Japan to help Philippines strengthen maritime security

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

MANILA (Updated 5:50 p.m.) -- The Japanese Government has vowed to assist the Philippines in strengthening maritime security by providing multi-role response vessels and augmenting communications system equipment for the Philippine Coast Guard.

“The acquisition of multi-role response vessels is undergoing serious consideration. There is also regular exchange of views and dialogue between officials of the two countries on maritime and ocean affairs,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who met with newly-appointed Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Malacanang on Thursday.

He said 10 of the vessels will be funded by the Japanese Government. He noted that half of the vessels will be manufactured in the Philippines.

Asked when will the first patrol ship will be deployed, he answered “in about 18 months.”

Del Rosario likewise said Japan is also providing communication systems that will be installed in Coast Guard vessels, to help improve its capacity in policing the country’s territorial waters. This system is expected to be available this year.

The Philippines and Japan recently figured in a row with China over the West Philippine Sea and East China Seas.

“We talked about the challenges that we appear to be facing in view of the assertions being made by China and we did express, as I said in the bilateral meetings, that what our strategies are and how consistent we were,” del Rosario said.

He noted that there was a mutual agreement to pursue peaceful resolution to territorial disputes.

Del Rosario said Japan shared the Philippine sentiments over China’s excessive claim on South China Sea.

“First, they have an excessive claim; then they’re creating an administrative unit over those areas; and then they come up with this new law which provides for enforcement in terms of interdiction of ships in those areas. So strike three already,” he said.

“And then, of course, they’re coming up with all kinds of infrastructure and releasing figures on budgets that they intend to use to be able to establish their presence there. So I think, these are all very threatening and we have been protesting, as I said, these moves by China,” he added.

Aside from maritime issues, Del Rosario said they also discussed on Thursday trade, investments, tourism, development assistance, people-to-people exchanges and maritime security, and the Mindanao peace process.

Since Japan has been the Philippines’ number one source of approved investment since 2009, he said the country is looking into possible collaboration in the promotion of investments with Japanese small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).

The Foreign Affairs Secretary also said that the country is looking forward to stronger cooperation with Japan in developing the infrastructure, particularly in transportation sector.

Japan ranks third in tourist arrivals between January to November 2012 with 375,248 Japanese tourists.

Del Rosario said the Philippines is hoping to explore short-term and long-term solutions to help Filipino healthcare workers to be accepted in Japan.

“We are trying to get more nurses and more caregivers to be accepted by the institutions in Japan and that is, of course, a work in progress,” he said.

Del Rosario, meanwhile, thanked Kishida for Japan’s assistance in the Mindanao peace process.

“Since 2006, the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) contributed to the peace process through socio-economic infrastructure projects amounting to P5.5 billion, Japan also participates in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in rehabilitation efforts, humanitarian assistance and in monitoring the ceasefire and in the International Contact Group (ICG) as an observer in the peace talks. Japan is the only country that is a member of both IMT and ICG in the Mindanao peace process,” he said.

He also expressed the Philippine government’s appreciation to the Japanese government’s “timely and substantial” assistance to those affected by Typhoon Pablo.

The Japanese government provided emergency relief goods worth approximately P21 million and extended emergency grant aid amounting to P171 million for a response action plan for recovery through various UN agencies, said Del Rosario.

He added that Japanese local governments, private corporations, and non-profit organizations have also extended cash donations and pledges mounting to P11.5 million.

The Philippines is the first country visited by Kishida since his appointment as Japan’s foreign minister last December. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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