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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Japan to Supply 10 Patrol Boats for Philippines Coast Guard

The Japanese government plans to finance the deal in its fiscal 2013 budget starting in April. (photo : Militaryphotos)
THE Philippines will receive 10 Coast Guard patrol boats from Japan to enhance its capability to prevent illegal intrusions in its maritime area.
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said the acquisition of the patrol boats is not directed at any country in the ongoing disputes on the South China Sea that the Philippines has renamed West Philippine Sea.
The new boats are on top of the two 40-year-old refurbished US Coast Guard cutters that were bought from the United States—BRP Gregorio del Pilar that arrived last year and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz that is expected by April.
Japan earlier offered to donate two of the boats, costing $11 million each, but the deal turned into a loan for a total of 10 boats as requested by the Philippine government.
The Japanese government plans to finance the deal in its fiscal 2013 budget starting in April and hopes to sign the supply contract early next year, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily reported.
Japan will provide the Philippines with the newly built patrol vessels, which will cost more than ¥1 billion ($11 million) each, the newspaper said, without specifying the number of boats on offer.
Both countries are locked in separate territorial disputes with China.
The Philippines is one of several Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, that are in conflict with China over claims to several islets, reefs and shoals on the West Philippine Sea.
Two of the hot spots are the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal.
Japan, on the other hand, is locked in a dispute with China over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.
The simmering row over the islands intensified in September when Tokyo nationalized part of the chain, triggering fury in Beijing and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.
China and Japan sought to cool down tensions in January when Chinese Communist Party chief  Xi Jinping told an envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he was committed to developing bilateral ties.
Xi will consider holding a summit meeting with Abe, Natsuo Yamaguchi, a senior lawmaker and head of the junior partner in Japan’s ruling coalition, told reporters after his talks with the Chinese leader.
The meeting came as China took the dispute over a series of uninhabited islands to the United Nations.
Taking the issue to the United Nations is an effort to underscore China’s legal claim to the islands, but also a way to reduce tensions in the region, said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, a think tank affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It’s two things: it’s part of the legal efforts, and we want to exert our legal claim in a less confrontational way,” Ruan said. “We don’t want to see escalation, particularly with fighter jets. That would be very dangerous from any point of view.”
Since China has brought the issue against Japan to the UN, Hernandez was asked whether it is an indication that China would recognize our case in the South China Sea which we also brought before an arbitration tribunal of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Hernandez said: “That is the friendly way of addressing the issue with other states and, hopefully, we get clarification and, award us regarding our position in the West Philippine Sea.”
The Philippines has until February 11 before it could expect China to answer whether they recognize our complaint before the Unclos and whether they will participate in the arbitration.
If not, Hernandez said the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea would choose whom to represent China and allow the case to move forward.
In this connection, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the acquisition of  two warships for the Navy to boost is maritime security would be fast-tracted.
News reports quoted Defense Spokesman Peter Galvez as saying the Navy would give itself  “until the end of the first quarter to finalize bidding for the frigates.”  “We are confident that we can follow the timeline and we can do it within the first quarter.”
Earlier, defense officials said about P11.7 billion would be allotted for the warships.
Originally, the government had intended to acquire the vessels through government-to-government transactions. However, offers from different countries had prompted senior security officials to opt for public bidding.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was quoted as saying public bidding would ensure transparency and allow the comparison of the ships being offered.
Six countries have offered to provide frigates to the Navy. Among them are the US, South Korea, Spain, Israel, Croatia and Australia.
Earlier, the DND said it is eyeing the possibility of acquiring Maestrale frigates that Italy is currently phasing out.


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