THE Japanese government is still reviewing the Philippines’ request for 10 multirole response vessels that are slated to boost the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) ability to patrol the country’s territorial waters.
“Loan application for the acquisition of multirole vessels for the PCG is still being reviewed by the Japanese government,” Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a press briefing,
He made the pronouncement hours before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Manila for a two-day trip to discuss the two countries’ bilateral cooperation.
Asked if the acquisition of the multirole response vessels will be part of the agenda in the meeting with President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and other cabinet members, Hernandez said the Philippines’ application for a loan is still under consideration.
In January this year, the Foreign Affairs chief met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss Manila’s request for 10 multirole response vessels. Japan said it is willing to provide the loan for its strategic ally in the region.
The Philippines has been working doubly hard for the modernization of its Armed Forces and its Coast Guard in light of China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Abe’s visit to the country came at an opportune time as China reorganized its coast guard and launched on Monday new vessels that would supposedly strengthen the country’s patrol of its claims in the region.
Japan has criticized the move as analysts saw Abe’s visit to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines as a way to boost cooperation with its neighbors and monitor China’s actions beyond the East China Sea, whose territories are both being claimed by Beijing and Tokyo.
Hernandez admitted during the press briefing that the West Philippine Sea dispute will be discussed “as part and parcel of regional issues” during the meeting in Malacanang.
The region, a commercially important sea lane that is believed to sit atop vast natural resources, is being claimed in whole by China, and in part by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.
Tensions between the Philippines and China rose last year after several Chinese intrusions into the disputed Panatag Shoal led to a two-month naval standoff.
The Philippines brought its territorial issues with China before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos). Beijing rejected the proposal, but Manila said the case could go on without China’s participation.
Bernice Camille V. Bauzon