Manila to buy Japan-made coast guard vessels in RM1.9bil deal

MANILA has agreed to buy five coast guard patrol ships from Japan in a deal worth more than US$400mil (RM1.87bil) as it faces growing Chinese pressure in the South China Sea.

Japan will loan the Philippines US$413mil (RM1.93bil) to buy the five 97m Multi-Role Response Vessels and pay for the “development of the required support facilities”, the foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday.

“This will support the PCG in improving its capabilities for maritime operations particularly in addressing transnational crimes,” the statement said, referring to the Philippine Coast Guard.

Tokyo is a top provider of overseas development assistance to the Philippines.

The PCG currently has two 97m patrol vessels as part of a fleet seen as inadequate for patrolling waters around the vast archipelago nation.

In recent months, its vessels have been involved in several collisions with Chinese coast guard ships around disputed reefs in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.

The PCG boats have also been fired on with water cannons by the China Coast Guard, with the latest incident happening on April 30 near the China-controlled Scarborough Shoal.

The triangular chain of reefs and rocks that make up Scarborough Shoal lies 240km west of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon and nearly 900km from Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.

Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines during World War II, but the two countries have since grown closer due to trade and investment.

As part of efforts to deepen their security cooperation, Manila and Tokyo are negotiating a defence pact that would allow the countries to deploy troops on each other’s territory. — AFP

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