U.S. funds feasibility study for Philippine Vessel Traffic Management System expansion

U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson (second from right) and Philippine Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista (center) are joined by Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan (leftmost), Philippine Transportation Undersecretary for Maritime Elmer Francisco Sarmiento (second from left), and U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) Director of Monitoring and Evaluation Sarah Randolph (rightmost) at the ceremonial signing of a USTDA grant for the expansion of the Philippines’ vessel traffic management system on March 1.

On March 1, the United States government announced the signing of a grant agreement between the U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA) and the Philippines’ Department of Transportation (DOTr) for a Php55-million ($980,000) feasibility study to assess the viability of expanding the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) vessel traffic management system (VTMS).

New and improved VTMS capabilities will help the PCG prevent and respond to vessel collisions, environmental incidents, and other emergencies by expanding the PCG’s capabilities to monitor maritime traffic.  The system will also make port access more efficient by reducing ship wait times and voyage costs.

Similar to air traffic control, VTMS provides active monitoring and navigational information for maritime vessels, particularly in congested ports and waterways.   USTDA’s study will evaluate the performance of the PCG’s existing VTMS in the Cebu Strait, assess the potential implementation of the system at up to ten additional locations across the country, and create detailed implementation plans.

“The USTDA grant will provide the DOTr and PCG with the necessary technical expertise and cutting-edge U.S. solutions to implement the project,” U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said at the ceremonial grant agreement signing held at the DOTr Central Office in Mandaluyong City.  “This project will help protect marine ecosystems while improving maritime trade and commerce—two equally important and mutually reinforcing lines of effort to help improve Philippine lives and livelihoods.”

“VTMS will promote efficient movement of people and goods through the Philippines’ island water corridors,” DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said.   “It will be a key step that will empower the PCG to level up their maritime security and marine environment protection capabilities.  We look forward to continuing our partnerships with the USTDA and the U.S. Embassy as we see the full potential of this system.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced this initiative during her visit to the Philippines in November 2022.

“VTMS technology will improve trade, protect the environment, and save lives in the Philippines,” USTDA Director Enoh T. Ebong said in a statement.  “USTDA is pleased to partner with the DOTr to expand opportunities for high-quality U.S. infrastructure solutions to benefit the Philippines’ overall maritime safety.”