World

Japan eyes maritime aid
for Philippine defense

Japan is planning to provide maritime vessels, including 1,000-tonne patrol ships, to the Philippines to “support the island country in its territorial dispute against China,” a Japanese newspaper reported in March, weeks before tensions erupted over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The Philippine Navy said it welcomed any form of assistance from any nation but could not confirm whether Japan had made such a commitment to the Philippine government.

In a March 22 report carried by KBS World Radio, a Korean English-language news website, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a Japanese-language newspaper, was quoted as saying that Japan “has decided to provide the Philippines with patrol ships” by year’s end.

"The newspaper said that Japan has decided to provide vessels, including 1,000-tonne patrol ships, to the Philippines by the end of the year,” KBS World Radio said.

Not official yet

But the Japanese Embassy in Manila yesterday said Japan “has not yet officially decided” if it would provide the Philippines with the maritime patrol vessels.

"The government of Japan is still considering whether to include them under its official development aid” to the Philippines, the embassy’s information and press centre told the Inquirer.

KBS World Radio said the move to supply the Philippines with patrol vessels came after the government last year eased the “Three Principles of Arms Export,” a law which proscribes Japanese export of arms.

It quoted the Japanese paper as saying “this is a move to raise the Philippines’ maritime safety capabilities in the South China Sea, where it is clashing with China over sovereignty rights.”

"The United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are said to be keeping China in check as part of their efforts to maintain maritime security, which Japan also supports,” KBS World Radio said.

Added boost

Navy spokesperson Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay said the Navy would appreciate the added boost to its capability, considering recent circumstances, but he said he could not confirm whether such plans were really in place.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the military was not part of the discussions, but that information reaching him indicated that the ships in discussion would be smaller than the reported 1,000-tonne vessels.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces Chief Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa Thursday said the process of building “a credible defence” for the Philippines was moving fast, with a new warship arriving on May 22, as well as eight new combat helicopters and radar facilities.

During a visit to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan Thursday, Dellosa said the purchase of new hardware would help the armed forces build a "modest deterrent capability".

The AFP chief met with Western Command Commander Juancho Sabban and key officers to assess the situation at the disputed Panatag Shoal just 200 kilometers off Masinloc in Zambales province (north of Manila).

On April 10, tensions rose between China and the Philippines over disputed fishing grounds in Panatag, known as Scarborough internationally and as Huangyan island to the Chinese.

2nd ship from US

Dellosa said the government would “formally receive” its second Hamilton-class naval vessel from the United States on May 22.

The first such acquisition, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, figured in the early part of the Scarborough standoff with Chinese vessels when its crew tried to arrest a group of Chinese poachers caught red-handed inside the disputed shoal

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