Germany to donate four more drones to PCG

PCG Germany baerbock.jpg
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock is welcomed by PCG Commandant, Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan (left) at the PCG headquarters in Manila on Jan. 11, 2023. (Courtesy of PCG)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is anticipating the delivery of four more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones from Germany which is expected to enhance its maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

PCG Commandant, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan made the announcement during the courtesy visit of Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock at the PCG headquarters in Manila on Thursday, Jan. 11.

As part of the courtesy visit, the PCG welcomed Baerbock on board BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) where she was briefed on its regular operations and how the PCG's offshore patrol vessel from France supports the performance of Coast Guard functions. 

"We are happy to host the foreign minister of the Federal Government of Germany and we talked broadly about three things -- one is their increasing support for the development of drones for the Philippine Coast Guard," Gavan said.

Currently, the PCG uses two drones donated by Germany in 2022, specifically in training Coast Guard Aviation Force pilots. 

PCG spokesperson Rear Adm. Armando Balilo said the four additional drones are part of the €129 million (around P7.93 billion) initial assistance by the German government to the Philippines.

The PCG has yet to determine when the drones would be delivered as Gavan said the technical working groups from the two countries have yet to finalize the details of the delivery.

But once delivered, the PCG chief said the drones will be a great boost in their operations, particularly in enhancing the maritime domain awareness in the WPS.

"We will use them in all functions of the PCG. We will use it in our search and rescue operations so we can easily find missing persons; in marine pollution response like our experience last time in Mindoro (oil spill); in the West Philippine Sea, Benham Rise and areas in the south so we can improve our maritime domain awareness. We will make our operations more targeted," Gavan noted.

The Philippine Coast Guard operates one of the two drones donated by the German government to the Philippines. (Courtesy of PCG)

Having more "eyes" in the WPS will be crucial to the PCG amid the sustained presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

The drones may be utilized to provide imagery for reconnaissance purposes and generate high - resolution maps that can be used for a variety of maritime scenarios.

"Importante sa atin na kasama natin 'yung mga malalaking ekonomiya na magbigay sa atin ng suporta upang ma-maintain natin yung rules-based [order], peace and order para sa kapayapaan ng buong mundo (It is important for us to be joined and supported by big economies to maintain a rules-based [order] and preserve global peace)," Gavan emphasized.  

Meanwhile, the possibility of conducting a joint patrol in the WPS between the PCG and Germany was not discussed by Gavan and Baerbock during their meeting.

However, the PCG chief said they are not closing doors on the matter.

"Walang ganoong napagusapan sa ngayon. Hindi naman natin dini-discount. Siguro in the future baka may mapagusapang ganoon (We did not talk about it right now. However, we don't discount that possibility. Maybe in the future there will be talks about that)," Gavan stated.

Aside from drones, the PCG and the German government also strengthened their cooperation on law enforcement, anti-piracy training, and person-to-person exchange. 

"We will also be pursuing more training opportunities to broaden skills the Coast Guard would need. We would also be increasing our person-to-person exchange to further deepen the relationship between Germany and the Philippine Coast Guard," Gavan shared.