Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Philippines to get 12 new patrol boats from Japan

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Unlike the decades-old and stripped-down ships the Philippines gets from the United States, the 12 patrol boats the Philippine Coast Guard will most likely get from Japan in 2014 "will all be brand-new", according to a top official of the Japanese Embassy in Manila. Minister Shinsuke Shimizu, head of the Japanese Embassy's chancery, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview on Thursday that Japan and the Philippines had begun the paper work for the acquisition of the patrol boats by the Philippine Coast Guard. Tokyo, Shimizu said, "has yet to decide which of the vessels will be built and transferred to the Philippine government on official development assistance or grants." Shimizu sought to assure the Philippines that Japan would continue to help the Coast Guard deal with its maritime safety and law enforcement problems. The Japanese government has been helping the Philippine government modernise its Coast Guard since 1990. Fifteen years ago, Japan gave the Philippine Coast Guard a search-and-rescue vessel that the agency named BRP Corregidor. The Corregidor was one of two Philippine vessels that faced off with Chinese maritime ships at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) from April 8 to June 15. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier told this paper that Japan was likely to provide the Coast Guard with 12 patrol boats. "They're considering 10 40-metre boats on official development aid and two larger ones as grants," Del Rosario said. Shimizu said the assistance was not meant to help the Philippines establish a "minimum credible defence posture" to complement its diplomatic capacity in dealing with its territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea. "It is of different nature from establishing the minimum credible defence capabilities of the Philippines nor is it aimed at addressing a specific regional situation," Shimizu said. "It is cooperation for the purpose of dealing with various maritime safety and law enforcement issues, such as piracy and search and rescue," he said. The 12 patrol boats will be fitted with modern equipment when they are transferred to the Coast Guard, Shimizu said.