Japan sending 10 vessels for PCG patrols
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - October 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ten vessels from Japan will be sent to Manila as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise to beef up the capability of the Philippine Coast Guard to protect the country’s maritime territory from foreign intruders.

In his arrival speech Thursday night, President Aquino said Abe raised the topic of the multi-purpose response vessels when they attended the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Brunei.

“In our bilateral meeting, he expressed his intention to send the 10 multi-purpose response vessels to us at the soonest possible time so that the Coast Guard can use it in patrolling our shoreline,” Aquino said at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The Coast Guard cutters are being provided as part of the government’s official development assistance program.

At the same time, Aquino thanked the Japanese government for its $2-million Emergency Grant Aid that will be used for the rehabilitation of war-stricken Zamboanga City, where destruction was massive following three weeks of clashes.

The Philippines and Japan opposed China’s moves to encroach in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and oil-rich Spratly islands.

Apart from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan have claims in the Spratlys.

Japan has a territorial dispute with China over Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

Aquino also expressed gratitude to his Vietnamese counterpart, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, for his desire to help increase tourism and trade in both countries. Vietnam is also an ally of Manila against Beijing’s move to take over Spratlys.

Commander Armand Balilo, spokesman of the Philippine Coast Guard, said last July, when Abe visited Manila, officials started talks for the Philippine acquisition of the vessels by 2014.

“The two sides have agreed that all 10 patrol boats will be 40 meters (131 feet) long. But they are still talking about other specifications,” he said. Another report had said that each of the vessels Japan would donate cost $11 million each.

Abe and Aquino also agreed to have stronger financial and economic exchanges.

The Japanese government will extend the $2-million emergency grant aid through the International Organization for Migration, United Nations Children’s Fund, and World Food Programme to support relief operations to bring food, water and sanitation for the evacuees in Zamboanga City.

The more than three weeks of fighting between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City had displaced 120,000 residents.

The European Union is also donating 300,000 euros to the Zamboanga evacuees.

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said “the ambassadors of the European Union Member States in the Philippines already expressed their concern at the humanitarian crisis created by the fighting in Zamboanga.”

The EU assistance is provided through the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department. - With Pia Lee-Brago

ABE AND AQUINO AMBASSADOR GUY LEDOUX AQUINO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS BRUNEI COAST GUARD COMMANDER ARMAND BALILO EAST CHINA SEA PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD ZAMBOANGA CITY
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