Previously China had 5 civilian maritime agencies that are controlled by different parent ministries or agencies, altogether they are unofficially called the "five dragons contending the sea". These are the following "dragons":
1. China Marine Surveillance (CMS), currently under the State Oceanic Administration (SOA);
2. Border Control Department (BCD), under the Ministry of Public Security;
3. Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC), under the Ministry of Agriculture;
4. General Administration of Customs, under the State Council;
5. Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), under the Ministry of Transport
|Ensign of the new China Coast Guard.|
Photo taken from Wikimedia.
Under the new plan, the Chinese Government has appointed SOA of the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources to control the new coast guard entity. This will be formed by merging 4 of the 5 "dragons" excluding the Maritime Safety Administration which will still be a separate entity.
China has started repainting and renumbering ships from the previous maritime agencies, and has also started deploying them to sea. Its ships will now be known with the use of the word "Haijing" before the hull number. Example: FLEC-206 is now called SOA-2506 or Haijing 2506.
Expect all sea and air assets of the 4 merged maritime agencies to be reintroduced as CCG assets. Upon merging the CCG will be equipped with hundreds of small inshore patrol crafts mostly coming from the MSA, dozens of medium and large patrol vessels mostly coming from the CMS and FLEC, and various air assets. It was already reported that CCG ships are armed although no report was made on what type of weapons are fitted on them.
|This is FLEC 206 before repainting....|
|...and after repainting now as SOA 2506 under the China Coast Guard.|
Photos taken from China Defense Blog.
So why did China started merging all these civilian maritime agencies into the China Coast Guard?
There has been a long standing issue of command and controlling the operations of the 5 civilian maritime agencies which operate independently from each other, thus overlapping their duties and responsibilities and having efficiency and funding issues. Reforms have been sought for several years now, and the merging will address this.
The aggressive push by Beijing to consolidate territories they believe is theirs requires a maritime law enforcement agency that is highly effective and efficient, and can easily be controlled by a centralized agency as an instrument of the Chinese government. Previously the 5 separate maritime entities are used to harass ships from neighboring countries instead of using naval vessels to avoid increasing tensions, but facing a large well equipped and competent Japan Coast Guard (JCG) made them think again on their strategies.
|More ships painted int CCG colors, as Haijing 1117 and Haijing 1127.|
Photo taken from China Defense Blog.
A single China Coast Guard gives Beijing a strong and consolidated control over a single maritime enforcement entity, and this will ensure them that their objectives are precisely met. Previous issues of efficiency and controlling rogue or trigger happy commanders will also be addressed to avoid unintended escalation of conflicts. As a larger entity Beijing will now have a better way of facing the large Japan Coast Guard, which apparently is currently suffering from lack of additional manpower and ships in their plans to increase the JCG's size to face a mounting Chinese threat.
Japan has been a long time game player in using the coast guard to safeguard its territories and interests to avoid escalation as compared to using naval vessels. China has now learned of this game's advantages and will try to use the same game play against Japan and its other neighbors like Vietnam and the Philippines.
|JCG and CMS ships facing each other in the Senkakus. Does the PCG or any Philippine civilian maritime agency have the capability to face such threats when necessary?|
So what's in it for the Philippines?
The Philippines, being one of the belligerent neighbors in this push by Beijing in claiming almost the entire South China Sea / West Philippine Sea based on its so-called "9-dash Line' map will be greatly affected by the increased presence of China Coast Guard ships. It is expected that the CCG will take-over in implementing the maritime enforcement duties of the Chinese government in protecting the currently cordoned Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) from Philippine "intrusions". If this new entity is indeed more effective than the loose combination of maritime agencies, of course it would affect the Philippines and its policies directly.
|BRP EDSA, a San Juan-class patrol vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard. MaxDefense believes that the PCG needs to acquire larger patrol vessels to supplant the current inventory.|
Photo taken from Timawa.net c/o fangedboy8
MaxDefense has long been advocating the upsizing, modernization and reorganization of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other civilian maritime enforcement agencies to better respond to their duties, as well as become the vanguard of safeguarding Philippine territorial waters, its EEZ and disputed maritime areas. The PCG must evolve to better respond to foreign threat, and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines like what other regional peers do.
The Philippine government should revise its maritime organizations. It already faces difficulty in funding the PCG, and a similar solution as to what China did may be a solution to improve efficiency. The PCG must know exactly its missions, rules of engagement, and must systematically be an effective arm of the Philippine government to uphold its national interests.
|A Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) patrol boat. Would it be better to merge their duties and assets with the PCG?|
|A Japan Coast Guard (JCG) large patrol vessel and a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) patrol vessel during joint coast guard exercises. The PCG should make use of these partnerships in improving its capability in all fronts.|
As to the equipment side, the PCG must purchase or obtain larger patrol vessels that can match those operated by its peers. With the advent of resorting to non-lethal ways of dealing with threats, it is expected that larger ships will better survive confrontations that involve ramming, and can stay longer on patrols at sea and survive high sea states. With China Coast Guard ships reportedly being armed, MaxDefense also suggests that PCG vessels be armed with light firearms, in addition to water cannons, loudspeakers, flares and video cameras and make them standard ship equipment. The ships must also be installed with proper surveillance equipment that can link to Coast Watch Stations and Philippine Navy centers for increased maritime domain awareness, coordination, and command & control between naval and air assets.
|BRP Pampanga (SARV-003) of the PCG together with US and Philippine Navy ships at CARAT 2012 Philippines exercises. The PCG must be consistent in joining exercises similar to this.|
Photo taken from US Navy.
Overall, the Philippine government needs to overhaul its entire maritime policy, and give the PCG more mandate to assist the AFP in securing and and defending Philippine territory, EEZ and disputed areas, in addition to improving its current assigned tasks like law enforcement and search & rescue. The government must realize the PCG's potentials, and PCG should also show the government and people that it can maximize its capabilities beyond what it currently has.