Mitsubishi Shipbuilding to build biggest vessels for Philippine Coast Guard
MANILA, NNA – Japan’s Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. inked a contract with the Philippines on Friday to build two vessels that will be used to patrol territorial waters including the disputed West Philippine Sea, an area claimed by both Manila and Beijing.
To be built in Japan, the 94-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRV) will be the largest Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ships when they are delivered in 2022, the Philippines Transportation Department (DOTr) said in a press release.
The vessels will help boost the capability of PCG to secure the country's waters and coastal areas. Each boasts a secured communications system, a maximum speed of not less than 24 knots and an endurance of not less than 4,000 nautical miles.
"The patrol vessels will be of great help in responding to maritime incidents in the country's waters, up to the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), such as search and rescue operations, maritime security operations, and marine environmental protection, among others", said DOTr in a statement.
The agreement, which comes under DOTr’s Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project Phase II, is funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the tune of16.5 billion yen ($150 million).
The project's first phase was completed in August 2018 with the delivery of 10 44-meter MRRVs from Japan amounting to 18.7 billion yen. France will also provide the country with an 84-meter multi-purpose patrol vessel, said Coast Guard Spokesperson Capt. Armand Balilo.
He told NNA in a phone interview that the latest vessels will be used for patrols outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, in the West Philippine Sea, Benham Rise, and Southern Philippines where terrorism is a big threat.
“We need this because we’re no longer doing just coastal surveillance, we’re also going out of our EEZ. We also have territorial patrol. That’s where we will use it,” he explained, adding that the new ships would be able to do long-term surveillance compared to smaller vessels.
JICA chief representative Yoshio Wada said strong partnerships between Japan and the Philippines would boost economic trade, most especially in the maritime sector. For both maritime nations, "seaborne trade plays a crucial role in our economic growth," he said in a statement.
Balilo said the coast guard still needs to acquire more vessels as the country's many islands have long stretches of shorelines totaling 36,289 kilometers, making it one of the longest coastlines in the world, according to the World Bank. The coast guard currently uses only 25 vessels for patrol around Philippine waters.
“We have 13 districts, so we need at least 11 more vessels as big as the 94-meter vessels,” he said.
The Philippines has been in a territorial dispute with China over some parts of the South China Sea.
China Coast Guard vessels have allegedly harassed Filipino fishermen in a contested area also claimed by Beijing, but which has been declared by an international tribunal to be part of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
In January, a China Coast Guard vessel paid a friendly visit to the Philippines for the first time and staged a joint drill with Philippine Coast Guard.