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MANILA, Philippines – A Japanese Coast Guard vessel docked at the South Harbor of Manila on Monday, July 11, in preparation for joint exercises with the Philippine Coast Guard.
The PHL02 Tsugaru will be used for mock maritime piracy and armed robbery operations on July 13, incidentally the day after an international tribunal at The Hague should have decided on the maritime case filed by Manila against Beijing.
Japan has denied that its maritime law enforcement exercises with the Philippines – which started in mid-2015 – are meant as a show of force against China in both countries’ territorial dispute with the economic giant over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
PHL02 Tsugaru is a 105.40-meter crude oil tanker of 3,324 GT. It belongs to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport based at Hakodate Coast Guard Office in Tokyo.
On Wednesday, July 13, PHL02 Tsugaru showcase its assets, including Helicopter Bell 412 and rigid hull inflatable boat for board, search, and seizure procedures.
Aside from enhancing both coast guards’ capabilities in combatting piracy and armed robbery at sea, the exercises will further train both parties in conducting airlift rescue operations.
Representatives from Malaysia, Australia, and the United States are expected to observe at the joint exercises.
In June 2015, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed a Declaration for a Strengthened Strategic Partnership and its Action Plan, which was strongly condemned by China.
By November, Aquino requested Japan to provide “large patrol vessels to Philippine Coast Guard,” the Japanese prime minister said.
Abe said they were open to Aquino’s request to provide large patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard, the main agency tasked to secure the almost 40,000-km coastline of the country.
In March 2016, The Japanese submarine Oyashio and two escort vessels visited Subic Bay for annual open sea drills. It was the first call at a Philippine port by a Japanese submarine since 2001.
Last May, Japan agreed to lease aircraft to the Philippines, as requested by Aquino during his bilateral meeting with Abe. Under the accord, Tokyo would lease up to 5 TC-90 training airplanes and help Manila train pilots and aircraft mechanics, the ministry said. The planes can be used as surveillance aircraft, according to local media.
It will be Japan’s first lease of its Self-Defense Forces’ aircraft to another country after it recently lifted a self-imposed ban on weapons exports. – Rappler.com