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Monday, June 24, 2024

Philippines signs agreement with Japan to acquire 5 more patrol ships

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The Philippines and Japan have signed an agreement that would pave the way for the acquisition by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) of five 97-meter patrol ships intended to strengthen the country’s capability to guard its territory amid increased China aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the provision of the vessels will be facilitated under a ¥64.38-billion or around P23.85 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan arrangement by Japan to the Philippines for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase III of the PCG.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japanese Ambassador Endo Kazuya led the signing of the Exchange of Notes during a ceremony on Friday.

“This occasion signifies not only the deepening of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan, but also underscores our unwavering commitment to enhance our maritime safety capabilities for the benefit of our nation and the broader maritime community,” Manalo said.

MSCIP 3 involves the acquisition of five additional units of 97-meter offshore patrol capable Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRV) coupled with the development of the required support facilities for the PCG, the DFA said.

“This will support the PCG in improving its capabilities for maritime operations particularly in addressing transnational crimes,” it said.

The acquisition of five more ships is seen to boost Manila’s coast guard capability to patrol and defend the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), particularly in the WPS or South China Sea.

“The additional grant is expected to contribute to improving maritime safety in the Philippines by improving the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard to efficiently conduct maritime rescue, law enforcement and other operations,” Endo said in a statement released by the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines.

The Philippines asserted territorial sovereignty over the WPS, which is within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.

A vital trading and shipping lane, the South China Sea, dotted with rocks, shoals and reefs where rich oil and mineral deposits were found, are claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The Philippines won a landmark case against China’s massive claim in the South China Sea before the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling.

Ten Japanese-built 44-meter MRRVs and two 97-meter patrol ships—BRP Melchora Aquino and BRP Teresa Magbanua—have been used extensively for patrol and have provided escort to Philippine Navy chartered boats during resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal, also known by its international name Second Thomas Shoal.

Apart from disaster response functions, these vessels are also being used to transport food, water and other basic supplies to other Philippine-occupied areas in the WPS.

Japan is the Philippines’ top bilateral ODA partner, with its long history of support for Philippine development priorities in infrastructure, health, human resources, agriculture, education, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among many others.

Tokyo and Manila are establishing closer security ties in reaction to Beijing’s aggressive territorial assertions. China and Japan are also locked in a long-running territorial dispute over the Senkaku islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu.

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