New Coast Guard vessels from Japan to fight piracy, patrol West PH Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will soon deploy more vessels acquired from Japan to fight piracy in Mindanao waters, and to patrol the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr made the announcement on Thursday, November 16, during the visit of Kentaro Sonoura, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan, at the PCG main headquarters in Manila.

Esperon told reporters that the deployment involves 44-meter multi-role response vessels (MMRVs) acquired from Japan. 

“We can complete these 10 [MRRVs] by February. We now have 7. Of the 7, we will immediately deploy 3 or 4 of them to the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

PCG spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said the patrol ships will be deployed once commissioned to the agency next week.

He said the patrol ships will be primarily to combat piracy in the southern Philippines.

“This is the plan based on the pronouncement of [acting PCG Commandant]  Commodore [Joel] Garcia. The new high-speed boats given to us will be deployed there,” Balilo said.

“Probably one of them will be given to Marawi or Lanao Lake.  Our forces continue to patrol in Lanao Lake. Coupled with the speed boats, these MRRVs, they will take shifts,” he added.

Terror, piracy threats

On top of the patrol vessels, the PCG is expecting more rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) from Japan to beef up its patrol against sea piracy. Balilo said 3 of the vessels would be formally turned over to the PCG next week, during its 116th anniversary.

He told reporters that Japan pledged to donate the 10 RHIBs when President Rodrigo Duterte visited that country earlier this year. 

Balilo said the high-speed boats will be for maritime patrol of the Sibutu Passage and Lanao Lake in Lanao del Sur.

In his remarks at the PCG, Sonoura stressed the importance of maintaining the safety and security of the seas around the region.

PH-JAPAN COOPERATION. Kentaro Sonoura, Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, addresses the Philippine Coast Guard during a visit on November 16, 2017. Photo from the PCG

PH-JAPAN COOPERATION. Kentaro Sonoura, Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, addresses the Philippine Coast Guard during a visit on November 16, 2017.

Photo from the PCG

“The sea around Southeast Asia, including the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, is one of the most important areas for world maritime transportation but unfortunately the threat of international terrorism, piracy and so on is present,” he said.

“In recent years, piracy and armed robbery cases in the waters surrounding the Sulu and Celebes Sea area are attracting attention, and coastal countries are working together to tackle them," Sonoura added.

Esperon and Sonoura were the special guests at the last day of 15th Maritime Law Enforcement (MARLEN) exercise held by the PCG and other Southeast Asian coast guards. 

The Japan Coast Guard  spearheaded the two-week MARLEN training, with participants from Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. – Rappler.com