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Japan grants PH ‘soft loan’ for 10 patrol boats

By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Feb. 14, 2013 at 12:01am
The Philippines will acquire ten new patrol boats from Japan between February and August in 2014.

Foreign Affairs Department Secretary Albert del Rosario said the new 40-meter, multi-role response vessels were part of a “soft-loan” grant which Manila requested from Tokyo in December last year.

The boats would cost around $10 million dollar as reported earlier by a Japanese newspaper.

“In my recollection, I think [the turnover of boats would be] between 12 to 18 months,” Del Rosario said.

He said that Tokyo has approved the request for the new patrol boats through its official development assistance (ODA) and will be payable via a long term period.

He added that some parts of the vessels would be manufactured in the Philippines while the rest would be manufactured in Japan.

In a separate interview, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez confirmed that the boats were part of Japan’s loan program to the Philippines, and not as a donation.

“We are not aware of any talks about a donation because the request from the Philippine side is a loan program request. So this is really part of the official development assistance that the Japanese government is extending to the Philippines through a loan program,” he said.

Hernandez made the clarification  after a Japanese daily reported that Tokyo was set to donate patrol boats amounting to ¥1-billion ($11-million ) or P431,982,000 each, to help boost the Philippines’ maritime surveillance capability.

The report said that the money to finance the patrol boats will be taken from Japan’s fiscal 2013 budget and that Tokyo may officially sign the deal with the Philippines by early 2014.

The same report added that Tokyo has allocated ¥2.5-billion from its 2013 budget to spend for training exercises of Filipino and Vietnamese personnel as part of its thrust to boost security cooperation with Southeast Asia countries.

Hernandez said he wasn’t sure if the figures were accurate, but confirmed that there is an existing cooperation between Tokyo and Manila with regards to military training.

Hernandez said the patrol boats would be used for disaster relief activities, monitoring Philippine sea territories and to “save and rescue lives in the waters”.

Last January, during the official visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in the Philippines, Del Rosario confirmed that they have discussed Manila’s request of a loan for 10 brand new coastal boats.

“Japan is an important strategic partner. And we’re very happy to be able to have this opportunity to broaden. deepen and enhance our relationship,” Del Rosario said during his dialogue with Kishida.

The Japanese government has been helping the Philippine government modernize its Coast Guard since 1990.

It was the Japanese who gave the country BRP Corregidor, a search-and-rescue vessel 15 years ago.

The BRP Corregidor was one of two Philippine vessels which confronted the Chinese vessels during the standoff at the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea in April.

Last year, Japan also made an assurance that it will continue to help the Philippines Coast Guard improve its capability to enforce maritime safety within its territories in the light of its continuing sea dispute with China.

Although Manila’s case against Beijing is now with the Arbitral Tribunal, China continues to aggressively assert its nine-dash-line claim in the disputed areas by erecting permanent infrastructures and conducting oil exploration activities.

Japan has its own territorial dispute against China over their conflicting claims in Diaoyu Island,  which the Japanese call as Senkaku, in the East China Sea.

In September, Beijing said it submitted its case over the East China Sea island to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or Unclos,  after Tokyo announced that it had already purchased Senkaku from a private owner.
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