Coast Guard enhances readiness for search and rescue, marine pollution

Coast Guard personnel rescue one of the passengers following a collision between two vessels at Banago port in Bacolod City during a simulation exercise of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on search and rescue (SAR) operation Wednesday. (Glazyl Y. Masculino Photo)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Western Visayas highlighted the significance of the stakeholders and government agencies in search and rescue (SAR) operations.

PCG northern Negros conducted exercises on marine pollution and search and rescue at the Banago seaport here yesterday to check the readiness of the Coast Guard personnel, and assistance of stakeholders and government agencies in case of a sea mishap, oil spill, or any emergency at sea.

During the exercise, the scenario was that two vessels collided, causing some casualties and an oil spill.

As a response, Coast Guard personnel immediately conducted a search and rescue operation to check for survivors and other casualties. They also immediately contained the oil spill by placing an oil spill boom in the affected area.

Commodore Edgar Ybañez, commander of PCG District Western Visayas, who observed the simulation exercise, commended the Coast Guard personnel and those part of the activity, as they were able to show their readiness to respond to any eventuality.

“Hindi namin kakayanin kung kami lang, we need the help of the stakeholders and other agencies,” Ybañez said in a media interview.

Ybañez said that PCG auxilliaries are a big help, especially with regards to manpower and also equipment, as some of them have equipment that can be used by the Coast Guard personnel.

Ybañez said the simulation exercise is a chance for the inter-operability of every stakeholder and government agency so that in actual situations, they know what to do, and how to respond.

“We need also to prepare the Negros province for this kind of incident,” he added.

Ybañez said the exercise was in line with the directive of the national headquarters to conduct at least one SAR annually. He added that the first SAR this year was conducted in Iloilo sometime in August.

With regards to the oil spill, Ybañez said that they are also mandated to conduct an oil spill exercise in line with the national oil spill contingency plan. In fact, he said they are preparing a regional oil spill contingency plan.

He said that previously oil spill declaration was based on the volume of oil, but now, it will be based on the area affected by the oil spill.

We will assess the oil spill with regards to the affected area to determine what response we will do, he said, adding that it could be absorbent pads or skimmer, or even a chemical dispersant as a last resort, depending on the situation, as it can affect the marine environment.

Ybañez, in his message, said that as the third armed service of the Philippines, the PCG has been given the primary task to save lives and property at sea, together with other branches of service in the government, with the help of the stakeholders.

Thus, he stressed that these exercises enable them to execute the trainings and practices they have undergone, enable them to evaluate the readiness and appropriate action to every distress, and allow them to assess themselves on how to respond and identify particular areas to be improved.

“Hindi naman natin hinahangad na mangyari ang ganito, pero mabuti na ang lagi tayong handa,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ybañez said that they don’t have enough floating assets. In fact, the province has only 1 small 24-meter vessel.

But, he said they are hoping that their request to procure another 40 units of 35-meter vessels will be approved.