The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is buying nearly 100 new patrol boats to protect the country’s fisheries, an official said onMonday.
The BFAR, an agency under the Department of Agriculture, currently has a fleet of 20 patrol boats that are manned by Coast Guard personnel. A BFAR patrol boat was recently involved in a standoff with a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel off the waters of Batanes.
Most of the ordered vessels — 71 short-range boats for coastal patrols and 27 able to go further out to sea — will be delivered this year, BFAR Director Asis Perez said.
“This is just fulfilling our mandate. Our country has eight times more sea area than land area. We have 36,000 kilometers of coastline and over 7,100 islands,” he added.
Perez said the “law-enforcement” boats would augment the agency’s 20 patrol boats, which protect the fisheries resources of one of the world’s largest archipelagos.
“We need additional vessels.
These [new boats]are actually short of our needs but this is all we can afford,” he added.
Perez said his agency is also seeking funding to acquire 10 larger boats that can patrol the high seas.
Many Chinese fishermen have been arrested by Philippine authorities for allegedly poaching in disputed waters.
Similar incidents involving Taiwan have also taken place, the latest in May off the northern Batanes islands when the Philippine Coast Guard attempted to arrest a Taiwan fishing boat only to be blocked by the Taiwan Coast Guard.
The Philippines has been seeking to boost its poorly equipped military by acquiring new weapons, and deepening defense ties with allies such as the United States and Japan.
The moves come after a series of confrontations at sea between the Philippines and both China and Taiwan.
Confrontations between Philippine and Taiwan Coast Guard ships in their common maritime border rose recently after the 2013 fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by a Philippine Coast Guard patrol there.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday began separate but simultaneous naval exercises with the United States and Japan, amid shared and growing concern at Chinese island-building in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Manila has been holding the naval drills with its longtime ally Washington since 1995.
But the exercise with Tokyo, a World War II foe, is only its second ever after one earlier this year.