By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

MORE PATROL VESSELS. Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Endo Kazuya shake hands after the signing of the Exchange of Notes for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project Phase III and the Project For Human Resource Development Scholarship 2024 at the DFA Office in Pasay City on Friday (May 17, 2024). The procurement of multi-role response vessels will be financed by a JPY64.38 billion Japanese official development assistance loan. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The Philippines and Japan on Friday signed an agreement for the acquisition of five additional 97-meter class patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The procurement of multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) will be financed by a JPY64.38 billion Japanese official development assistance (ODA) loan under the third phase of the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) for the PCG.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuya Endo signed the exchange of notes at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Pasay City.

“As the situation surrounding the Philippines has continuously been serious, PCG is standing in a frontline for protecting our common interests and rules-based maritime order,” Endo said in a speech.

“On May 15, I visited a 97-meter-class multipurpose vessel and heard from Admiral Gavan about the rigors of the PCG’s operations, and we reaffirmed the importance of deepening cooperation between Japan and the Philippines,” he added.

The DFA said the support, which covers the development of required support facilities for the PCG, will also improve PCG’s capabilities in addressing transnational crimes.

“This occasion signifies not only the deepening of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan but also underscores our unwavering commitment to enhance our maritime safety capabilities for the benefit of our nation and the broader maritime community,” Manalo said.

The PCG previously acquired ten 44-meter class and two 97-meter class MRRVs under Japan and the Philippines’ MSCIP Phase I and II.

The two 97-meter patrol ships BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702) and BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701), the biggest in the PCG fleet, have been used to patrol the West Philippine Sea and have escorted civilian boats resupplying Filipino troops stationed at the rusting BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin Shoal.

Witnessing the signing ceremony were officials from the Department of Finance, the Department of Transportation, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Japan is the Philippines’ top bilateral ODA partner, with its long history of support for Philippine development priorities spanning infrastructure, health, human resources, agriculture, education, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among many others. (PNA)