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PCG to augment West Philippine Sea defense by September ‘if needed’

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will send the new vessels that it will acquire from Japan later this year to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) to augment security in the disputed seas "if needed."

PCG commander Rear Admiral William Melad said Thursday that two of the ten 44-meter boats arriving in the Philippines in September and part of the Maritime Safety Improvement Project (MSIP) will mainly be deployed for search and rescue and other needs.

"We have to see other deployments pa rin. Titingnan natin 'yun, but ang sinasabi ko nga if it is necessary that ma-augment natin 'yung ano natin sa West Philippine Sea (gagawin natin ito)," Melad told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"But again ang primary ano, this is multi-role, MRR, multi role response vessel so the project is about maritime safety. But it could be used for security patrols also," he added.

Melad believes the PCG will contribute to the national effort of keeping peace in the West Philippine Sea by employing the ships on a "purely law enforcement basis."

He added that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Department of Defense are negotiating a deal for bigger vessels that would bolster the PCG's capabilities.

"JICA and the department, the idea is 92-meters siya. Actually kasi we have sa strategic plan natin, developmental efforts to acquire from 80, 'yung range ng 80- to 125-meter vessel and then merong proposal 'yung Japan for assistance for construction of 92-meter vessel which is actually modeled after what is existing in the Japan Coast Guard inventory," Melad explained.

Six more 44-meter vessels from Japan will arrive in the Philippines in 2017 and the rest will follow in 2018. The vessels were acquired through a ¥18.732 billion ($187 million) loan last December.

Apart from the vessels, the Philippines also received a post disaster stand-by loan worth ¥ 10 billion ($ 100 Million) and negotiated a revised route schedule on the Philippines-Japan Air Services Agreement.

Earlier in November, the Philippines requested large coast guard ships to patrol the West Philippine Sea.

Japan previously expressed concern about China's encroachment of sea lanes through which most of its trade passes. —Rie Takumi/KG, GMA News