” Ursabia added.
Ursabia said the PCG is programmed to hire another 10,000 men next year but due to the pandemic, only 4,000 men would be recruited.
“We truly understand the situation now so it will delay our initial target of reaching 40,000 men. Instead of next year, we may be able to realize that in 2023 or 2024,” he said, adding the PCG currently has 18,500 personnel.
Despite the meager strength, Ursabia said the PCG has been “doing well” in responding to events, including the effects of recent typhoons.
Ursabia said the PCG has to reach a strength of 40,000 “because we have a coastline of 37,000 kilometers so we want to rationalize, have one coast guard personnel for every one kilometer of coastline.”
“But we will not stop there (40,000 men), we have to grow up to 233,000 because we have a territorial sea to talk about, we have EEZ (exclusive economic zone) to talk about, and internal waters to talk about. So we need an increase the number of our personnel,” he said.
Ursabia said the PCG has no problem attracting applicants. “Our problem is how to accommodate all of them, it’s not easy to accommodate all of them because you are talking of budget, the budget is not readily available,” he said.
Ursabia also said the PCG lacks such assets but added efforts are underway to procure more.
“When you talk of platforms, we have boats, ships and of course aircraft. Do we have enough? No, we don’t have enough. We only have few boats and ships,” he said.